As a PR professional, helping my clients create an effective thought leadership strategy is vital to establishing industry credibility and differentiating them from their competitors. This involves staying ahead of trends, being able to provide innovative ideas, insightful commentary on the latest developments, and even predicting where the industry is headed next.
One surefire way I’ve found to uncover something surprising and newsworthy, is by leveraging insights gleaned from market research and competitive analysis. This deep dive into the ‘why’ and ‘how’, has many times revealed unexpected statistics or remarkable insights that brands can use as the foundation of their thought leadership strategy and media coverage.
I sat down with Matt Robbins, Vice President of Insight and Research at LEWIS (AKA the subject matter expert) to discover just how the pros engage market research effectively.
1. What makes market research so important in thought leadership?
Market research provides a better understanding of what matters to your target audience, be that your customers or prospects. When you’re designing your brand voice, it’s important to provide a distinctive opinion that will truly distinguish you as a thought leader and authority in the space. Market research allows you to dig deeper into the subject matter to find something fresh and uncover insights that might not be apparent otherwise, thus showcasing the knowledge and expertise of the company that’s producing that research.
Essentially, people want to be able to learn something new from what you’re saying. And if you’re producing something completely novel and fresh, it’s essential to have the data to substantiate and back up your assertions.
2. Why do you think this area is often overlooked when marketers create their communications strategies?
There are a number of existing barriers that may be contributing to why research sometimes gets sidelined when marketers are doing their planning. Doing a proper study can be expensive, time consuming and complicated to execute, and marketers may not have the time, budget or resources to commit to the process.
The complexity arises from digging into the ‘why’ – the reasons why a phenomenon exists. A lot of times when marketers are investigating a research question, where to look for the answers may not be immediately apparent, leading to the need for longer, more encompassing studies. The longer the survey, the more complicated it gets to ensure the study is free from design issues, such as inherent biases. Questionnaires may be doomed even before completion by poor design and errors, making the results unusable.
3. How can marketers overcome some of these barriers you have mentioned here?
Keep it simple
One way to combat some of these barriers is to simplify the task, by first understanding what exactly is the research question you’re trying to answer? We tend to overcomplicate things! If distilled down to its essence, the question to be answered may be surprisingly simple. It takes planning, asking questions and open discussion to reach your simple research question, but once you know what you’re trying to achieve with the research, it will be more straightforward to plan the path towards finding the answer.
Keeping it simple is also another good rule to keep to when designing your questionnaire. Make sure that respondents fully understand what your questionnaire is asking by writing to a fifth-grade reading level. If you are using too much technical jargon, it’s probably a good idea to simplify, so as to ensure your results aren’t skewed by a lack of understanding.
Capitalize on the data you already possess
Another thing for marketing leaders and decision makers to remember is that companies already possess a huge amount of data at their disposal, even before embarking on any new research. Have you taken a closer look at your anecdotal information, like your social media channels and feedback from customers and employees? If not, that’s probably a good place to start to uncover rich insights about perception and how your business is doing.
How about internal digital and content marketing data? For instance, looking at the most popular blog topics and content your customers are engaging with on your website might provide a clue as to what is most important to them. This insight could help you develop an effective thought leadership piece that would resonate with current and potential customers alike.
Moreover, taking a closer look at your adword buys and most competitive keyword searches might show you certain industry and buying trends. Make sure you are communicating with your colleagues from different departments. Taking an integrated approach versus a more siloed one can provide access to insights that other departments might have, which might impact a finding your team is investigating.
Think like a journalist
Oftentimes, clients hope to get media coverage with internal data, then are shocked when media don’t care. Unless it’s something their target audience cares about, journalists would not be interested in covering data that do not tell a story.
When designing a research study, keep in mind what the end goal is. If the end is to find a unique statistic that will capture media headlines, make sure you are designing your questionnaire with possible media headlines in mind, imagining various scenarios should the data tell a different story than expected.
Don’t feel compelled to use every data point in your study
In most good research studies, only a fraction of your data and insights might end up being used in a campaign or strategy – sometimes just a single statistic or data point. As such, don’t be too attached to the work and time that has gone into the process by trying to force fit more uses for the research. Instead, it would be better to glean the most useful insights to augment and enrich your thought leadership content.
Wondering how to get started with your own market research insights? We can help – don’t hesitate to get in touch!