For many in the B2B marketing world, original research provides an effective way to build thought leadership and drive content for owned and earned media.
Unfortunately, many research reports from B2B companies are dry, uninspired and focus solely on pontifications from the brand point of view. Such unremarkable content isn’t helping customers, especially if they never see it due to information overload or they don’t trust it.
“With more information, options and people involved in a buying process, buyers are paralyzed when trying to move forward.” Gartner
Fortunately, there’s a better way.
More often than not, B2B research reports have marketing objectives focused on building brand thought leadership, attracting new names for nurturing and to serve as a resource for sales. Since most B2B brands don’t have the credibility and distribution to reach their marketing goals on their own with such reports, they rely on advertising and PR to attract attention.
Ads and PR are fine complements to content. But they’re even more effective if that content delivers an experience that is includes built-in credibility and distribution to the the audiences that are probably ignoring most marketing and advertising.
How can you optimize research report content to deliver this kind of experience?
Brands that co-create experiential content with relevant experts and influencers can build industry confidence, grow brand trust, create a more effective digital customer experience and drive business growth.
What does that kind of research report collaboration content process look like?
B2B marketers have included quotes from industry experts in their reports for many years – but most do not. However there are many more ways to engage with credible voices that have the trust and attention of the audience you’re after.
For example, you might partner with a mix of industry experts, influential customers and people who work at brands that represent your ideal clients to add perspective to original research. Adding that expertise isn’t enough. The content itself should be packaged as an experience. Whether it’s interactive or just well-designed, research content doesn’t have to be boring.
I think our latest research report on B2B Influencer Marketing is a perfect example of this.
We partnered with 20+ B2B brand marketing executives and influencers to provide perspective on the key issues surfaced by the research. Instead of the report being authored by me (with some help from my team), there are contributions from influential B2B brands that include:
- AT&T Business
There are also insights provided by some of the top B2B influencers in the industry including:
- Brian Solis
- Ann Handley
- Tamara McCleary
- Mark Schaefer
Pulling together credible voices to join your own in an experiential piece of content is far more likely to be shared by contributors and your community, looked at by industry media and potential customers, and actually used by your sales people in their communications with prospects.
Such a rich content experience can deliver far more value than a one time campaign, especially if you roll it out in phases.
For example, you might extend the value of original research by implementing a phased content approach. For example:
The first phase might be the co-creation and publishing of the original research with industry experts and clients. Promotion would focus mostly on owned channels, organic social and private channels like email, forums, etc.
The second phase could emphasize earned media and extensions of the narratives highlighted by the research. Names captured can be nurtured with useful resources that go deeper on the topics and a video interview series with the experts who contributed would feature more in-depth conversations around the key report findings. Online events and some useful tools and more visual versions of the original content could also help with promotion hang time.
The third phase takes the report content and repurposes it into new formats: explainer videos, a podcast, infographics. An interactive microsite that gives viewers and opportunity to assess themselves against the benchmark data from the research provides an engagement opportunity without substantial investment in new content. The original group of influencers is now expanded to invite more people in those roles to contribute their expertise to content around the report’s narratives.
What you do specifically for your B2B business is up to you, but publishing original research in white paper format without any 3rd party validation within is simply no longer enough to attract, engage and inspire a meaningful experience or a return on your investment.
Creating a content experience that is credible and that can rely on distribution by its influential contributors on top of brand channels, PR efforts and ad buys will certainly achieve the expected thought leadership, engagement and demand gen goals more effectively. In the case of our report mentioned above, we hit one of our most important 3rd Quarter goals in just the first 2 weeks because of following this advice.
Imagine what you could do?