Benefits of including original research in your marketing plan: Educate your clients, educate your sales team, inform your product design
The new world of content marketing
The domain of marketing has transformed in the last two decades, driven in large part by the ubiquitous access to information. Today consumers in B2C and clients in B2B are better informed and better researched than in the past, which has diminished the supplier’s ability to drive the sales process.
To engage with savvy clients/customers, organizations need to be adding value to the conversation, and this means a content-driven approach: one in which the selling party provides insights, tools, resources and consultancy to engage in a higher level and help inform purchasing and sourcing decisions.
Valuable resources and engaging conversation will not only connect well with your target audience, it is also most likely to be shared (both directly and on social media), expanding your reach.
Why original research matters
But as all companies have rushed to adopt this model, the marketplace of ideas has become very crowded. It is now sadly overwhelmed with poorly conceived content and marketing efforts. Too many marketing teams value activity (clicks, site visits, ‘likes’) over productivity (valuable sales interactions, engagement with real decision makers). Marketers who fall in love with social media for social’s sake will end up with lots of friends and followers, and a very frustrated sales team! Many of the ‘shortcut’ approaches such as outsourcing your online visibility to a content-farm will not get you far: your competitors are all doing this, too.
The solution? Original content.
Only high-quality, original and compelling content will cut through the noise: content your clients want, will actively look for, and are willing to share with their peers. This requires an investment of time and effort to generate genuinely compelling content. But once the research is published, you have an original piece of content that clients will download, generating inbound leads. You will have a proprietary source of information and insights that can feed your social media activities. You will have the basis for face-to-face events and webcasts to further reinforce client relationships.
There are few activities that can help you tackle all of these fronts at once, but adding proprietary research to your portfolio of activities might achieve just that.
Over the last 9 years, and over 9 research report cycles, I have developed an approach to using research (and published research reports) in marketing efforts.
The research cycle
- Conduct original research – including interviews, desk research and collecting data through online surveys
- Report writing – including data analysis, seeking approvals from interviews (a tricky step!), proofing, layout and publishing
- Report promotion – including integrating the report into ongoing social media, PR and marketing activities. This is a key lead capture phase
- Report sharing – including organizing and hosting events, be they in-person or virtual. Offering up closed-door sessions for key clients also helps
- Educating internally – including sales team reviews, product manager briefings and providing cheat-sheets to senior executives so that they may quote the key points from the findings
- Equip others in the organization to present, which expands the reach of the report
Throughout this process you will find opportunities to reuse the research content in other venues, such as articles, infographics, social media feeds, and PR releases.
I wrote up a detailed guide to this approach published by Execsense in an e-book entitled “Research Pays Off How Adding Proprietary Research Reports Can Help Boost Leads, Inform Clients, and Keep You Honest“.