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Andrew McWhaw
By
August 09, 2018

The 5 Reasons Your Next Content Marketing Campaign Should be a Research Report

Marketing departments have relied on formalized market research to build better campaigns since some time in the early 20th Century. 

The benefits of “asking consumers what they think,” are obvious – better comprehension of what consumers like, dislike, believe, want or need, which gives marketers the ammunition they need to frame their product as the panacea to their target customers’ woes. 

Inside most companies, raw market research data and the reports generated from that data are guarded with a level of security just shy of Google’s Search Algorithm. 

Today, I’m going to tell you how engineering.com flipped the above idea on its head: how 12 months ago we started publishing market research for the market itself – giving engineering professionals the opportunity to learn what we found, and providing answers to questions they couldn’t find anywhere else.

Why would we do such a thing? Here are the results of our experiment thus far:

  • 225% increase in downloads vs. non-research-based lead generating products
  • During the last twelve months, 22.4% of all leads generated from resource downloads came from research reports, while these research reports accounted for less than 3% of all resources available.
  • Of all campaigns launched in Q3/Q4 2017, 5 of the top 6 most successful were from the research report pilot project.
  • Research reports have extreme longevity. The two reports that inspired the pilot project, first published in 2016, continue to generate leads – over 250 combined this year, almost 2 years after first being published!

Interested? Read on to learn what leads to these amazing results and why your next campaign should be research driven.

Benefit Number One: Higher Quality Marketing Content

The primary reason Research Reports lead to higher quality content is that they are a “shortcut” to higher quality source material. 

It all starts with picking a topic that each engineering professional in your target market likely has some idea about, but one where a consensus or best-practice hasn’t been decided upon.  When we started our experiment, we brainstormed a great many possible research report topics and then culled the weak ones and prioritized the rest.  You can see our original idea board in the image below. 

The engineering.com Research Report Idea Generation Whiteboard

This process has proven extremely effective at generating ideas that turn into must read reports.  One of our earliest experimental reports, “The Adoption of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in 2018” has a 680% higher rate of conversion compared to all other content released over the last twelve months.  More recently, the “Should You Use Addition Manufacturing to Produce Your Next Part?” report has led to 4x as many downloads as other non-research reports released during the same quarter. 

When writing the report, its author summarizes and provides additional context around what the practitioners surveyed and/or interviewed, giving (hopefully) a clear answer to the core question of the report.  There is very little opportunity for bad information to make it into a report like this – the data is the data.

A secondary reason to expect higher quality content from research reports stems from how involved a process they are to produce.  They require a great deal more planning, production, and will cost more compared to other forms of content marketing (e.g. white papers, case studies or eBooks). 

And while greater investment isn’t a guarantee of higher quality – I’m sure we’ve all seen some really ugly ROIs in our time marketing or otherwise – it definitely incentivizes those involved. 

Benefit Number Two: Fueling Content Production

Let’s fast forward a few months and you’ve just completed your first research study.  Congrats!  Now what? Well, the beauty of research reports is that they’re so information dense, they’re great fuel for producing other marketing materials.

Research Reports Fuel Numerous Other Content Marketing and Social Media Campaigns(One research report = numerous other pieces of marketing content)

To give you an idea, a recent and ongoing research report campaign we’re running for a client has already produced 3 articles on engineering.com (with more to come), two webinars, countless social media posts and—if Sales can be convincing—hopefully a video sometime soon. 

You don’t have to be as prodigious as our editorial team with your research report, but if you wanted to I’m sure you could.  Here are a few more ways you can repurpose research content:

  • Infographics
  • Expert opinion guest articles/blogs where someone riffs on your findings
  • LinkedIn or Medium Posts
  • Presentations at conferences
  • Industry specific / niche spinoff reports where you segment a specific subset of your data set, for example just automotive from manufacturing, and report on unique findings for that sector.

Benefit Number Three: Crushing the Organic Traffic Game

Research reports and their findings are organic traffic magnets for several reasons.

Research Reports = Organic Web Traffic

(Research report will have you swimming in organic traffic)

To begin and following on the heels of fueling your content production, the research report and its landing page should exist as the center of a content web.  Cross-linking between any and all content related to the research helps search engines understand the interconnectedness of the pages and their keywords. 

Assuming your content is of high quality (and it should be – see benefit number 1!), over time it will climb the Search Engine Result Page Rankings (SERPs).  A rising tide lifts all boats, and as each landing page referencing your research rises, so too will each other page in the content web see a boost to its own ranking, generating more organic traffic.

Research reports are excellent for generating backlinks, which in turn helps the report and its landing page rank better.  Unique facts only found in your report are the types of things people in your industry (e.g. engineering bloggers, marketers in related industries, etc.) or covering it (e.g. journalists) will want to reference, and they can’t really do that without linking to you. 

Backlinks are one of the three “big factors” in Google’s Search Algorithm, so the more backlinks you accumulate the higher your landing page will rank.

 A great strategy to seed your backlinks right after launching your report is to ask any experts who provided commentary to write about it on their personal blog or site.  The more influential they are, the more backlinks in turn they will help you accumulate as their followers write about and/or reference your original research.

Benefit Number Four: Leads on Both Ends

Research reports generate more leads because they amass leads both during the data/information gathering phase (content creation phase) and after the report is released. 

While survey and interview results should be completely anonymized when reported, you can generate a high volume of top quality leads from informing consenting participants that the report they participated in is now available.  This is most pronounced with survey reports where hundreds of potential leads can be sourced, but also occurs to a lesser extent with interview-based reports.

Have respondents and interviewees opt in to receive the report generating immediate leads
(Including a "Send me the report!" opt in can easily double your leads)

One way to encourage participants to provide their contact information and consent is to offer a prize such as randomly drawn Amazon gift cards.  Alternately, if you have a product the engineering professionals who are your target customers would like to personally use, such as a 3D printer or video card, you’d be even better off offering one of those. 

And don’t worry, offering prizes doesn’t mean lower quality data or ballot stuffing. As the arbiter of your survey, it’s easy to include screening questions or retroactively parsing out data from unreliable sources.  To date, across all research surveys we’ve conducted—all of which had incentives for responding—fewer than 3% of data collected needed to be scrubbed. 

Benefit Number Five: Providing Value with Thought Leadership

Benefits 1 through 4 offer a very clear cause and effect between creating research and earning more leads.  Benefit number 5 is no less important, but its basis is more ethereal, and requires some common sense and a little bit of faith.

In a digital world, anyone can throw up a piece on “Why X is the Best Y of Them All” or “How to Use Z to Cut Costs in Half.”  At a time when information and news is regularly termed “fake,” producing something that isn’t your voice but the voice of your target consumers has power.

Giving a topic, one relevant to you and your business, a clear and uncompromising treatment is a bold move and one that will establish you as a thought leader in your industry. 

Thought Leader

(Thought leaders shine bright and stand out)

You can achieve this in two ways and neither is the lesser of the other. 

First, you can provide research on a topic that is relevant to your product but not about your product.  For instance, the previously mentioned “Should You Use Addition Manufacturing to Produce Your Next Part?” is directly relevant to its sponsor, but the report doesn’t recommend any one additive manufacturing provider.  Rather, it gives engineers the facts they need to consider whether or not they should use the technology and details for what manufacturing jobs it both is great for and which jobs it isn’t.

The second kind of report examines your product category, but again, it’s the voice of the end-users/consumers, not yours.  If you’re going to author research about yourself be warned – you need to be committed to show any blemishes found in the research.  You can’t just show off all the ways you’re great while dropping from the analysis the areas where you can/should be improving. 

Leaders take their lumps, but leaders gather followers, and followers become disciples.  If every time an engineer is looking for answers about their industry they find it in a report you put out, how long do you think it’ll take for them to decide to buy from you when your company is a fit?

The Next Question…

So now you know what’s in our secret sauce and how we’re crushing it in lead gen thus far in 2018.  You know the results and you know the why, so I have to ask: Is your next marketing campaign going to be a research report? 

Let me know in the comments below or by getting in touch on LinkedIn.

P.S. If you have any questions about research in general or how to set up a research study you can ask about that too! 😊

Thanks,
Andrew

 

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Research Report: How Engineers Find Information
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