Using research for content marketing

A recent Content Marketing Institute study found that 44% of B2B marketers use research reports in their content marketing strategy. Isurus regularly conducts custom studies to provide data for content marketing initiatives; the sponsoring client leverages the results to create reports, webinars, infographics, whitepapers, microsites, and a range of social and email marketing to promote and share the content.

As a marketing or PR person interested in using research for content marketing, you have the option of taking a DIY approach or hiring a professional market research firm.  Isurus’ clients use both approaches, and we can offer some useful guidance on when it makes sense to keep it in-house and when it is worthwhile to partner with a market research firm.

Take a DIY approach when:

  • The target audience is easy to identify and survey:  General consumer studies (e.g., adults 18+) are typically easy to conduct as an online study, and many online panel providers can assist DIY clients with defining sampling parameters to ensure the survey reaches the appropriate target audience.
  • Budgets are limited: DIY approaches (using a self-service research tool or working directly with an online panel company) and developing the study and analyzing the data internally can reduce the total external cost of the project.
  • Internal bandwidth and expertise is available to take on the project:  Time is the hidden cost of any DIY project, and research is no different.  Depending on the length and complexity of the survey, expect to spend 40-100 hours on the research component of the initiative.

Work with a professional market research firm when:

  • Credibility of the results is important.  Using a professional market research firm provides a de facto “stamp of approval” that the study is objective and unbiased.  In addition, an experienced market research firm can advise you on the sample size and other study design requirements for optimizing credibility. Lastly, a market research firm can co-present the study in webinars and conferences to further solidify the credibility of the research.
  • The topic is complex or nuanced:  A professional research firm applies their skills to develop questions and analytic approaches to accurately assess topics that are multidimensional or latent, and therefore not easily measurable.  For example, Isurus worked with a leading provider of payroll and benefits administration services to understand the strategic evolution of the HR function in mid-size companies.  At the time, most mid-size company HR functions were not acting strategically but well-crafted questions and data analysis surfaced indicators that most HR functions faced significant pressure to become more strategic.  These data enabled the client to provide true thought-leadership in its content marketing.
  • The target audience is unique or difficult to reach: Many B2B audiences, and some consumer audiences, are not easy to define or to reach.  A professional market research firm can advise on how best to define the qualification criteria for your study’s participants, as well as the most effective methodology for reaching the audience.  A market research firm can also help to ensure your data is a true representation of the target audience, and doesn’t come from a biased list source.

Original research data can add significant value to a content marketing strategy, particularly if the goal is to demonstrate thought-leadership in your industry.  Make the most of a research investment by thinking through the parameters of your study and ensuring you have the right team and resources in place to execute successfully.