Design Your Research
In a recent article, UBM Tech Research Director, Amy Doherty, provides a few best practices for content marketing research campaigns:
- Focus on research that addresses your prospects’ needs. Think about your prospects’ problems and possible solutions. What questions do your prospects ask? How are they currently addressing their problems?
- It’s okay if you already know the answers. Remember, you’re doing the research for your prospects, not for you. So even if your research covers problems you’ve already solved, that’s okay. Doing the research makes your findings factual and more appealing to prospects.
- Be open to all findings. You might be surprised by some of your findings. Don’t automatically discount them. Including “surprises” can help increase your report’s credibility.
- Keep your survey short and simple. It’s unlikely your prospects will take the time to complete pages and pages of survey questions. Improve response rates by keeping your survey short. Prospects should be able to complete it in just a few minutes.
- Sample the right population. As with any type of research, you need to know which target population you want to sample. If you hire a firm to do the research for you, make sure they can reach the population you want.
Create a Compelling and Interesting Research Report
Now that you’ve completed the research, what do you do with it? The next step is to write up your findings in a report. It’s critical to create a report that’s compelling and interesting.
Tips for creating an engaging research report:
- Include only your top four or five research findings. This can be tough as it’s tempting to include all of your valuable insights. However it’s important to highlight the findings your readers will find the most useful and insightful.
- Keep the report short and scan-able. No one is going to spend his/her Saturday afternoon devouring your report like a good crime novel. Use headings, charts, graphs, bullet points and chunked text to keep it readable. For example, here’s a research report I recently wrote for a client. Note it’s only six pages long, including the cover page.
- Offer conclusions and recommendations based on your research findings. This helps make the research more relevant and answers pointed “So what?” questions.
- Include an engaging, but brief, executive summary. The executive summary is perhaps the most important part of the report, because it performs two functions. First, it gives those who want a 10,000 foot view some meaningful tidbits of information. And, second, it serves as a “teaser” to convince readers to read the entire report. Spend quality time writing the executive summary – I often write it last after the main portions of the report are completed.
- Make the content easy to share. Remember, the target audience for your report includes not just prospects but also media, bloggers or others who may want to share your findings. Consider including “TweetThis” type links in the report so readers can easily share interesting findings via Twitter. Be sure to also include your company’s contact information, including website and email, and social sharing and social connection links.
Package Your Research Content Multiple Ways
With your research completed and report in hand, you can now distribute your work. Post key findings or statistics to social media, such as your company Twitter account or Facebook page. Write blog posts about what you found and the significance. Allow people to download your report from your website while collecting contact information (with permission) for future use. Present your findings and recommendations at conferences or via webcasts.
But whatever you do, don’t wait. Your valuable research will age quickly, so make the most of it while it’s current. Maybe in a year or two you’ll repeat the research to see how your findings have changed – and update your recommendations based on new findings.
Need help packaging your research into compelling content that drives thought leadership and engages prospects? I’ve helped high-tech companies do exactly that. To learn more, contact me.