Why should you do a research and content marketing mash-up?
Let’s start by looking at each tactic, uncover the pros and cons, and determine how to do a mash-up to maximize results.
Content marketing is a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services (aka – build trust). Content marketing gives value to a reader and builds trust – with the goal that your targeted audience take a specific action.
A primary reason for doing content marketing is to position yourself as a thought leader. Thought leadership builds trust and with trust comes increased sales, cost savings, and customer retention.
What characteristics are most important for thought leadership content? An Ascend2 research study found that 60% of marketers agree that establishing thought leadership requires providing educational content to their audience. It is also important for thought leadership content to be timely (46%), targeted (46%), and original (45%).
So you need to create content that is:
Before you think about content formats (blog posts, videos, infographics, podcasts, etc.), think about the primary content piece that can be used to create all those content formats. Think about your ‘big rock’ piece that is educational, timely, targeted, and original.
Creating a ‘big rock’ content piece that is educational, timely, targeted, and original is a challenge. Producing the right content and enough of that content is the top two challenges that marketers encounter when producing content for thought leadership (educational, timely, targeted, original).
This is why you need a mash-up of original research and content marketing. Original research is the most effective at meeting all four content characteristics: educational, timely, targeted, and original.
Original research checks all the boxes:
- Educational: Original research is not opinion and it is not biased. It is based on data if done correctly, is data from a large group of individuals and the data is statistically valid.
- Timely: Original research has a specific time that it was conducted/fielded so that readers know what they are reviewing is current and relevant.
- Targeted: Original research is fielded to a specific audience and quality research will describe that audience in the report. This gives the reader confidence that the data is relevant to them.
- Original: Original research is original and that is critical when you use that research as part of your media outreach (see more on that below).
Here are a few reasons why original research and content marketing work so well together.
Original research is the report (content) of a study written by the researchers who actually did the study. One major benefit of original research is that everyone else that uses the research must cite you as the source. That gives the researcher thought leadership, builds trust, expands your reach (think backlinks and SEO), and more.
A Buzzsumo and Mantis Research study found that 56% of respondents report that their original research results met or exceeded their expectations.
What is original research best used for? An Ascend2 study found that 60% identified brand awareness (thought leadership) and 40% content creation as the best uses for original research.
And what content is most trusted?
When it comes to content, having solid evidence to support a claim is extremely important. That is why a 60% majority of marketing professionals report that research is the most trusted content type by target audiences.
Andy Crestodina gives 5 reasons why original research is a WINNING format for content marketing. Look how Andy’s list aligns with the Ascend2 research on the top characteristics of thought leadership content (educational, timely, targeted, original).
- It’s new and unique. Content characteristics: timely and original.
- The data can support your sales messages. Content characteristic: educational.
- Outreach involved in research grows your network. Content characteristic: targeted.
- It improves click-through rates. Content characteristics: all four. NOTE: Andy provides a lot of insight on how to improve click-through rates.
- It makes your site the primary source. Content characteristic: original. NOTE: This is important because everyone that cites you as the primary source should include a link back to your site.
Yes, the mash-up of original research and content marketing is a winning formula.
5 Strategies on How to Do an Original Research and Content Marketing Mash-Up
Here are 5 steps you can take to make original research a part of your content marketing strategy.
Strategy #1: Focus on the research.
Who is your target audience? What data would help your target audience? What statistics are not available but if made available, would be desired by your target audience? Find the gap and you will find success.
When the Ascend2 team works with a new client, we conduct a discovery session to determine what questions to ask in a survey. Some of the questions we ask our clients are:
- What research has been done in your industry?
- What questions would make for a great story?
- How would your target audience think differently as a result of the research?
- What are the challenges of your target audience?
- What is your company’s value proposition? How can we quantify statements in your value proposition by the data we collect?
- What data fits with your brand story?
- What data would help support claims made by your marketing and sales team?
- What demographic/firmographic information would be helpful to make data comparisons (like SMB vs. Enterprise, B2B vs. B2C, leaders vs. non-leaders)
Here are a few sample survey questions.
Plan to do a 15 – 20 question survey. If possible, ask someone that is experienced in research methodologies to review your questions.
Strategy #2: Focus on the report.
Plan to create a 15 – 20 page research report from your survey data. The report will be the source for other content formats (see step 4), so take the time to create an amazing report.
Start by writing the Executive Summary, as this will help you focus on what is most important. Also, go heavy on the data charts and lighter on content. Highlight the data with charts, pull out interesting data findings, and help the reader connect the dots from the data and how to apply the data to specific actions.
Here is an example of a research study Ascend2 did with Intentsify.
Notice on this page:
- Clear display of the research data.
- Pull-out box of a specific finding (93% of B2B marketers…)
- Idea box to help connect the dots between the data and how to put the data into action.
This page showcases that the original research is educational, timely, targeted, and original. The research also builds thought leadership for the company that did the research.
Strategy #3: Focus on media coverage.
One benefit of original research over other content pieces is that the media will cover original research. A coordinated media outreach program can generate hundreds of articles and links to your company site and your research report.
At Ascend2, we perform a personalized media outreach program to maximize the coverage of all research programs and the results are fantastic. We also suggest going beyond media companies and connect with thought leaders in your industry. Thought leaders, associations, and others may accept guest blog posts from you if the article is based on your original research report.
Strategy #4: Focus on creating many content formats.
Now that you have the original research and a report, you can start creating a myriad of content pieces. Here are a few examples from research done by Ascend2 and partners:
Infographics by SharpSpring.
Videos by Vidyard.
Guest blog posts by Convince & Convert.
Podcasts and webinars by SharpSpring Ads.
You can use research in emails, sales outreach, nurture campaigns, social media posts, blog posts, and more.
Strategy #5: Make it a repeatable process.
Having one original research report is good but having a repeatable process to create original research is much better. Creating 2 to 4 original research reports per year gives you a regular flow of material for your content machine.
One idea is to have at least one research topic that becomes an annual study. This allows you to generate data trends, build on what you learn, and develop a study that your industry anticipates each year. You can create a “State of” research study that is used by your target audience to develop budgets and plans for the upcoming year. These types of studies will give you a strategic advantage over your competition.
Here are few suggestions for creating a repeatable process:
- Keep a master copy of the survey questions you ask each year. Identify questions that can be repeated each year, as these will be used to create trend charts.
- Use your design files from previous years as the template for your next report. Keeping a consistent look and feel for your report is an important part of the branding of your original research.
- Keep a master spreadsheet of your media contacts. When you receive new media coverage, reach out and thank the writer and add them to your master spreadsheet for the outreach for your next report.
- Create a master plan for content formats that are successful for your original research and follow that plan for future research studies. Refine and optimize the plan as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t work.
- Keep a document that staff members can add ideas for future research topics and questions. Use this document to brainstorm for new topics that you can cover.
The more research you do, the more you will learn how to use it as part of your content marketing strategy and the more success you will have.
To learn more, feel free to schedule a time to talk with us about original research. Let’s talk research!