Making market research matter

How a little (insightful) content goes a long way

There’s increasingly more than one line of influence in the business decision-making process.  So, whilst you’ve already got a strong proposition, the need to demonstrate your relevance in a specific market or with a specific influencer is more critical than ever. Once you’ve identified who you’re focused on, the objective is simple; create, and communicate, meaningful content to engage with them in line with their individual buying priorities and challenges.

One clear go-to for that content is market research.

Presenting powerful content to those that matter should absolutely start with finding out what the people that matter actually think; getting insight on their reality, their priorities, painpoints and perception of your world. Only then can you craft compelling content that resonates, engages and influences.

Sometimes it can feel like obviously self-serving research is generating more cynicism than value. And best not mention the recent results and shockers from the professional pollsters in the UK Election. But market research that provides genuine insight, that’s rich in data, resonates with audiences and media alike, and is proven to fuel productive conversations, demonstrate thought-leadership and help build your proposition.

So, notwithstanding some golden rules for sampling, choosing the right pollster, question length, tone and style, here are just a few insights into making your survey the latter – that which is insightful and has valuable content at its core:

1. Serve your audience, not just your proposition

It’s not all about you. Of course you’re commissioning a piece of research that talks to the services or products you have to offer, but focusing on this over the objective of finding the real state-of-play in your market will produce skewed results and when you come to communicate it can appear disingenuous.

It’s important to strike a balance between gathering genuine insight and creating stats to back-up your need for product-sales.

Seek to find and present trends, challenges and opportunities, changes in mindset amongst peers, not an overt propensity to buy. By offering content that is in sync with their reality, you’ll be seen as a trusted source of information first and foremost.

2. Think outcome, not output

Designing a purposeful and productive questionnaire for a survey is a bit of a dark art – one that I’m rather proud to say I’ve become a dab hand at over the years. Of course you need to think about your desired headline and ideal story thread before you set off, but you’re taking the wrong approach if you think you can manufacture every output for every question.

Instead, consider the wider outcomes of your questioning. Always look to create a questionnaire that will be data rich in its results and provide a compelling and insightful headline or story regardless of the response rate across the options you present. There are plenty of ‘smarts’ like grouping of answers, context and data-breaks from other questions, sample splits, and sentiment analysis that, when considered from the outset, mean you can design a data rich survey that is both genuine in its results, and worthy of representing your marketing need.

3. Make it progressive

Be aware of what has gone before you, and offer something different, new or ‘next’. It’s not always the unknown or surprising that makes a research report sing: some of the best do a great job of telling you what you already knew. However, one common factor in all successful research projects is that no one else has done it like that already. So do your own research, and progress the existing story.

4. Listen to what they tell you

Surprises happen. If a survey question does not throw up the exact answer you expected, or an answer that doesn’t perfectly match your sales proposition then the worst thing you can do is ignore it. Take the data seriously.

On analysing survey data, I’ve had conversations that go along the lines of ‘that’s not the response we wanted,’ or ‘that can’t be right, they must have misunderstood the question’. In some cases that ‘misunderstanding’ may well be true, but in most it’s a sign that says your prospective audience thinks and feels a little differently than you originally thought.

And while you may not want to shout these findings from the rooftops straight away, you do want to acknowledge it and test it some more; it could be a warning sign that you need to further refine your story or approach to this market.

One of our clients, Logicalis UK, recently tasked us with building some collateral to help act as a conversation starter for a decision-maker-focused campaign in retail. A perfect platform for a smart piece of market research if ever there was one!

We’ve long worked together on projects to produce research that aims to pack a punch (check out our most recent Annual Real Time Generation Report) so we were excited to build an integrated content-led campaign for this one. From concept through to survey design, visual report and public relations, the objective was to add fuel to the marketing programme, provide collateral for planned events, and help generate news coverage and thought leadership opportunities.

Following the steps above, we unearthed rich data sets, aligned with ‘hot’ trends. We also found some new ones. All of which provided multiple options for storytelling and headline stats that were able to support, progress and expand upon the existing service proposition to the retail market.

Then we set about making the content go a long way. The report launched in sync with the client’s presence at The Retail Conference, and a preview of the statistics was included in email invites and the conference newsletter, forming a key part of the pre-event marketing. The glossy 10-page report proved a great hit on the show floor. The stats upped the opportunity for engagement on social media and, at the same time, the PR effort saw a heap of editorial pieces in key publications such as Computer Business Review, Retail Systems and Information Age.

Months after launch, the report and data continues to work hard. It provides an authoritative, interesting viewpoint for media trend commentary – like this piece in the Financial Times, as well as providing supporting context to a technology focus – like this in Comms Business, and offering valuable lead generation content for download on the website.

A piece of research can be a great investment, when approached with the right goal in mind. So buck the PR survey status quo, unearth some genuine insights for your sales team and build some really valuable, unique content…

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