Original research can support your content marketing campaigns in a number of ways.
Research itself can be published as a white paper to increase your brand authority and drive traffic to your webpages, and it can be used as a content ideation process, allowing you to hone in on trends and topics that are relevant at the moment.
B2B audiences are very receptive to white papers and content that build from facts, statistics and data for this reason as it helps them to stay on the cutting edge of the industry and get valuable information that can be used to solve pain points and address issues.
Original research also delivers sustainable ROI and can keep on delivering new leads and closing them long after it has been undertaken.
Outlining a couple of clear goals for your original research, such as showcasing thought leadership and increasing email newsletter subscriptions, is a good starting point.
First, take a look at areas where original research can have a positive impact. Clear objectives will also make it easier to measure the impact of your research and determine whether it is something you may want to pursue again in the future.
Find a topic
Now that you have plans in place to complete original research, you can start looking for a topic that aligns with the process. This will depend on your industry and niche.
It is always a good idea to focus on a topic that has not been covered in detail by competitors. Marketing expert Sarah Mitchell believes that distilling the topic into a single question is the best base to work from.
Involve research professionals
From this initial question, you can then brainstorm a list of survey questions that you would like to ask to respondents. Don’t be afraid to seek outside assistance if you need expert help.
Your survey may be too long or convoluted, for example, which will have a detrimental impact on its quality and findings.
While original research can be completed quickly depending on the scope of the project, you still need to keep a close eye on factors such as time, budget and resources.
Effective project management here will make it easier to move from concept to publication. Don’t be afraid to ask an agency or research firm if you need a helping hand with certain aspects. This is true for the creative phase after completing your survey.
Expect hard work
You might have crafted an excellent survey, but that will not automatically translate into a high response rate from the people you actually want to hear from.
Sending out email requests is preferable if you have a large and engaged audience, but you may struggle for responses if you have yet to build up a customer list.
A viable sample size is important as you need results that allow you to glean accurate insights. Larger sample sizes are usually better, but your main aim should be to get a representational sample size.
To signal boost your research, you could work with a partner to promote it. Don’t forget ‘direct asks’ either. You may be surprised by how many people are willing to take part if you are up front about what you are doing.
Once you have published the research for the first time, you could consider making it an annual undertaking.
You can leave a call to action in the inaugural report reminding people that they can take part next year or whenever you want to conduct research again.
Don’t delay, keep momentum
There is finite time to collate research that can offer actionable insights and findings, but you may need to keep a survey open longer than initially planned to hit your target respondent rate.
Balancing the two factors is important when conducting organic research. However, try not to delay the close of a survey for too long as you could lose momentum.
When you have completed your survey, it is important to act on the insights as soon as possible.
A large gap between closing the survey and starting your whitepaper can make it more difficult to analyse the nuances of the data and get back up to speed with what you were doing.
Focus on storytelling
Your survey should unearth a few compelling insights that will enable you to tell a story within your industry.
For example, if you are a cloud computing company, the research could be used to inform audiences that the pace of digital transformation is slower than expected or that more resources or a change of culture are required to adopt digital services.
The survey needs to be distilled into a title that will offer value to your target audience. You also need a hook that interests them and will get them to consume the research in its entirety, however it is presented.
Remember to present data from different angles for more holistic insights and conclusions. You could compare and contrast different demographics or company types (B2B vs B2C).
Be honest about your findings
Heading into organic research with preconceived notions about topics and how you expect audiences to respond is natural, but it is important that you don’t push a narrative that does not fit the results.
There may be some insights that are not exactly great news for your brand.
Being objective and showing audiences the complete picture is a great way to build trust and push yourself as an expert, which can drive ROI and other positive returns further down the line.
Research should not just be published or used once and then forgotten about afterwards. Original research can support a steady output of content for a month or even longer.
You could publish bitesize insights in social media posts, use the findings to make an eye-catching infographic, or explore results in a series of blog posts. Data that does not fit neatly into your primary storytelling can be used to fuel new ideas for your content campaigns over the coming months.
To conclude, original research is a versatile and affordable format that can boost your organic content efforts and provide audiences with the authoritative insights and information they crave.