Original Research: The Content Marketing Gift That Keeps On Giving

What if I told you that to protect your company from a data breach, you’ll need to dedicate more of your IT budget to security solutions? You might believe me — but if I’m a marketer at a data security provider, you might be skeptical. This sounds like just another sales pitch.

But what if I dropped this data in your lap? “According to our recent survey of 550 CISOs, VPs, and Directors of Information Security at $100 million+ enterprises, companies that have yet to experience a security breach are 82% more likely to have expanded their security technology budgets year over year for the past five years.” Now would you believe me?

Now, what if I told you that I’d surveyed 550 CISOs, VPs, and Directors of Information Security at companies with more than $100 million in revenue and learned that companies that have yet to experience a security breach are 82% more likely to have expanded their security technology budgets year over year for the past five years? Now would you believe me?

That’s the power of original research.

B2B buyers are hungry for research. They need it to benchmark their past performance and future plans against peers, determine what to do next, and make the business case to other stakeholders. According to the 2021 Content Preferences Survey Report from DemandGen Report and ON24, 45% of B2B buyers say that research/survey reports are the most valuable content format and source for researching their B2B purchases — a higher percentage than any other content format. 

If that’s not reason enough to consider producing original, survey-based research, consider its versatility. Marketing organizations that publish thoughtfully constructed and beautifully designed research reports; develop and execute a strategy to publicize their findings; and create content marketing plans based on the storylines of the reports will be able to:

  • Build brand awareness through media mentions, backlinks from articles and blogs, and social chatter
  • Establish your company’s authority within your industry, which in turn lends credibility to your marketing and sales messaging
  • Inspire up to a year’s worth of derivative content and campaigns
  • Generate leads as a gated content piece
  • Capture subscribers to your blog, newsletter, and other communications
  • Uncover more effective ways for your marketing and sales teams to engage prospects

Producing original research takes careful planning and is an investment of both time and marketing funds. Let’s look at what the process usually entails:

  • Determining the objective of your research. Are you looking to upend commonly held beliefs among your peers and prospects? Uncover or highlight emerging trends? Validate assumptions that underpin your firm’s core values and offerings? Defining your intentions helps to shape your survey questions and the storyline you’ll tell about the results. 
  • Engaging a survey partner for research support. Partnering with organizations that specialize in some or all of the research process can be a worthwhile investment. They can help you develop engaging questions and answer options; set guardrails for the length and scope of the survey; distribute the survey and guarantee a statistically sound number of suitable respondents; manage responses; and/or analyze the results. As you assess potential research partners, find out how they find survey participants in the roles you need, in what formats the results are delivered, and how long the process will take from start to finish.
  • Devising thoughtful survey questions that will uncover patterns, correlations, and perhaps some surprises. Even if you’re working with a research partner to complete this task, make sure the questions strike a balance between minimizing friction for respondents and yielding rich data that can be sliced and diced for deep analysis and meaningful, original insights. 
  • Deploying your survey online. If you’re not partnering with a research firm to distribute the survey, look for an online survey tool that incorporates survey logic and respondent disqualification. According to Mantis Research, marketers who’ve experienced the most success from their original research took advantage of these two features to maximize the usefulness and credibility of their findings.  
  • Analyzing your data rigorously and forming a storyline. A research partner can often provide an initial analysis of the data. As you review the findings, consider the overarching story that the data tells, and that will serve as the backbone of the report and all derivative content.
  • Considering the timing. A research report can take several months to complete, from creating survey questions to gathering responses to writing and designing. If you want to tie the report to an event, such as an important industry conference, or to a time of year, such as new-year predictions, start planning six months out.

One report, endless content inspiration

To maximize the return on your research investment, develop a content strategy that takes full advantage of the research results. In addition to compiling the results and analysis into both a downloadable and interactive report, you can use the findings to inspire a steady stream of content in the months after publishing the report — even the full year. 

Check out some content ideas and examples from companies that are making the most of their research investment.

  • A blog or blog series. OutSystems — an application development platform and UDG client —  published six blogs based on the most compelling findings from its Speed of Change report. To help drive leads, each blog pointed back to the gated report in the CTA. (Check out some of the blogs here, here, and here.)
  • Visual assets, like a static or interactive infographic, series of mini-infographics, social images, or GIFs. OutSystems produced two infographics as well, including this one. BetterCloud, another UDG client, produced this interactive infographic sharing highlights of its State of SaaSOps report. You can also create mini-infographics, social images, or GIFs that feature specific data points to use for social promotion and embed in blog posts. 
  • A video. Make a quick-hitting video with a few of the most compelling findings from the research report to use as a teaser for the full report. Check out how Verizon Business used this method. 
  • A checklist. Let’s go back to our information security survey example. You could create a checklist explaining the seven smartest reasons that expanding your security technology budget is an important security strategy. Be sure to pepper the piece with your original data and include a call to action to the report. According to Forrester, 81% of tech decision-makers say that short-form content is more valuable when linked to more detailed studies.
  • A Q&A with an influencer. DemandGen Report’s 2021 Content Preferences Survey Report found that 40% of people surveyed prefer credible content from industry influencers. Enlisting their participation to discuss one or more of your key findings not only makes for more interesting reading, but strengthens your credibility and authority, too.
  • A webinar or webinar series. Amplitude not only shared key findings, but also predictions and other exclusive research-inspired content in a recent on-demand webinar
  • Sales enablement content. Make sure your sales team benefits from all the insights into your industry and the mindset of your prospects. Weave your research findings into customer presentation decks, battlecards, sales emails, and more to improve credibility during conversations with prospects. You can even provide social copy and images for them to use on LinkedIn and other platforms to help get them in front of more prospects and customers.

And of course, every piece of customer-facing content should point back to the research report. 

As you can see, a survey report isn’t a one-and-done content marketing effort. With a strategic plan and a creative eye for reuse, a well-executed survey report can feed your marketing program for the entire year.