Between 2018 and 2019, content creation saw the biggest spending increase of any area of content marketing in the majority (56%) of organisations. Why does this matter? It indicates that, in 2020, audiences are going to be hit with a shedload of content.
When the human brain is bombarded with too much information, it shuts down. As consumers of content, we’re conditioning ourselves to screen out what doesn’t matter to us and what doesn’t immediately grab our attention.
The sad fact of the matter is that a great deal of content is being sent out to die, unread or unremembered. If you draft an article only about 20% of readers will finish it; if you create a webpage over half (55%) will look at it for no more than 15 seconds.
Our ability as PR and marketing agencies to create and distribute content may be growing, but the war for customer attention is only getting harder. If you want your audience to actually read the content you produce, you have to think outside the box and develop new ways to grab their attention.
The quantitative realm
Way back in 2018 I extolled the virtues of research reports as a way to generate coverage, raise awareness, promote expertise and create sales leads for organisations. However, as effective as they can be as the centrepiece of a marketing campaign, they aren’t completely immune to the great content deluge on the horizon.
Most research reports you’ll see can be described as ‘quantitative’. Their focus is to generate and analyse as many responses or data points as possible in support of a statement or idea. This is usually done through surveys of thousands of people or through the analysis of large amounts of public data.
Vast quantities of data and top-line stats lend credibility and are great at generating coverage. With a large enough sample size, you can start to credibly put forward what an entire population thinks or feels. However, there’s always the chance your findings will fail to inspire. Bad data doesn’t translate into good stories, and your target audience won’t finish a report that ‘proves’ something they already know.
A quantitative research report can be a significant investment in terms of time and resource. You have to consider carefully whether it will help you achieve your goals before you commit. Instead, it may suit your purposes better to experiment with different research methodologies. As the competition for audience attention heightens, it’s worth considering a style of research that focuses on depth rather than breadth.
Quality qualitative content
Sometimes a quantitative report isn’t the best way to achieve your marketing objective. If you’re targeting a specialist, expert audience with content you want them to read to the end, a qualitative method of research may be the way forward.
Whereas a piece of quantitative research is all about maximising the amount of data you have to support an argument, qualitative research is more cerebral but also typically more insightful. Instead of collecting a large amount of data through a survey or analysis, qualitative content is more likely to emerge from a series of focus group sessions or interviews with experts in a particular field.
As the sample size is so much smaller, it’s more difficult to objectively ‘prove’ an argument with a qualitative research method. Yet that’s not really the point. Instead it thrives on detail, depth, discussion and debate.
When you perform a survey of thousands of people, you can only really do it by asking the same questions and giving them a predetermined set of multiple-choice responses. You’ll get a lot of responses, but how valuable will they really be individually? Furthermore, can you say for certain that the choice of a predetermined response accurately reflects what a person really thinks?
By contrast, when you go qualitative you give the respondent as much room for free expression as possible. There is an element of interpretation involved in every analysis, but by allowing them to express their views in their own words, you’re far more likely to get an accurate view of how they think and feel. The closer you can get to the truth of person’s beliefs, whether they are a consumer or an expert, the more insightful and valuable your findings will be to your target audience.
This isn’t to say that qualitative is better than quantitative. Both research methods have their own pros and cons, and it really depends on what you are trying to achieve with your research. If your objective is to make headlines, drive coverage and maximise clicks then a quantitative survey could be highly effective: but if you’re more concerned with boosting engagement with the content and driving conversions, then a qualitative report is more likely to stand out above the noise.