If you’re anything like the marketers in this recent survey, you spent a sizeable chunk of your budget on content marketing in 2012. And that trend is likely to continue, as marketers move beyond thinking about “campaigns,” — projects with a beginning, middle and end — to thinking about how to create enduring relationships with customer and potential customers.
One of the best ways companies can build relationships is to provide information that’s relevant to their prospects, credible (read: fact based) and timely. In fact, research UBM Tech conducted earlier this year shows that tech buyers value information that includes facts and figures, contains business value as well as tech information, and is timely above any other characteristics (including targeting to their particular job roles).
That emphasis on timely facts and figures explains the significant increase in custom research projects we’ve seen at UBM Tech this year and expect to continue to see next year. I’ve worked on many, but I turned to the real expert, UBM Tech Research Director Amy Doherty, to compile this quick list of best practices to help any research project return the hoped-for results.
1. When it comes to topic, your prospects’ information needs are the top priority. In order to create a final product that draws prospects in for lead nurture/relationship building, pick a research topic that will shed light on problems they need to solve and the solutions they’re considering or currently using to solve them. Doing so can result in content pieces (think PDF-based report, PowerPoint slideshow, infographic, blog post, and webinar) that resonate with the very people you want to reach. It also establishes your company as a source of that fact-based, relevant information tech buyers want.
2. You may already know the answers, and that’s okay. “Why are we doing research on this? We already know the answers.” I’ve heard this question multiple times—usually from subject matter experts who spend every day helping customers and prospects. Think of the research as proving your company’s hypothesis and presenting it in fact-based (and, therefore, credible) way. Remember, your prospects aren’t typically seeing multiple implementations at varied companies. That’s why they’re looking for credible information about what other companies are doing and guidance from seasoned practitioners.
3. And, yet, the answers might surprise you. Sometimes, the results of a research survey might contradict your original hypothesis. Be open to the findings, whatever they are. This kind of information allows your company to learn more about its prospects and detect subtle shifts in needs or perception. You can downplay the findings in the final report, if you choose. Or, you may find that presenting the surprising findings, surrounded by interpretation, benefits potential prospects and adds to the credibility of the piece.
4. Don’t overcomplicate things. A short (10-15 content questions plus a few screener/demographic questions) and simple (no more than 10 answer options per question, limited tables) questionnaire makes it easier to get a statistically sound sample of a minimum of 100 respondents. Too many questions, or questions that take too much time to answer, lead to abandoned surveys. But be sure to include open-ended questions that research participants can answer in their own words — direct comments provide great insight. Just don’t include more than two in any survey.
5. Know your (and your research partner’s) audience. When you look for a research partner, make sure the audience they can access lines up with the one you want to reach. But don’t make your research target too narrow; opening up the research a bit may offer additional insights and, possibly, a broader set of prospects. It also makes it easier to get more research respondents. Once you have a sizeable group of responses, you can always “cut” the data in various ways to analyze difference among specific subsets of the total.
Keep these guidelines in mind as you plan your 2013 research pieces. The extra effort up front will pay off in credible, relevant and timely content for your nurture/customer relationship portfolio.