As Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media notes, B2B research is the “one kind of content that crushes almost anything else you can publish.” Truly, words to live by.
But not all research is the same. To have impact, you need to ensure yours is valuable, credible and substantiated.
As part of our B2B Content Tuesdays webinar series, David put together four steps to help your research-based content pack a punch. Some of them are from our own experience, and some insights we’ve shamelessly stolen from B2B research expert Simon Hayhurst, business consultant at Coleman Parkes, whose brain we were lucky enough to pick for our podcast.
Plus, we’ve summarised David’s chat with marketing consultant Luan Wise, who’s just completed an exciting new research project of her own…
Four steps to better research-based content:
1. Figure out what your audience wants to know – and what no-one else has answered
Whatever research you’re carrying out, it has to be relevant to your audience. Otherwise, no-one will want to spend their valuable time reading it.
Start by considering who your audience are, what content they might be interested in, and where knowledge gaps exist. Is there a particular stat missing they may want to know about, for example?
2. Devise a credible way to answer that question, based on the resources available
Although surveys are sometimes seen as the Holy Grail of B2B research, they’re not the only way to do it.
Once you know what gap your research is filling, think about the best way to get that information. Sure, a survey could work. But so could A/B testing, aggregating publicly available information, crunching your own numbers, or doing qualitative interviews with a small number of highly relevant people.
Bonus tip: when you’re thinking about which questions to ask, keep the end content in mind.
3. Test an attention-grabbing hypothesis
We asked 105 B2B marketers if they agreed with this statement: “If nobody else had to sign off our content, the results would be a lot better.”
Now, we can say that nearly 60% of marketers think their own sign-off processes make their results significantly worse. How’s that for attention grabbing?
4. Slice and dice your results every way you can
Once you’ve finalised your research, there are tons of ways you can atomise the results into smaller content assets. Take key data points and specific stats, and turn them into blog posts, infographics, LinkedIn posts, T-shirts – you name it. Each one leads back to the main report (except the T-shirts).
David talks to B2B marketing consultant Luan Wise about research
David: “Welcome, Luan! I hear you’ve been collecting data for a new research project. Do you mind telling us about your experience?”
Luan: “I’ve been working with Warwick Business School (WBS) on a piece of research, as part of their Marketing Insight Series programme. The programme aims to bridge the gap between academia and the real world.
“Following frequent discussions with lecturers and academics about the world of B2B social media, they suggested we do some research. And because it’s an academic study, I got quizzed on what I wanted to test, what I wanted to find out, and what I wanted to know.
“Our data collection questionnaire is 60 questions long, so it’s a chunky piece of research. But because we have the WBS name behind it, people know it’s an academic piece – and are happy to complete it.”
David: “Before the questions went live, was there a testing process – a control test for instance – or were they just internally reviewed?”
Luan: “Before the WBS would put their name to the research, it had to go through the WBS ethics committee approval process, so the questions were rigorously tested before we put it out. One of the challenges was balancing the non-academic and academic – and that requires a lot of testing – so I asked a few trusted friends to try the questionnaire out before publishing.”
David: “That’s a great process to go through, because it makes the final piece, and the end content, really credible and bomb-proof. Did you find that the things that were right ethically were also right for businesses?”
Luan: “Yes, it was really interesting to have that balance of ‘These are the questions that mapped to different studies, what do you think?’ But as a marketer, I have no way to answer that. So hopefully we’ve balanced the academic and non-academic well. And luckily for me as a marketer, I don’t have to do the data analysis – I can just come in and say ‘This means X, I’d advise Y.’
“And the collaboration with WBS is great, because they bring a level of academic credibility to the party that I, as an individual marketer, can’t.”
David: “Without giving away spoilers, have you got the great stories you need from a marketing POV?”
Luan: “We’ve got some great stories. Because the approval process was a long one, we thought we would be releasing it in February originally. Then something happened with the world!
“So when we sent it out, we had to add a disclaimer saying ‘We’d like you to answer this with a pre-coronavirus business mindset’, and include a final question on what had changed for them in the past few weeks.
“And actually, this turned out to be a quick win. What was going to be one white paper, albeit a chunky one, will now be two. The first will be based on the changes the coronavirus has bought about, almost as a teaser, then the second will be bigger and built out with interviews.
“I’ve already got my three key takeaways, and will be writing them up next week – so keep an eye out for when it’s published!”
Thank you, Luan, for your time. You can find out more about WBS Marketing Insight Series here, or watch the webinar in full below.