I had a great time in Las Vegas recently at HR Tech. This event has been held for over 20 years, bringing thousands of HR and technology professionals together to share, learn and discuss.
While it’s always fun attending events like HR Tech, it’s also extremely rewarding to participate in them. It was an honor to lead a roundtable on Research Marketing at a CMO event lead by HR.com preceding the event with some super-smart and talented industry peers.
In an increasingly cluttered marketplace, those brands that are standing out are doing so by telling stories and building credibility. But where do you start? And how can you use research marketing to effectively generate demand for your brand? These are some of the core questions we tackled during the roundtable.
Many thanks to those who joined us in Las Vegas. For those who couldn’t make it, here are my top four takeaways:
1. Cast the right net (and use the right bait).
When it comes to targeting and reach, some marketers and organizations fall victim to these common mistakes:
Focusing solely on their ICP
Sometimes as marketers and business leaders, we focus too much on our ideal customer profile (ICP), and target all messaging in that direction.
To reach and impress your ICP, go beyond the most obvious target and think outside the box a little bit. Your most potentially impactful audience could actually be your ICP’s ICP!
Not sure where to start for a topic? Start by thinking about an important topic to your business. Pick the angle — it could be a product marketing, demand generation or PR. Most recently, here at Sense we tapped into the hot topic of the liquid workforce. Not only did we seek to define it on our terms, we skipped right to our customers’ customers (see the first point above), and sought to understand how they are interacting with this new force. Only a small bit of this survey was directly applicable to Sense’s direct buyers.
But we had a few key goals:
- Establish credibility
- Build an evergreen asset of research around the gig economy to refer to in our content marketing
- Gain insights into perceptions of shortcomings of our customers (staffing firms) by their customers to help build better products
- Understand the language our customers’ customers use in describing their pain and perception to tell better stories in our own marketing
- Use as a turnkey PR piece—we are still getting traction in large national publications like Forbes
Thinking too broadly
To really stand out today, your brand and experts should be unafraid to demonstrate their expertise. And to really strut your stuff today, that means getting to the nitty gritty. Focus on narrow topics that get to the heart of your ICP’s challenges, questions and needs.
Only scratching the surface
In the early days of content marketing, it was most important to write about important topics (well, really, keywords). So businesses wrote a LOT of content. Much of it was short and superficial, touching upon topics at a high level. The purpose was to rank in Google and drive traffic.
While traffic and rankings are still important, today’s consumers are much more savvy. They want you to demonstrate your credibility. They want you to show them that you know your stuff. Skimming the surface isn’t going to cut it (and Google’s algorithm is so sophisticated now, simply writing high volume content focusing on keywords isn’t going to get you very far in the rankings either).
2. Leverage every relationship and opportunity to gather necessary data.
There’s so much planning that goes into research marketing strategy and implementation. But at the end of the day, you can’t go far without the right respondents. It’s important to determine early on who you’re going to survey, and how you’re going to reach them.
Most marketers know that getting information and insights out of people can be challenging. One way to circumvent those challenges is to leverage your partner networks. For our recent survey, we partnered with HR.com and tapped into their huge following.
Unless you have a huge, loyal audience that happily and easily gives you information (and let’s be honest, that’s pretty rare), you’ll need to get creative and leverage every possible relationship to maximize turnout for your research. Just because you don’t have a massive following doesn’t mean you’re shut out from research marketing. Everyone is allowed in the room!
When it comes to sample integrity, it’s also important not to simply survey your own customer base. Consider it an exception if you’re doing something around your own product usage or are a large horizontal product with a diverse customer base. But for most businesses, it’s critical to include sample outside of your own customers. “The state of anything” can not be just one company’s customer base. It’s impossible to form well-rounded insights on research from such an insular group of respondents—your prospects (and industry) will notice, and it will kill your credibility.
3. Clear goals are essential.
What are you hoping to achieve with your research marketing? Is this just an OKR for your CEO? Or do you have a clear use for this research, and a plan to make it happen?
In the design phase, it’s important that you make sure there are clear goals across your entire marketing funnel. Do not undertake research marketing for the sake of it! Research marketing is a pretty massive undertaking. To take this kind of action only to have a big piece of collateral sit on a landing page that’s not used effectively is a waste of your and your respondents’ time.
4. Leverage across your organization.
Effective research marketing requires a pretty massive investment of time and resources—it’s important that you are able to leverage your marketing across your organization. Here is some inspiration -- how else can you leverage your research marketing?
Focus on evergreen content
First, be sure to make it evergreen. In other words, the results of your research should have value for your target audience for a long period of time. Otherwise, you could find yourself struggling to design and implement research marketing to replace your outdated, previous research marketing. Focus on evergreen!
Leverage at events
Once your research report is published, print it, bound it, and put it front and center. Keep copies at your booths when your team is attending events. And of course, much of the engagement with your content will be online.
Keep it gated
Be sure to gate the content so that you can create an email workflow to follow up downloads of the content. Use these messages to offer additional value and dig deeper into any topics covered in your report.
Split into different assets
Your research resulted in more than one finding. Split the report into different assets that probe deeper into some of these findings.
Leverage different formats
From infographics and one pagers to blogs and eBooks, there are a myriad of ways for you to package your content so that it’s easily digestible and relevant for your prospects.
With your research, you are now firmly the experts -- cite yourselves! Arm your enablement and sales training teams with key insights and takeaways they can use in their decks and track talks.
There’s always a story behind data. Weave compelling stories and vignettes to humanize the data and generate interest around your findings.
Need some inspiration?
Download our report now from HR.com, Effectively Managing Today’s Liquid Workforce and check out this blog post digging deeper into some of our findings. Then, it’s time to start thinking about what research marketing opportunities exist for your business!