When asked about their top issues related to marketing content, technology buyers say that “too much marketing hype,” a “lack of truly independent, unbiased information,” and information that is “too general” rounds out their top three.
Yet, these same buyers rely on trusted content to make purchase decisions 5X more today than they did five years ago.
Why is it so difficult to create engaging content for our B2B buyers? What makes marketing trustworthy? How does it stand out from the sea of competing messages? What makes it earn the attention of our overwhelmed buyers, and what can compel them to take action?
One tactic to consider in this brave new world of marketing is the use of custom research surveys. I’ve leveraged them in positions of marketing leadership brand-side, as well as with clients agency-side to help them develop powerful content assets, increase brand awareness with media coverage, and enable sales effectiveness.
Great research and smart marketing is a surefire recipe for success. Here are a few ways to leverage surveys in your B2B marketing:
- Break Through the Noise
In today’s world, everyone is a publisher. 60% of marketers create content daily. The amount of web-based content is doubling every 9 to 24 months. Our modern consumerism inundates us with between 500-3,000 (potentially more) marketing messages each day.
To break through this clutter and earn the mindshare of your besieged buyers, we must develop messages that disrupt the status quo and differentiate our brands. Content must be useful, helpful, interesting, engaging, and persuasive.
If you’re struggling to come up with content ideas that resonate, consider a survey.
Original research studies afford you the opportunity to provide practical insight and an interesting perspective on the state of your industry. You can tell a story informed and backed by statistically sound data.
“Maybe stories are just data with a soul.”- Brene Brown
In world filled with content, research and statistics are an engaging format that captures the attention of overwhelmed readers.
- Boost Content Credibility
Buyers don’t inherently trust brands, (who could blame them?) but they are open to allowing certain brands to become credible sources of content. Instead of content that talks all about you and your solution, consider offering the trends and results of a study.
“Never bring an opinion to a data fight.” - Andy Crestodina
Unlike product-related materials, research allows your buyer to collect persuasive proof points in their quest to build a case for your solution category. Survey results represent the perspective of a wide range of respondents, giving your reader the chance to benchmark their own experience against that of their peers.
What’s more, publishing the results of surveys in report format gives you the opportunity to provide your commentary and forward-thinking ideas on a given area, positioning your brand as one of authority.
- Fuel Multiple Content Assets
Surveys are one of the best sources of content that can be repurposed across multiple formats. To maximize the output of your research study, and extend the impact of your findings, consider creating multiple content formats.
For example, from a report on Chinchilla Farming practices, you can craft:
- A thought leadership report, “Chinchilla Farming 2016: Key Trends, Challenges, and Considerations” summarizing the findings and highlighting trends and key considerations.
- Multiple blog posts
- 15 Stats You Need To Know About Chinchilla Farming
- The 3 Top Challenges for Chinchilla Farmers
- What Leading Chinchilla Farmers Do About Fur Management
- …you get the idea.
- A press release or guest byline for target publication (more on media relations later)
- Multiple social media posts featuring key stats
- A live webinar event walking through the findings, maybe featuring an expert or customer alongside a company executive
- Checklists that align to the successes in your research
- Infographics highlighting key stats in visual format
- Best practices eBook
- A field guide for your topic area with research findings added throughout
- Industry speaking session discussing the findings
- Quiz (where do you stand compared to findings?)
- Interactive assessment tool featuring in-depth analysis of the recipient’s standing against the benchmarking data and your recommended analysis (this is great for lead qualification)
- Sales enablement materials (more on this later)
- An expert Q&A video featuring your executive talking through the findings of the report (and their implications)
- That same Q&A in Podcast format
- Slideshare content
- Reveal Unarticulated Needs
Your first competitor in any buying situation is the customer’s status quo. You’re most often competing against the way things are done today. Often, the first job we have as marketers is to help our prospects understand their unarticulated needs, and realize there is a problem for them to overcome.
Great research-based marketing can shine a light on the problems your audience may not even know they have. These unspoken pain points become more apparent, for example, through report findings that demonstrate a particular widespread issue with the way things are done today. Seek to surprise, seek to challenge the status quo.
Where are your non-customers wasting time and resources? Where can they be more efficient? Use surveys to demonstrate firstly, there is a problem in the industry, and secondly, your prospects are not alone.
(Implied: your solution can help.)
- Equip Sales with Authority + Objectivity
“Don’t take my word for it…”
Our salespeople are often trained on features of our products and services – their benefits, how they stack up against competition, and how they can drive value for customers.
But a relationship between sales and a buyer has to be about an equitable exchange of value far before they start talking about the specifics of our solutions. Our salespeople are only moderately effective when all they have to offer is information about our products. (Our websites do that.)
Sales needs customer-centric material. They need to be able to speak to the problems faced by buyers if they have any hope of forging a connection with them.
Today, only 27% of companies believe their sales enablement campaigns are focused on the prospect’s story rather than their own. And Corporate Visions found that only 13% of sellers believe product-or-company focused presentations are the most impactful.
We need to give our salespeople nuggets of insight that position both the brand, and the seller, as a helpful resource who understands the challenges facing our buyers. Package research findings into sales enablement content, and work with sales to speak to the findings, and their implications, when talking to prospects.
“If you don’t have anything interesting to say as a brand, you’re just a product.” - Spencer Baim
- Boost PR coverage and media relations
It can be impossible to grab the attention of a journalist. Every day they’re inundated with pitches. Tens, sometimes hundreds, of emails make their way into the inboxes of reporters daily.
They’re all sent by companies trying to edge their way into a news story. A new product announcement! An acquisition! A new executive hire!
Tom Brokaw says journalism is all about storytelling.
Think about this the next time you set out to earn press coverage. What is the story? Why does it matter? Is it timely? Who does it impact, and how?
Surveys give you a chance to elicit data that tells, from a statistically sound sample, what attitudes, successes, failures, outlooks, and challenges exist among your community of customers and prospects.
If the findings are timely, and in-line with what your media targets typically write about, it can give journalists the opportunity to write about something new and fresh.
When pitching to the media, you may offer an exclusive interview to top targets with your company’s CEO. In addition, consider submitting a guest post with your take on the findings and how it impacts the industry at-large.
- Improve SEO / traffic
I recommend sending the results of your surveys around to friendly bloggers, and industry partners. Their owned media properties (blogs, newsletters, social channels etc.) are likely hungry for more content. You’d be hard pressed to get them to share your product-related content, but research insights are useful to their audience as well.
Be sure to provide them with key summaries, highlighted findings, and the link to the full report, gated or not. Your goal here is two-fold:
- Backlinks (for increased SEO and traffic)
- Surveys and research findings allow you the rare opportunity for other people to quote your content.
You can also consider paid syndication options to increase the exposure of your piece.
- Capture Emails and Fill the Top Of the Funnel
The age-old question for marketers seems to be, “to gate or not to gate?”
Should you put a lead capture form in front of a research study?
The answer will differ for every company. If you’ve got very little un-gated content, gate your report. But, it’s time to start repurposing those research insights into smaller, un-gated pieces such as blog posts, infographics, Podcasts, or key summaries in PDF format. All of these need to drive traffic back to that gated piece.
Generally, I recommend gating content when it is highly unique, valuable, engaging content. If you’ve fielded a one-of-a-kind industry survey providing truly useful findings, in my opinion, it’s more than fair to ask for an email address in exchange for the download.
The benefits of un-gating your research (giving access to it without asking for an email, job title, or any information) is the potential that it will be accessed and seen by more people. For this to work, you need the ability to capture leads later, either in other assets, or by driving traffic from your report to a gated piece, such as a webinar or demo request. The tolerance is up to you.
DON’T create a survey for the sake of creating a survey. Find a new angle on a topic that has not been illuminated before. The best research reports take a fresh approach and reveal new insights, instead of regurgitating existing information.
DO your homework and learn if there is already an abundance of research available on a specific topic. If so, find your unique angle.
If your product is truly meeting an unmet need and you’ve got a unique way of solving a problem, you have something of value to add to your industry. Establish your authority and find your voice!
I hope this has encouraged you to give surveys a try in your marketing mix.
If you need help moving a project like this across the finish line, I recommend partnering with organizations like ResearchScape to design questionnaires, collect results, and help you analyze the data.