Content marketing is exploding. Prior to 2012, it was barely on most marketers’ radar.1 However, in just four years, 88 percent of B2B marketers have adopted content marketing as part of their market strategy.2 A key reason for its growing popularity is that content marketing positively affects organic search (SEO). It also helps brands to position themselves as thought leaders in their industry.

The real value of content marketing is not just driving eyeballs to a brand’s website, but also increasing the time that viewers engage with the content

The real value of content marketing is not just driving eyeballs to a brand’s website, but also increasing the time that viewers engage with the content. This potential means that marketers need to step up their game when cultivating their brand voice and key message. As content marketing technology becomes more advanced, marketers will become even more accountable for these initiatives. Technology will be able to measure all aspects of content marketing programs to determine what consumers respond to most and what needs additional attention.

Content developed to help elevate search rankings and Web traffic can appear to be redundant and unoriginal. The challenge is for brands to generate fresh content that is compelling and that draws audience attention so they want more.

Furthermore, brands are competing in a crowded marketplace. There are 54.2 million blog posts written monthly on WordPress3 and 30 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook monthly.4 And, it’s not just brands that are competing for consumer’s attention, but other consumers’ personal posts about their latest vacations, baby pictures and restaurant reviews. This is where market research plays an important role in the content marketing revolution.

Market research is not new to the content space. The industry has been publishing surveys for press purposes since Gallup in the mid-1930’s.5 Similar to how news organizations have adapted their content, research needs to progress to this new type of content generation. Research studies need to move beyond the one-dimensional press release and onto multiple platforms in a variety of ways.

Brands need to develop a consistent voice and offer content that is perceived as relevant and timely or risk being lost in the noise

Brands need to develop a consistent voice and offer content that is perceived as relevant and timely or risk being lost in the noise. Market research studies are a relevant way to bring novel, thought-provoking ideas to a comprehensive content marketing initiative. They provide thought leadership and keep the reader's’ attention since the information is new and original. One research study can be broken up into several content marketing stories spread across a variety of media channels.

Leveraging market research content can make a huge impact, driving Web traffic, audience engagement and lead generation. The following steps help to ensure success for integrating marketing research with content marketing initiatives.

  1. Secondary Research is Crucial. Before writing the questionnaire, research potential topics for the study beforehand. Many primary researchers tend to ignore this step and leave this to the client, but this is a crucial component to the success of a content marketing research initiative. Discover trending topics that have high engagement among a brand’s prospects and customers. Also, determine — and steer clear of — topics that have been over-used. Pouring over available research can spark unique ideas or new perspectives on a subject.
  2. Create an Action Plan. Once a brand knows what studies are in circulation, the next step is to create a concise written strategy. This strategy should be comprised of the topics and media channels through which you will promote your marketing research initiative. Topics should ladder up to overall themes that could tell a unique story about the brand or industry.
  3. Match Content to the Appropriate Media Platform. Infographics and videos are effective pictorial methods to make research digestible and exciting. Videos are much more likely than traditional text content in boosting Web search rankings. Consistent blog creation is a terrific SEO booster that only requires an engaging 300-word post. By nature of its design, social media posts are easily shareable.
    Additional media channels that you could consider include downloadable white papers, email marketing, sales collateral and SlideShare.
  4. Keep SEO Top of Mind. Along with media channels, consider the Web search terms you want your brand to be associated with for SEO. An SEO-driven approach to content marketing focuses on the words that resonate among prospects. Using tools such as Google Adwords Keyword Planner, you can see the words people are using regarding the research topic. By using popular keywords, the brand can drive more traffic to its research study.
  5. Use Research as a Lead Generation Tool. By only showing a quick snapshot of the research in an article or a blog, you can encourage readers to access the full study on a separate landing page by filling out a lead generation form. This tactic can collect prospect data such as names, emails and telephone numbers. Lead generation information can provide sales leads or be used for further engagement points with prospects such as additional emails or informing them about future research studies.
  6. Create Research Headlines. Developing potential headlines that the research may deliver will help in crafting the questionnaire. These headlines should excite and interest readers and should focus on the topics discovered during the secondary research process. With this approach, your primary research initiative can be geared to cover topics that have yet to be addressed, guaranteeing a fuller, more interesting picture of your industry. Each headline gives you a potentially new story to tell via your chosen media channels. When developing headlines, keep SEO in mind.
    Remember, however, that the survey data may yield results that differ from the original headlines you created. That’s OK; headlines are used to help craft the questionnaire, not to bias survey results. A little creativity and flexibility can help to restructure your headlines.
  7. Write Multiple Stories. Once the survey is closed and the data is collected, create more than one story from the research. Remember that storytelling is an art form; it is important to keep your audience engaged. Many times, researchers are hyper-focused in the details of the numbers, but what is the big story? What will move readers to want more?
  8. A Picture Is Worth a 1,000 Words. Research decks can be daunting and often feel corporate and uninviting. They are often filled with complicated graphs and charts and repetitive imagery. Work with a graphic designer to make research decks more digestible and ensure that the content matches your brand’s look and feel. The designer should void the look of a standard PowerPoint and even intentionally shake up audience’s expectations. Designers can help with the PowerPoint template as well as provide images, charts and infographics. Plus, the graphics and images in the research deck can be recycled to be used in social media posts and sales materials. Social media posts with images receive more shares, likes and comments than posts with text alone.
  9. Pitch An “Exclusive.” With more than one story angle, you can create research exclusives with multiple journals. Often, it helps to create a few research decks depending on which story you are trying to pitch to the press. Develop relationships with the press and bloggers even before the story comes out. Deliver the publications with the research in a timely manner because many publications will not take data that is older than three months.
  10. Keep the Buzz Going. Once a story is published in the media, merchandise the placement with related posts on blogs and social media and be sure to translate the data into infographics, and videos. Such perpetuation has an echo effect and keeps the buzz going. Remember, a research study can have more than one post and can use multiple social media platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, SlideShare, Pinterest, etc.).
  11. Stay Accountable With A Content or Editorial Calendar. A content calendar is helpful when planning these types of outreach. A content calendar is a detailed plan of attack for how to get your story out there. It allows a brand to organize, track and map out a consistent flow of social media and content posts for an initiative.
  12. Measure the Results. Learn what readers are viewing, discussing and sharing with others by analyzing the program’s analytics. Research topics, social media posts and media channels that prove successful should be further leveraged.

The transition to creating research for content marketing initiatives rather than solely for press purposes will not happen overnight. However, it is vital for the industry to keep up with the changing environment in order to stay relevant to the needs of brands and consumers. These tips can help companies and market researchers begin to leverage market research for content marketing programs.


Footnotes

1 “Content marketing,” Google Trends. Feb. 24, 2016.

2 “35 Content Marketing Statistics You Need To Know In 2016,” Forbes. Dec. 10, 2015. www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2015/12/10/35-content-marketing-statis...

3“A live look at activity across wordpress.com,” Wordpress. https://wordpress.com/activity/

4“Facebook statistics,” Kissmetrics. https://blog.kissmetrics.com/facebook-statistics/

5“Timeline of polling history,” Gallup. http://www.gallup.com/poll/9967/timeline-polling-history-events-shaped-u...