Original research is the collection and organization of insights on a topic that is relevant to a specific audience.
Marketers use research in a variety of different ways to enhance marketing performance. Here, we are discussing the production of original research (also known as primary research) that marketers use for generating demand, building thought leadership and improving brand awareness, among other things.
Recently, we used our own A2 Pulse Research product to gauge how marketers are using original research and why (or why not).
We wanted to know:
- What are marketers hoping to achieve with original research?
- What are the challenges they face when producing it?
- If they aren’t using it, what is preventing them?
- There is a lack of follow-through in utilizing completed research. Across all segments, creating additional assets from the research is listed as a top challenge to the success of producing original research.
- The use of original research is heavily skewed according to business type and size. Businesses operating in the B2B channel as well as enterprise-level companies (500+ employees) are using research more regularly than other businesses.
- Original research is a big winner for brand awareness. Across all segments, marketers note that creating brand awareness is what research is best used for. Sales engagement and content creation also top the list depending on the segment.
- There is a general lack of understanding of how original research can be used. Those marketers that don’t use research as a part of their marketing strategy report that not knowing enough about original research is their biggest reason why.
Maximizing Content Output
According to our research, 44% of marketers are having trouble creating a strategy around maximizing the benefits of their original research. Producing additional content from the research beyond the report itself, such as blog posts, infographics, social media posts, even webinars and podcasts can be an incredibly effective way to give your research longevity.
TIP: Reference individual statistics, or a chart as a whole, in blog posts. Engage your audience with a beautiful infographic. The data from just one chart can be turned into multiple social media posts. Host a webinar on the foundation that the research has provided you. Write an ebook on the findings or apply them in a case study. The possibilities are many.
Having a strategy in place to produce and promote this content can give marketers quite a big bang for the original research investment buck. Ideally, your original research project should fuel content and other campaigns for a year or more.
“I’m sharing a B2B research success story that resulted in long-term contracts with new clients and media mentions. In 2015, our company created original research in which we researched what types of website content companies used on their websites. We researched 189 export-oriented B2B websites, and the result was a 44-page PDF + print research which we distributed (via paid PR campaign) to the media. The result was: 20+ local media mentions, several backlinks, and long-term client contracts that lasted for years, with solid ROI. Five years later, the research is still online, and we successfully use that report to increase our authority and prove to our website consulting clients that we’re competent to produce original research with high-quality content.
Pain points are: 1) where do you get reliable data? 2) Big costs of producing and distributing professional research (design, print).
Knowing what we know now, today we would find a partner or sponsor to co-produce that kind of research with us, to share the costs and amplify distribution.”
Research for Every Business
Businesses operating in the B2B channel (39%) as well as enterprise-level companies with 500+ employees (51%) are using research more regularly than other businesses.
Of course, original research seems to lend itself more to B2B marketing campaigns that involve long and deliberate journeys. When research is used more traditionally, such as gated on a landing page for lead generation purposes, this makes sense. But original research has its place in the B2C world as well.
Original Research for B2Cs
How can B2C marketers benefit from original research? One benefit is the internal knowledge and exploration of consumer habits. Another is for content marketing, educating audiences and building trust.
Furthermore, with the lines blurring more and more between B2B and B2C models, more marketers are developing their strategy based on a B2P (business-to-person) mind-set.
And at the end of the day, the buyer from the business you’re targeting is a decision-maker, a person, a consumer of sorts. All of this to say that there is an argument to be made for original research use for B2C marketing and from our findings, there might be a fantastic opportunity here.
Original Research for SMBs
Similarly, about 60% of small business marketers (50 or less employees) report having no plans to publish original research in the future.
The top four reasons why:
- I don’t know enough about original research (42%)
- Research doesn’t fit with business type (33%)
- No use for research in marketing strategy (33%)
- Lack of budget (23%)
The fact of the matter is, research can work for SMBs… even those with tight budgets. Conducting your own research is certainly time-consuming with a considerable learning curve, but it is possible. And products like our A2 Pulse exist that provide a custom approach to research at an affordable price point.
Beyond Brand Awareness
“Research has been a big part of our content strategy and growing brand awareness.
We’ve shared some of the data that we collected, such as this study into what customers think about brands posting political statements. This research has then been featured on dozens of other websites, including Forbes, resulting in a massive boost in brand awareness to us.”
60% of marketers report that original research is best used for building brand awareness. This number gets up as high as 70% depending on which segment we are looking at:
So we know that marketers across the board have seen success with generating awareness of their brand through the use of original research. But these findings support the above-mentioned insight that marketers are underutilizing their research.
Research for SEO and Backlinks
Generating quality backlinks is a huge missed opportunity for marketers that use original research. Only 16% of marketers (all segments) report using their research to improve SEO and increase backlinks. Media outlets, thought leaders and the like all trust research, they use data and analysis to back up their own content and with every reference to your research comes a backlink! We see proof of this each month with our own research.
“I feel our original research has been crucial to engage with senior-level buyers that want to read thought leadership content in its’ truest form.
We recently launched a report on Personalization after COVID-19 which fueled an entire content campaign with supporting assets. By undertaking original research, you have full ownership of the data which is infinitely useful when quoted in PR or SEO articles and can be repurposed in many forms such as blogs, infographics or social media content.
My best tip would be to go beyond merely presenting the data, it’s imperative to tell a story and offer unique insight based on what that data indicates. By taking this approach we had a higher success rate and offered real value to our audience, improving brand awareness in the process.”
Research for Your Sales Team
36% of all marketers surveyed report using research for sales engagement. Use data to prove a point in sales emails or use the report as a whole to re-engage stale prospects. The charts, data and insights included in original research is incredibly engaging. Especially for audiences who are already familiar with your brand.
A Lack of Know-How
There is a general lack of understanding about how original research can be used. 38% of those marketers that don’t use research as a part of their overall strategy report that not knowing enough about it is a top reason why.
This showcases an incredible opportunity. Possessing the understanding of why original research is so effective can help businesses gain a serious competitive advantage by utilizing it to the maximum degree.
About the research
Ascend2 conducted an A2 Pulse survey of 136 marketing professionals during the week of July 27, 2020.
Primary Marketing/Sales Channel
- B2B: 27%
- B2C: 49%
- B2B & B2C equally: 25%
Number of Employees
- More than 500: 28%
- 50 to 500: 19%
- Fewer than 50: 54%
If you have any questions about a specific segment of this survey, please contact us here.