How to Use Original Research for Content Writing
July 27, 2020 Branding & Marketing
Research posts can be huge for your clients. Here's how you can actually create them.
Leadership. It’s something that benefits all businesses, but it can be a crucial competitive advantage in the B2B space.
Business decision-making processes are different in important ways to consumer processes. A more thorough, often formalized, cost-benefit analysis precedes almost every major purchase. Often these discussions are based around straightforward questions of effectiveness, cost, and compatibility. But when these decisions are close, other advantages can help make the difference.
And when your users see you or your clients as thought leaders, that can be massive in helping seal the deal.
Thought leadership is made up of many different qualities, a distinct identity and willingness be out front on industry issues among them. But the key quality, and the one most prized by B2B customers is expertise. And the best way to establish your expertise is by conducting and sharing original research.
What can this do for your clients? And, importantly, how can you do this within budget, time, and staffing limits? Let’s take a look.
The Data Behind...Well, Data
A 2018 study published by BuzzSumo and Mantis Research found that 47% of survey respondents published some piece of original data for themselves or their clients in the last 12 months. That number was slightly higher for B2B services, at 50%.
What is the value they recognize? In that same study, 56% of people who published research said it met or exceeded all of their expectations. Only 3% said it failed to meet expectations.
Educational content is viewed, by far, as the most important component in establishing your client as thought leaders. How-to content can be useful for this, but when you’re speaking to a B2B audience, whose users are professionals, and generally are well-versed in the “how-tos” of their field (not to say it’s not valuable, especially if you’re comparing different methods or exploring new ones). That’s where research reports come in.
A survey by Orbit Media finds that 60% of respondents consider original research to be effective educational content, and that 68% say experts in a field make the best thought leaders—the largest share of respondents by far.
Research posts can be a great tool to help give users a sense of your and your clients’ expertise, which can help increase conversions. Great!
How do you Use Original Research for Content Writing?
Ah, right. That part.
Look, I feel like this is a good time to come clean: I love doing research. If I could spend my time in a library with unlimited access to my favorite databases, I would probably have to be kicked out at the end of every day. But, I do know this isn’t true for everyone. With that in mind, here’s a guide through the process.
It starts with the question. Finding the question is the thing that will help you sort through the mountain of information to find exactly what you need. Put yourself in the shoes of your client’s users. What drives their curiosity? What questions keep them up at night, but are not easily answered? These are things you should be asking all the time, but now’s the time to refocus.
What areas of overlap are there between your audience’s curiosity and your own as a writer? It’s a great bonus when the questions that drive you are also relevant to them. But what do you do if you don’t immediately feel that connection?
You have to learn to love the hunt.
Curiosity is a general trait, it’s not just isolated to your individual silos. If it were, I would only ever write about food, soccer, and cats. Your curiosity is always there, let it drive you. When you look at a topic, and you can’t think of anything anyone would find interesting about it, that’s not the time to walk away. That’s the time to dig deeper. Get a little lost in the details. Those details are what differentiate your clients and their products. The more you can learn, research, and communicate about those overlooked details, the more expertise you demonstrate to your audience.
Some of my favorite ways to dig deeper are to look at materials. What do our clients use to make their products? How does that make it better? If your client is a service provider, learn about their methods, compare and contrast to their competitors. If you still can’t find something that grabs you, remember to put yourself in the audience’s position. What you’re producing is, after all, not about you.
Once you have the question you intend to answer, then you set about collecting the data. Here is where a particular challenge emerges for smaller firms, or for projects where time, budget, or staffing constraints are a pressing issue.
Given world enough and time, it would be great to send out surveys to everyone in the sectors your clients serve, analyze the data, and present the responses. For the majority of content creators, that sounds about as realistic as heading home in your flying car at the end of the day.
There are ways to adapt, though. In fact, there’s one place you can turn that collects and publishes loads of relevant, publicly available data: the federal government.
The EPA, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census, and more are great sources for data on a variety of topics which can be relevant to your audience. They also have prior year data available, so you can easily analyze not-just one-year data, but trends over time, which is hugely valuable to your audience.
As an additional bonus, a lot of this information is not presented in the most user-friendly fashion. Taking this information and presenting it in an accessible, digestible form will make it popular among people who would otherwise have to sift through raw data.
Your research can provide an advantage for your clients into the future, as that sort of content tends to have a long lifespan. It’s the opposite of chasing trendy topics, which may give you clicks for a few days. Research may not give you those eye-popping stats, but they’ll be a cornerstone for your client for much longer. Not only will it be driving traffic for them, but it will be doing extra work by increasing their authority, demonstrating their expertise, and contributing to their reputation as thought leaders.
All of that can give your clients a huge advantage. And that is what we’re all about.
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