Content strategy research can help us connect with audiences by sharing knowledge and by understanding our target audiences better. Those are two different areas of using research but also complementing research approaches in your content strategy. In addition, how about looking into the future? What will it hold? What signals are we getting? In this article, I cover:
- How video research can help you understand your customers and prospects better
- How original research can help you advance your marketing strategy
- The role of foresight in corporate storytelling
Why original research can be a differentiator in a content strategy
There are two ways to look at research in your content strategy… Audience insights and unique content creation.
Original research can help us understand our audiences better
You’ve probably been in these meetings where people talk about knowing their audiences. But how can we really know our audiences if we never talk to them? In B2B publishing, journalists have done reader calls for decades. Call a handful of people to get a handful of responses. That can give us some insights but might not be representative.
But nonetheless, talking to our audiences – especially at scale can help us create better content experiences. Robert Weller discussed on Episode 211 of the Business Storytelling Podcast the importance of better content experiences.
Original research can help us create unique content
Creating unique content certainly has never been harder. Many are out there starting their own podcast and many more yet are blogging. Some ways to share a brand’s unique stories as differentiators include:
- Interviewing internal subject matter experts
- Adding personal flavors to the topic
- Sharing company success stories in a way that’s engaging
And another way is to create original research and then create content around that research to engage with your audiences.
Let’s dive into each one a bit more here…
Research is important to understand our audiences
I’ve heard people say, “Oh, I know my audience. I know my customers. Christoph, I’ve done this for a while!” That subtle power struggle can feel good to them, but it likely won’t help them understand their audiences better, create better content and ultimately connect with them deeper.
And a study actually found that there’s a disconnect between companies and customers. In essence, companies say they hear their customers, while customers don’t agree with that.
There are different ways to get customer insights today, for example:
- Focus groups
- Video surveys
Research leader Jenn Mancusi joined me on this episode of the Business Storytelling Podcast to discuss the topic of how video feedback is one way to get customer insights.
Specifics of content strategy research
Lori Highby joined me on this live-streamed episode to discuss what kind of customer research is best.
Research is important to share valuable content
Using research quotes when allowed in external marketing and business storytelling is also super helpful. For example, by creating highlight videos of what customers have said.
Researcher Michele Linn joined me on this episode of the Business Storytelling Podcast to discuss her approach to research in content strategy.
Michelle’s company Mantis Research works with brands to create original research for brands. When used publicly, the results can help prospects and consumers make better decisions. Of course, original research comes back to:
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- How will it be used?
- The best way to ask the right questions to get accurate results.
For example, I’ve been told I’m good at asking leading questions on my podcast and in interviews for articles. In those instances, those work great. That might not be the best way to ask questions in a research scenario, though. Make sure you ask questions correctly to get usable results.
Examples of original research content projects
Ashley Cummings commissioned a study on how much it should cost to hire freelance writers. She wrote about the study, discussed it on my podcast, and shared it as well far and wide. It’s an informative study that freelancers as well as people hiring freelancers can get value from.
Ashley, who can be hired as a freelance writer, used original research to share value and to build her network, which can include new customers. It also offers things to mull over to people who hire freelancers. The whole discussion on how to pay freelancers – by the hour, word count, or deliverable – is covered at length.
Andy Crestodina, author of “Content Chemistry” and CMO at Orbit Media, has published original research for a number of years now with his company’s annual blogging survey. He discusses the topic in this episode of the Business Storytelling Podcast.
His original research discusses:
- How long blog posts are on average
- How long does content creation take
- Distribution strategies
- Whether or not articles include expert quotes – I’ve taken this concept by adding podcast interviews – as I’ve done here
- How many pictures are used
- And more
Seeing what strategies the highest-performing bloggers use can also help us adjust our strategies. For example, it seems that content is getting longer. Once I know that based on actual research, I can make a decision if my content needs to become longer. It has, by the way. With Google Passage Rankings rolling out longer content with subsections might also help brands.
What’s Google Passage ranking?
The Marketing O’Clock podcast discussed that at length here. In a nutshell, in the past, Google would rank pages. Now it’s starting to rank sections (or passages) of pages for specific search queries. Makes sense to me and it seems that longer content with deeper insights has a chance to rank for more things. At the end of the day, Google wants to give searchers the best answer. I saw a version – maybe a test – of this in practice. I was searching for a topic and Google served me a video that jumped right to the section that answered my question specifically.
Read next: Is your content performance culture ready for strategic writing?
State of Writing research example
Another example of original research in content strategy is Sarah Mitchell. She conducts an annual “state of writing” study, which she discussed with me here. In her research, she covers:
- whether or not business writing is deemed successful
- what does success look like
- barriers to writing effectiveness
- editorial oversight
- and more
It’s another great example of using research to learn more and creating value for your audiences by sharing it.
The role of foresight in content strategy
I discuss that topic in this chat with Futurist Rebecca Costa on the Business Storytelling Podcast.
- How do we go about understanding the future and how it relates to our company?
- How do we implement this knowledge into our strategic corporate storytelling?
- How about adjusting as the future becomes the present, aren’t there always things that turn out differently?
Finding the time
It’s certainly easy to overlook research or move on to other marketing emergencies that need to be addressed now. Of course, there are very few real marketing emergencies but they make good excuses to be less strategic.
If you want to follow a certain process, follow it and make the time for it. I like how Toastmaster Gretchen Vaughn found time and was strategic about starting a Twitter Chat. Set the time aside to come up with your high-level strategy and then adjust the process as you go and move toward your goal. She also dove into what content would be beneficial for our audience to stay on the right track.
I’m the first to admit that it’s easier to jump in and do, create, and produce. It feels busy – even when it’s less than strategic. But coming up with your strategy first and then using research to understand your audiences better or to offer them valuable content can be a true differentiator.
Of course, keep in mind that you may not like all the feedback! Jenn put it this way: The best feedback can come from negative comments. They help us grow and advance. From my experience, even when people share negative comments about your brand, there often are positives in there as well.