Proprietary market research, the marketer's secret weapon
Getting a leg up on the industry
This week, my team released an industry report containing proprietary research. Putting this type of document out in the wild is a long and intense (and a bit scary) process, though I do think it's worth the work.
There's a lot you can do with this insight, as well as with the entire process leading up to it. Here are a few examples.
1. Discussions with your target audience
You get to talk to your audience. I don't care which product or service you're working on; if you're marketing it, you best be talking to your would-be customers.
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There's something quite liberating about kicking off these discussions under the context of research, as well. I find I learn a lot more from these discussions than I would with an actual potential client on a sales call.
People tend to be more honest. There's no hidden agenda to the conversation.
2. Thought leadership content
Do you know what's cool about proprietary research? It's yours.
Do you know what you can do with something that's yours? Anything you want.
Out of this little bit of research can come literally months of content. Sure, there's the initial report sharing your findings. But, there's also:
Blog posts that hone in on a specific stat.
Guest posts to share your findings with other audiences.
Webinars to go over some of the results.
Guest on podcasts to share your insights
And so on.
If you're truly putting new research out there, amplification becomes child's play. Everyone (assuming you target the right people) will want to hear about it.
3. Backlink magnet
Of course, you also have the benefit of amplifying your company's presence. How better to do it than through backlinks?
Again, people love reports. Backing opinions with hard, researched statistics is a must in most editorial teams. If your research can come in handy to anyone writing about your topic, they'll link back to you.
All these 'online votes' continue to trickle down for years. I've published research in 2016 that still attracts links to our company website five years later.
This was my third time creating and publishing proprietary research. As I embarked on this new challenge, here are some of the decisions I made to ensure we'd put some quality research out there.
1. Quantitative and qualitative data
One of the worst mistakes you could make is to only collect quantitative data. Don't get me wrong, quantitative data is super important.
But, if you're only collecting that, you're missing a trick.
Your research targets your audience. If you're marketing toothpaste for children, chances are you're going to survey children (or their parents, or the pharmacies that stack them, etc.).
What if, on top of your quantitative research ("65% of children prefer our toothpaste") you could also provide qualitative research ("Dr Steve said the best toothpaste for children should include XYZ, which incidentally ours does").
For this research, I asked every respondent if they'd be happy to join us for a short interview over Zoom. Because I knew this would be really valuable information for us, I also threw a small carrot (i.e. the potential of being featured):
69%, about two-thirds, of our survey respondents agreed; giving us an incredible amount of additional information
2. Supplement with an external provider
The first proprietary research I put out was done completely in-house. We worked hard to collect data and try to get respondents ourselves.
For the second, we paid expensive people a whole bunch of money to do it all themselves. It was nice and easy, but it did cost a lot. And, we didn't get any of the benefits of doing it ourselves (see the previous point).
For this one, I decided to go for the best of both worlds. Start with our own outreach and supplement with a third-party survey provider.
My recommendation here is to decide early on how many people you'd want to survey. Could be 100, 400, or 5,000; doesn't matter. Decide early and give your own network a chance first.
3. Work from the desired outcome (but not really)
Ok, everyone calm your horses. I know this sounds wrong. Give me the benefit of the doubt and read on.
Before you embark on this project, you should know what you're expecting to get from the research. Are you trying to prove
your toothpaste is better than others?
there's a market for a new kind of toothpaste?
toothpaste is old fashioned and we should be using powder?
there's a gender bias when purchasing toothpaste?
These four random examples will give you four very, very different types of survey and research.
You want to start by figuring out what you'd like the outcome to be. Then, work backwards to figure out your questions.
I find this phase to be the most difficult. Crafting excellent survey questions is a real skill. If you have access to willing people, I'd recommend trying your questions on them first.
Like a standup comedian, I worked on our material until we got questions that make sense. I also made sure our survey and our interview were short, with about five questions each.
4. Plan the marketing campaign early
Finally, this time I made the decision to plan our marketing campaign around the research early. We had it all mapped out before the survey even went out.
This really helped me (and my team) understand the process and what we were working towards.
It also really helped us when, about two months in, we realised we were way behind. We hadn't attracted enough respondents from our own network. Supplementing with an external party would have cost quite a lot at that point.
Because we had it all mapped out, we knew for a fact we were behind. So, we adapted and pushed our research harder. We eventually caught up and all was good again.
No new experiments are being set up at the moment. Got four running which is taking enough of our time and resources.