A few weeks ago a client asked me:
"What's your favorite type of research study to be involved in and why do you like it so much?"
After my initial surprise at the question dissipated (it's not often someone asks me what I LIKE to do!), I easily replied "content marketing research". Why? It's fun to do and, done well, yields results that are directly and tightly linked to actual marketing activities that improve business performance. If the ultimate objective of a research study or program is to improve an organization's marketing capabilities; provide it with targeted information to leverage in the market; and allow it to make better decisions to improve performance, then content marketing research is a tough act to follow.
Let me take a quick step back for definitional purposes. So what is "content marketing"? Ultimately, it's the creation and distribution of educational and/or compelling content to attract and/or retain customers. This content may include:
Content marketing research studies provide robust, credible, and highly targeted market insights to feed all of these different types of content. Some of our clients conduct research to feed a specific marketing deliverable (e.g., a presentation at a conference or a thought leadership paper). Others develop entire marketing programs where research results feed various types of materials and deliverables used throughout the course of the year.
So back to the original question of why I like these types of studies:
First, they start with the end in mind which exponentially increases the chances the research results will be used. Rather than starting with a set of exploratory, open-ended questions about the market (the starting point for most market research), these studies require marketers to think specifically about what type of answer the research will yield and how specifically will they use that answer in their marketing programs and content when they get it back.
Second, designed well with significant collaboration between the research team and marketers, they can feed various and multiple forms of marketing content that is used for a significant stretch of time. As a result, the ROI on these types of studies is often high and easier to measure.
Finally, they harness the creativity of all involved with the research. How can a particular question, that yields a particular insight, be used in a particular piece of marketing content? How can we explore the results of the research in new/different ways to yield "nuggets" that feed other content? With some creativity and a strong understanding of what will resonate with prospects and customers, "it's the gift that keeps on giving".
I'm grateful to the person who asked me the original question (what types of research do I like to do) – it reaffirmed for me why I still get a kick out of working in this profession.