Almost 80 percent of marketers use market research to inform their business decisions. This statistic from HubSpot’s latest global survey of marketers really isn’t a surprise—using the data available from market research, rather than relying on best guesses and pure creativity just makes sense.
That said, not all market research is equal in its ability to provide the needed information to create great integrated content marketing campaigns that generate leads and drive sales. The umbrella term “market research” can include many different types of information gathering, from focus groups and surveys to media audits and measuring metrics such as sales win rates.
At JONES, we believe the most effective forms of market research address two primary perspectives, both of which are essential to developing effective integrated content marketing campaigns that feed into increased sales:
- Competitive research and audits to understand the competition and how our clients stack up in the media and the market.
- Consumer research that feeds quality content campaigns with insights that engage prospects and generate leads.
Competitive market research and audits
In order to plan successful integrated content marketing and public relations campaigns you need to know where your brand currently stands in terms of:
- Media visibility
- Brand identity
- Competitive messaging
- Marketing implementation
Comprehensive competitive audits can give you a complete picture and benchmarks from which to build your marketing strategy and campaign goals.
A comprehensive media audit should provide a current snapshot of perceptions, share of voice in media coverage, executive visibility, top media outlets, and what is being said by and about not only your brand, but also your key competition.
Media audits, along with consumer surveys and communication with industry analysts (especially for B2B brands), can provide a picture of whether your brand identity among your customers matches the messaging you want to portray, or if the market has a different perception of who your company is and what you offer. (See the example of how Qualcomm used media and analyst audits to uncover the gap in understanding of its software capabilities.)
When media audits dig into the messaging of competitors, opportunities can be found to differentiate your brand from the rest of the market by addressing topics that your competition isn’t.
Marketing implementation or marketing success audits look internally at the metrics you are tracking in your marketing and PR programs to find successes and challenges and establish benchmarks for goal-setting and tracking KPIs in the future. This can range from website traffic and blog readership to lead nurturing close rates, revenue tracking, and bottom-line financial metrics such as customer acquisition cost. Once you establish your current metrics, you can use those results to determine the targets you need to achieve to reach your campaign or overall marketing goals.
(Find a complete list of what you should expect from 5 different types of media or marketing audits in our Media, Messaging & Marketing Audit Checklist.)
Consumer/customer surveys to feed content campaigns
According to HubSpot’s report (download the Market Research portion of the report here), surveys are the most frequently used tactic for market research, followed by interviews and focus groups.
Your first thought about using surveys for market research may be the kinds of surveys used to pinpoint a target market when first developing a product, service or brand. Or possibly consumer satisfaction surveys designed to gather feedback after a purchase in order to improve processes and understand what convinced a buyer to make that purchase.
But there is another type of survey that can be used very effectively to develop marketing messaging and content that fuels successful integrated content marketing campaigns with thought leadership material, media-friendly stats, and vital information that can highlight how your customers can benefit from your solutions.
JONES employed surveys to fuel more than a decade of industry thought leadership material for West Corporation (now Intrado), first with their patient engagement and automated notification software for healthcare providers, and extending into their public safety division. Using surveys of consumers and healthcare providers, JONES helped West craft messages that went beyond how its technology could benefit the healthcare providers who used it to how the technology would benefit individual patients and the greater community through inspiring healthier habits and better communication between patients and providers.
Over the years, the data from a decade of surveys fed into more than a dozen whitepapers and reports, dozens of bylined articles placed in industry publications (plus multiple appearances in USA Today), blog posts, social media content, videos and more, largely focused not on West’s direct customers, but on the end users, thinking beyond the immediate to establish West as an expert in how automated communications could benefit patient and community health. (Download the case study here.)
Read more about the Healthy World report series and other ways in which JONES helped West leverage the data from these surveys in as many ways as possible:
- Q&A: How JONES and West Use Contributed Articles In Marketing Campaigns
- Client Success: West Turns Original Research Into Lead Generation, Media Coverage
- Secrets For Video Marketing Success: What West & JONES Did Right
- Lessons From 15 Years: Use Surveys & Original Research To Fuel Content
Similarly, Intrado Life & Safety is using content that provides concrete, actionable advice to establish its position as the thought leader on the “State of 911” — using surveys of stakeholders such as 911 centers, call takers, consumers and first responders to develop a series of content campaigns that provide insight and advice.
One of the first campaigns centered around a top of the funnel whitepaper focused on school safety. The paper outlined the results of a survey of more than 1,000 Americans about the readiness of schools to act in case of emergency. But it went beyond survey results to pinpoint three specific ways schools can improve emergency response (which, coincidentally, involve using Intrado’s technology, but the tips can apply to other solutions as well):
- Alerting campus security when a school phone is used to call 911.
- Making images, videos and other contextual data available to security teams.
- Delivering automated notifications to students and staff.
The five-page whitepaper goes into detail about how these actions can be used to improve emergency response. The key, however, is that it is useful content for schools and emergency planning personnel.
When survey results like these are also implemented into contributed articles and blog posts, a single survey can be used to reach leads at all levels of the sales funnel with useful information and to guide leads toward a sales conversion.
At JONES, we have led more than 100 market research surveys for companies such as West, LiveOffice, Cornerstone OnDemand, ACI Worldwide, Wallop! and Bellevue University<https://www.jonespr.net/inboundaccelerator/client-success-turning-higher-education-research-into-nationwide-news-coverage>. We always begin with a content strategy that outlines marketing campaigns including reports, blog posts, social media content, infographics, bylined articles for industry media and videos.
(Want more details on how to create surveys that fuel content—and the content that you can develop from this type of market research? Download our Maximizing Marketing Surveys Checklist and Consumer Survey Development Template.)
Market research should be a non-negotiable part of your marketing program, whether you are using it to measure results and determine how your brand and messaging is perceived in the market, or using it to develop data that can drive an entire year’s worth of content marketing campaigns. Are you among the 7 in 10 marketers who had planned to increase your marketing research budget in 2020? How has COVID impacted those plans? If anything, the rapid changes in many industries are reason enough to target a market research campaign to find out just how those changes are impacting your customers, your perception in the market, and the end users your brand impacts.
Download the State Of Inbound 2020: Market Research mini report for more insights from the survey of 3,000+ marketers, and find other mini reports from the same survey in our Inbound Marketing Learning Library.
If you would like to talk about how a media audit, messaging audit or consumer survey could improve your 2021 marketing strategy, schedule time in my calendar for a no-obligation consultation.