In this B2B Craftworks podcast episode, “Could You Write a B2B Research Project? A Branded Original Research Primer.” with Michele Linn from Mantis Research, we explore the type of survey-based research that B2B brands are doing as part of a marketing campaign to draw interest from B2B buyers.
To listen to the complete episode, simply use the audio player below. You can also subscribe to B2B Craftworks to listen on your preferred podcast platform.
What exactly is branded original research?
Original research is the process of collecting input from an owned audience, such as an email list or paid focus group panel, for content generation purposes.
Why would a B2B brand want to create original research?
Michele finds that B2B companies are interested in original research in order to achieve one of four things:
- Get backlinks in order to increase website traffic. Backlinks are a sign of authority, and brands want to be the source that people cite.
- Get media mentions. Journalists are always looking to cover something different, and being the company that provides data that backs up that “something different” is a great way to get mentioned in the press.
- Be viewed as a thought leader and increase brand awareness. A brand can position itself as a leader in its space by publishing branded original research that presents new insights, provides meaningful takeaways, and a unique point of view.
- Gain subscribers and leads. People are willing to provide their information for access to research. And when companies conduct survey-based research, they are able to gather many different insights and data points, and that research can become the cornerstone for enough spin-off stories that can feed a brand’s editorial calendar, email campaign, and lead nurturing content. It’s quite possible, from a content brainstorming perspective, that each statistic could become a series of articles.
How does a B2B brand get started?
For B2B brands that are thinking of trying an original research project for the first time, Michele recommends approaching the project in stages;
Stage 1: start with the strategy.
Get clear on why the brand is doing this, and define the impact they hope to make. From there, they can choose the right topic and approach for the original research.
Stage 2: move on to data science.
This is the act of putting together the survey. Developing the questions, programming the survey on the right technology, and then putting that survey out into the field.
Michele’s process of developing questions is to create a graph with three columns. In the left column, she identifies the themes that they want to cover, writes out the related question in the next column, and then adds the potential answer(s) in the third column.
This helps illustrate the kind of data that can be gained, whether that information is going to be helpful, and if they will be able to build a bigger story on it. It also helps to cut and prune the list of questions, so that the final survey contains the most interesting and pertinent.
Stage 3: Identify the key theme.
Once the research has been completed and reports are produced, review the reports to pull out the main editorial themes that tie back to the initial strategy that was set and that will make the desired impact.
Stage 4: Research Journalism.
In the research journalism stage, Michele explains how to take the findings and put together a launch plan for the branded research. She identifies four different ways writers can use data to tell a story:
- Find the stat: If the goal for the original research is to get backlinks, identify those key pieces of information that the audience is looking for. To be the source of authority in a certain area, make sure to have really compelling stats that people will want to cite and link to.
- Bust a Myth: This method takes “find the stat” and turns it in its head by identifying different myths in the industry, what people believe to be true but actually aren’t, and using original research data to demonstrate that. This approach can be a compelling way to create a story from your data, particularly when the goal is to get medium mentions.
- Uncovering an Opportunity: Using data to illustrate an opportunity in the market by discovering gaps in what people are doing or aren’t doing. (i.e.only X percent of people are doing this…). This is an effective storytelling method for lead generation campaigns and can be a great source for spinoff content for lead nurturing.
- Comparing Segments: Using data to identify certain groups and then make comparisons (i.e. this is what the top 20% marketing firms do compared to their peers) is a compelling way to present research findings because readers are looking for ways to become more successful or more effective.
Stage 5: Amplification.
Beyond the initial findings, Michele advises that it’s important to look for ways to create additional content with the original research data to ensure the B2B brand is getting the most bang for its research buck.
What are the defining characteristics of a successful branded research project?
Michele recommends when embarking on a branded research project, it’s important to focus on three things;
- Data quality. Make sure that you have valid and accurate data. Readers are savvy and will quickly sense when information is questionable.
- A compelling story to tell. It’s not enough to just have great data. If there is nothing interesting or valuable to learn, it will simply fall flat.
- Have a plan for your findings. What can you do beyond those original findings to really get the word out there? As Michele explains, “at Mantis, we do our own research about research. And we find that people who do at least six things with their original research have the most success.”
Branded original research projects are an effective way for B2B brands to create compelling content that generates interest from their audience.