By Chitra Iyer

Only about 30% of marketers use original research in content marketing strategies, despite numerous benefits. Why?

The Gist

  • When data is the story. Executed effectively, original research as content can put your content marketing on steroids, bringing in outsize ROI and sustaining your content calendar for months. 
  • So, why aren’t 70% of marketers telling the story? Although it’s the most trusted source for B2B buyers, fewer than 30% of content marketers generate their own original research, while nearly all writers incorporate others’ statistics in their content.
  • Because not all research is created equal. High-performing original research combines credible data, an engaging story and a solid plan for distribution and amplification through various content formats. Getting it wrong can cost your brand its credibility.

B2B content writing 101 emphasizes the importance of incorporating “evidence” — that is, trustworthy quantitative or qualitative data to substantiate our claims. By doing so, we enhance the credibility of our content, increasing the likelihood that the article will be referenced by others.

And that makes perfect sense. Even in a world where disinformation and propaganda often come cloaked in smart-looking pie charts, almost half of B2B buying committees trust research reports as their most preferred source of product research.

In fact, this 2021 report found that buying committees look for “research-backed content experiences that tell a valuable story.” That’s almost a textbook definition of original research reports.


That is why it is almost unbelievable that while 100% of content marketers use someone else’s original research stats in their content, only about 30% challenged themselves to create their own original research as a key component of their content marketing strategy.


Content Assets chart


Why? Because creating credible research is a challenging process, costs time and money, and demands an authentic and original approach. Even though the payoff is huge and the resulting content has a longer shelf life than average, the risks can be equally dramatic.

Imagine being trolled on social media by users who find chinks in your research methodology, share data that directly contradicts what your report finds, or worse, question your credibility by questioning the numbers themselves.

But first, the good stuff. Data analytics platform Databox, which has produced more than 1,300 reports over the last six years, swears by original research surveys as a key content marketing pillar. “As a result of all of the content we’ve produced on a wide range of topics, we generate nearly 300k sessions to our website every month, mostly from organic search and word of mouth. This traffic turns into 6k+ signups for our free product every month. We get all of our customers from these signups,” said Peter Caputa, CEO at Databox. That’s pretty straightforward ROI math.

So tip No. 1: Approach original research as a long-term, high-value content initiative. And if you really want people to trust the research coming out of your content marketing stable, pick a niche or a topic, and own it.

Consistently bringing out an annual survey report or update about the same topic positions you as the go-to expert in that topic, said Sarah Kimmel, vice president of research at Simpler Media Group (which owns CMSWire). The Content Marketing Institute, for example, has put out the annual B2B content marketing survey for 13 years now, and it is the first stop for anyone wanting to know the latest trends, patterns and insights about the state of content marketing.

Original research done right can supersize your content marketing ROI by sustaining the content calendar for months, building unmatched visibility, credibility, and thought leadership, and even generating leads.

The experts boil down the secret of high-ROI original research to five elements.

1. Why Original Research? The Right Purpose

“Original research” in the content marketing context is a high-value piece of content for your external audiences (not to be confused with “market research,” which is conducted to better inform internal product or strategy design).

Think of it as another arrow in the content marketing quiver, albeit the “meta arrow” with the power to turbocharge all your other arrows — blogs, articles, social media posts, event and podcast appearances, and even sales pitches.

But designing, executing, and amplifying original research is not as easy as hitting publish on a Survey Monkey form. Too many companies, said Michele Linn, co-founder of Mantis Research, end up executing without properly thinking through the purpose. When you approach it as a “content” project, you will naturally start with clarity on:

  • Who is our primary (content) audience?
  • What do we want to tell them?
  • How will original research help us get there? Why is an original survey report the right content format to help us get there?
  • What do we want them to do/feel after consuming this content?
  • How will we leverage and amplify this content to make that happen?

These questions may sometimes reveal that original research is not even the best bet for your purpose. For instance, said Linn, if you want to showcase product benefits, use case studies instead. If you want to understand consumer behaviour instead of consumer beliefs, rely on user data instead because surveys tell us what people think, not what they actually do. Beliefs and attitudes are not the same as actions and behaviour.

Key takeaway: Approach original research as a high-value content project. Start by asking the same questions you would ask before embarking on any new long-form piece of anchor content.

2. Who Will Run the Project? The Right Team

While original research will no doubt be helmed by the content marketing team, Linn suggested the project team should consist of roles such as:

  • A content strategist who will define the audience, the purpose and the narrative and help create a compelling story around the findings in a way the audience finds interesting.
  • A data analysis expert who can help ensure rigor in the research execution, data tabulation and interpretation for statistical significance and accuracy.
  • An amplification expert who can create and execute the promotion, distribution and content repurposing plan for the research to derive the maximum reach and visibility.

These resources can be expensive and hard to come by, especially for smaller teams. Teams seeking to establish credibility in new markets where they are relatively unknown may also need additional support. In these cases, third parties such as research agencies, consulting firms or industry publications can help design and execute the project, said Kimmel. People trust the editorial quality and integrity that comes from credible media companies, she added, and the brand benefits from the halo effect.

Key takeaway: Choose to commission, sponsor or co-publish research with a third-party partner, or do it in-house based on available resources and your goal, be it lead generation, building brand credibility, entering a new market or thought leadership.

3. What Story Do You Want to Tell? The Right Narrative

For original research to succeed as compelling content, you need both — the data and the story — to come together in a concrete and cohesive way. But at its core, the content you generate with original research is really a compelling story validated with data.

When asked what made content memorable enough to warrant a sales call, respondents in the 2021 B2B content preferences study noted they want content that:

  • Tells a strong story that resonates with buying committees (55%)
  • Uses data and research to support claims (52%)
  • Is research-based (40%)
  • Is packed with shareable stats and quick-hitting insights (40%)
  • Is personalized/tailored to their needs (32%)

The best approach is to start with what your customers want or need to know. What data-backed insights about their industry would really help them? Try to find angles or topics that have not been covered before.

Obviously, the topic should also be as close as possible to your own brand story, said Kimmel, which may be better served by a narrow research focus. For instance, a data analytics vendor whose brand narrative is “ease-of-use” may choose to focus research on the “data team composition.” The angle of the research could be to study how business teams use analytics software, why they don’t or can’t use them to their full potential, or what under-use of fully-loaded analytics software may actually cost the business. Adding actionable insights to fix the gaps is a bonus that the brand can add at the end of the research.

The goal, added Linn, is to study some aspect of the industry with genuine curiosity instead of trying to prove something or contriving the research to support your brand story.

So tip No. 2 is to use the research to test your hypothesis, not validate it. For that, start with a few different hypotheses about your audience and the problems they may be facing. For instance, in the above example, the hypothesis could be that marketing teams don’t fully use the analytics software they buy. The research could reveal why. Or that companies are spending more on data analytics teams despite investing in “DIY” data analytics software.

Manipulating data to suit your pre-decided narrative is obviously not useful, agrees Kimmel, so while you think of a theme and angle, don’t assume what the findings will show. “We once had a client that assumed their audience would cut benefits due to the economic slowdown. But the research found that only 1 in 6 respondents planned to cut benefits,” she said. “The best surveys can roll with such surprise findings and still tell a compelling story, warts and all.”

Key takeaway: With original research, the data is the story, but how you tell it is what really counts. Finding a unique angle to hold up the research and weave the story around is where your expertise about your industry and the audience comes in. No matter what findings emerge, find an angle to create an interesting and educative story for your audience.

4. Executing the Survey: The Right Process

Execution is made up of several moving parts. The process could take months, but the results can also sustain your editorial calendar and drive organic traffic for months, if not years.

The survey questions can make or break the research outcomes. Asking the wrong questions or the right questions in the wrong way can seriously impact data quality and credibility. The Databox team often “pre-qualify” their survey questions on social media to crowd-source feedback before actually creating the formal survey questionnaire.

The hardest part of original research surveys in the B2B context is getting enough of the right respondents. “Aside from a list of respondents we’ve built over several years, and one-on-one interviews, we’ve recently started partnering with other organizations to run joint surveys, which is a win-win in terms of reach,” said Caputa.

Smart survey tools like Survey Monkey and Alchemer help design better questions, translate and administer surveys at scale, distribute them across multiple platforms, etc. Survey analysis tools such as ResearchStory help with cleaning the data and the technical and statistical analysis needed to find meaning in the numbers. Conversational AI and AI for text or speech analysis help mine deeper insights at scale. AI also aids processes like survey scripting, content development and data visualization to tell the story better.

Turning the insights into a compelling narrative — and if possible, actionable insights is where the real magic happens. The most important thing, said Matt Powell, VP & executive director of of B2B International, a Merkle North America company, is to deliver something that customers actually need and value including useful, practical insights. A report that’s full of stats and data without context, interpretation or a unique point of view is just not useful, no matter how thorough the research process was.

So tip No. 3 is that original research needs to tell a great story and tell it well.

Key takeaway: Primary research surveys may be the last bastion for marketers seeking to say something new and original, but AI-powered tools can help make the execution more efficient, accurate and scalable.

5. Being Seen and Heard: The Right Amplification

The wonderful thing about original research is its sheer versatility. Depending on your purpose, you can do quantitative research with an online survey tool, dipstick surveys via smaller and snappier social media polls, in-depth qualitative research to a highly representative sample population, etc. And you can turn those results into a wide range of content. This annual research report by MOPros, for example, uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative research to bring readers both — the stats and the unique individual perspectives that enrich and support the data. Linn also highlights this ‘State of Workflow Automation’ report that was repurposed into a report, webinars, a podcast, an assessment tool, sales enable materials, blog content and a conference presentation among other formats.

Research content can also be used at all stages of the marketing funnel, said Powell. Recently, for instance, his team helped a B2B brand use research-based thought leadership to reposition their brand from being a provider of legacy, commoditized products, to being a solutions provider in an adjacent category, and marketing at the top of the funnel to a whole new decision-making unit. At the bottom of the funnel, the content can add to lead-gen activity and bring customers through nurture pathways.

Too many clients invest in a research project but don’t do enough with it because they did not factor that in at the start of the project, says Kimmel.

Tip No. 4: Know when you begin what you plan to do with the research. The report is just one piece of content — but the findings and the narrative should be credible and engaging enough to support a full suite of content — conference presentations, webinars, infographics, blogs, white papers, podcasts, sound bytes, social posts, etc., to amplify and deliver optimal ROI.

Key takeaway: The shelf life of original research data can often be years, not days or weeks. The more you amplify, the more backlinks you get, the higher your search engine authority and the more organic traffic you generate. An added bonus would be ChatGPT amplifying your research findings by citing them in its responses!

Done right, original research is a gift that keeps on giving. But success depends on approaching it as a high-value content project designed to serve your audience, not your agenda.

By Chitra Iyer

Chitra is a seasoned freelance B2B content writer with over 10 years of enterprise marketing experience. Having spent the first half of her career in senior corporate marketing roles for companies such as Timken Steel, Tata Sky Satellite TV, and Procter & Gamble, Chitra brings that experience to her writing. She has authored over 500 articles, white papers, eBooks, guides, and research reports on customer experience, martech, salestech, adtech, retailtech, and customer data and privacy. She holds a Masters in global media & communications from the London School of Economics and Political Science and an MBA in marketing

Sourced from CMSWIRE

Sourced from iab.uk

Get the key takeouts from our H1 Digital Adspend update with PwC, showing that the digital ad market grew by 15% as the rate of growth returns to pre-pandemic levels

The UK’s digital ad market grew by 15% year-on-year in the first six months of 2022, with spend across the period totalling £12.52 billion, according to IAB UK’s half yearly Digital Adspend update, produced with PwC. This follows a year of exceptional growth in 2021, as the market bounced back from a challenging 2020.

The turbulence of the past two years has impacted the UK’s digital ad market in extraordinary ways. While spend dipped by 5% in the first six months of 2020, it then rebounded by 55% in H1 2021. Today’s update is the first indication that the market is returning to a rate of growth in line with pre-pandemic levels, when the market expanded 15% in both 2018 and 2019.

Key results include:

  • Search continues to drive the majority of digital advertising spend, with the sector worth £6.66 billion in H1 2022 – up 16% year-on-year and making up 53% of the total digital ad market
  • Display has grown by 8%, with spend on video display increasing by 6% and non-video increasing by 10% year-on-year.
  • Mobile continues to attract the majority of all spend (57%) from a device perspective, but spend on non-mobile ads has grown significantly – up by 38% year-on-year in H1 2022. Classified ads also saw strong growth, up 42% year-on-year.

Commenting on the data, IAB UK’s Jon Mew said: “It’s clear that market growth in 2022, so far, is more in-line with what we were seeing prior to 2020. The socio-economic turbulence of the pandemic supercharged growth in digital advertising – both video and search grew by 80% across the past two years – and while it continues to grow beyond that, we knew that this growth rate could not be sustained in the long-term.

“Today’s results indicate that we have returned to a point where growth is strong but more sustainable. Looking to the future, we have Christmas and the World Cup coming up, which will likely see spend peak in 2022, but digital advertising won’t be immune to tightening budgets as the cost-of-living crisis takes hold. Continuing to invest in marketing throughout challenging times is well documented, and digital has the benefit of offering advertisers a powerful combination of proven results and flexibility. “

Sourced from iab.uk

Sourced from Search Engine Watch.

As brands and their marketing departments deploy strategies to capitalize on record ecommerce spending — which soared to $586.92 billion in 2019 — new research from leading provider of brand protection solutions, BrandVerity, has brought to light important findings and hidden risks pertaining to the journeys consumers are taking online.

In order to give brands a better understanding of the search experiences their customers are having and how they are impacting brand perception and customer experience, BrandVerity commissioned the “BrandVerity’s Online Consumer Search Trends 2020” research study in Q4 of 2019 to over 1,000 US consumers, balanced against the US population for age, gender, region, and income.

Amongst the many findings, three main themes stood out:

Consumers confused by how search engine results work

Only 37% of consumers understand that search engine results are categorized by a combination of relevance and advertising spend.

The other 63% of consumers believe that Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are categorized by either relevance or spend, or they simply “don’t know.”

Additionally, nearly 1-in-3 consumers (31%) say they don’t believe search engines (e.g. Google) do a good job of labeling which links are ads.

Consumers more inclined to click on the result that appears first

Without a clear understanding of how search results are served up, consumers are more inclined to click on the result that appears first, believing it to be the most relevant option.

With 54% of consumers saying they trust websites more that appear at the top of the SERP, this isn’t just an assumption.

Consumers feel misled by the websites they find in the search engine results

51% of consumers say that when searching for information on a product, they sometimes feel misled by one of the websites in the search results.

An additional 1-in-4 report feeling misled “often” or “always.”

Even further, 25% also say they often end up somewhere unexpected that does not provide them with what they were looking for when clicking on a search result.

“Against a backdrop where consumers have increasingly high expectations of the brands they do business with, and are holding them to equally high standards, companies must ensure that the entirety of the experiences they provide meet customer expectations,” said Dave Naffziger CEO of Brandverity.

“As these findings show, a general uncertainty of how search engines work, combined with the significant occurrence of poor online experiences, mean oversight of paid search programs is more important than ever for brands today.”

Sourced from Search Engine Watch.

By Howard Breindel

In our work with nonprofit research institutions, we’ve found that many of them are often hesitant about marketing. Many of them believe their missions — and their accomplishments — should sell themselves.

In the past, this just-the-facts communications approach may have been sufficient for research nonprofits, since they could depend on generous government funding. However, the funding landscape has changed. Stagnant federal funding has forced an increasing reliance on philanthropy, which has introduced research institutions to a new audience with new motivations: results-oriented, high net worth individuals.

In a crowded field of institutions vying for donations from business-minded individuals, just-the-facts communication likely won’t cut it. Instead, I believe that institutions need to provide the kind of experience that potential donors have come to demand at the companies they lead. And I’ve noticed that to do so, the most successful fundraisers have taken on a series of purpose-driven branding transformations.

From Piecemeal To Purpose

If you look at best-in-class research brands, you’ll notice that most lead with a clear and singular purpose. These stand in contrast to some others, who have difficulty communicating succinctly what all their activities connect to and build toward. That’s understandable — scientific minds aren’t usually geared toward generalizations. However, in my experience, clear, higher-level messaging can resonate with potential philanthropists who come from business backgrounds. A good example is the Salk Institute. Although it has 10 research areas, it unites them with a single purpose listed on its homepage: “Where cures begin: We explore the very foundations of life for the benefit of all.”

One useful activity for articulating a nonprofit’s purpose is to think collectively about the role it plays in the world. Is the research about making discoveries? Creating cures? Caring for patients? Nailing down this answer can help lead to a refined and united purpose.

From Niche To Narrative  

Personal relationships can be key to attracting sustained donations from high net worth individuals. Philanthropists often want to feel like partners, not ATMs, so building a rapport and maintaining open communication is crucial. However, creating compelling communications can be difficult for those who don’t come from a business development background. That’s where branding and marketing come in. They provide a platform that can be expanded into a tool kit to help employees speak about the common mission with ease, rather than getting bogged down with details or jargon. When equipped with writing guides, talking points and other turnkey communications tools, every employee can serve as a passionate brand advocate who makes philanthropists feel informed about the organization’s projects and excited to work with it.

From Collection To Cohesion

I’ve noticed that research institutions are often siloed into specialized laboratories. While this may be the most effective way to advance discovery, listing these labs for external, nonexpert audiences can be overwhelming. For example, one institution lists some 37 labs, centers, institutes and groups on its homepage, leaving the visitor drowning in information that dilutes the organization’s overall focus.

Without shaking up operations, institutions can reconsider their brand architecture and how it can better contribute to a cohesive message. For example, does every lab need its own sub-brand, or is this diluting the main organization’s equity? Would descriptive naming — at least in external communications — be clearer than acronyms? Answers will be different for every organization, but in many cases, rethinking brand architecture may streamline external communications, presenting a unified, mission-driven organization rather than a list of programs.

From Telling To Showing

Often, philanthropists are swayed by the on-the-ground experience at a research institution. Branding, marketing and design can help bring this experience to individuals while they’re still at their desks. Think of a website as a virtual tour. Use photography and video to show research in action and highlight the experience of visiting and working with the organization. For example, rather than simply listing the unique features of its campus, the Salk Institute presents digital exhibits on its history and architecture, using video and rich media to immerse the viewer in the Salk experience.

Brand storytelling is also an effective way to fulfill donors’ desires for results, which can be difficult to do in the research sector, where progress is slow and incremental. This can be a tough pill to swallow for results-obsessed donors; 54% of high net worth donors aren’t sure whether their investments are having the intended impact, which doesn’t bode well for continued support. Storytelling can help organizations show results that are hard to quantify. Whether it’s researcher blogs, TED Talks or practical guides for the community, this type of content can demonstrate impact.

The work research institutes do is vital, and their continued success relies on the generosity of a new generation of market-minded philanthropists. Reaching and convincing this audience will likely require researchers to enter an unfamiliar world: that of branding. However, by grounding their branding and marketing in a strong purpose, they can bridge the gap and tell a compelling donor story that cuts through the clutter and stays true to the organization’s values and mission.

Feature Image Credit: Pexels

By Howard Breindel

Howard Breindel is the Co-CEO at DeSantis Breindel, the leading B2B branding agency in New York City.

Sourced from Forbes


The social network paid people to monitor their phone activity and Apple was not happy

Facebook and Apple are in another fight over privacy and data after reports surfaced on Wednesday that Facebook built a consumer research app that opened a backdoor to iPhones. The phonemaker, which disabled the app, has accused the social network of violating its app rules.

Apple and Facebook have had a contentious relationship since Apple CEO Tim Cook took a hardline stance against data-collection practices of internet ad giants, calling for more regulations in the industry. Facebook then hired a public relations firm to push back against the criticism of its business model.

The latest episode in the saga is a bit hard to follow. To help, here’s our guide to what happened.

The Facebook Research App
Facebook recruited phone users to install a consumer research app that tracked their web traffic, messaging, app usage and more. About 5 percent of the participants were younger than 18, according to Facebook. (Minors were prompted to get permission from parents during the download process, for what that’s worth.) The app program was managed by third party companies uTest, BetaBound and Applause, which helped distribute the app.

Quick cash for consumers
People who participated in the consumer research typically received $5 to $10 to download the app and up to $20 a month to keep it active. It was almost like a multilevel data marketing deal because people could also make money for each person they referred, and then extra money each month that those people kept the app active. According to online commenters who say they participated in the program, people could potentially even make hundreds of dollars a month. (Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.)

Why does Apple care?
In August, amid a privacy backlash against Facebook, Apple shut down a similar app from Facebook called Onavu, which also collected details about people’s phone usage. Apple said it violated its App Store policies, and no apps should collect data about other apps people have on their phones.

Facebook’s workaround
The new research app avoided Apple’s App Store by using a program that Apple created for enterprise customers. Companies like Facebook use the enterprise program to build internal company apps, apps for communication, transportation and other logistics useful to employees. However, the apps in the enterprise program are only for employees.

Who the fallout is affecting
Perhaps the people most affected at this point are Facebook employees. Apple not only disabled the research app, it shut down all of Facebook’s other utility apps for employees, reportedly leading to some chaos at the office. Facebook has said it’s talking to Apple about getting its internal apps back online.

Without the internal app program, Facebook will have trouble beta testing changes to its main apps, as well, like when it tries out a new design on Instagram or a new feature on WhatsApp, but only among employees.

Also on the case: lawmakers
Lawkmakers have added this issue to the host of others that led Congress to call CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg to testify before them last year. On Wednesday, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, issued a statement that said, “I have concerns that users were not appropriately informed about the extent of Facebook’s data-gathering and the commercial purposes of this data collection.”

What about those consumers?
Everyone who participated were aware they were participating in market research, according to Facebook. Also, Google and other companies have similar research programs. Nielsen employs thousands of everyday Americans to share their TV viewing habits for market research.

On the other hand, it’s hard to tell if Facebook adhered to the strictest standards of disclosure, and how well-informed participants were. And Facebook already has been under a microscope for privacy and data-sharing issues, most notably the Cambridge Analytica scandal. There have also been questions raised about how Facebook handled user privacy and data, especially in its early days.

Bottom line
No advertiser will pull their money from Facebook over this, but they will call their ad agency and ask what the hell is happening, again.

Feature Image Credit: Bloomberg


Sourced from AdAge