If Content is King then Research is Emperor

This is a repeat of a blog post I wrote for CongRegation — a one-day ‘un-conference’ social media gathering — that took place in Cong, Co Mayo, Ireland in November 2014. I’ve been loitering with intent around the web industry in this country like a dirty penny since the mid-90s. I’ve seen every fad, gimmick and craze come and go but I can tell you that quality research will always have a seat at the table.

5 good reasons to put primary research on your agenda

1) Marketing Collateral.

Often when asking people to provide endorsements for a particular brand I’m representing, a good proportion suggest I write it myself for them to sign off and I politely refuse. It would be easy to write a glowing ‘efficient and effective, cheap and excellent …’ but not only does it come across as grossly insincere but I’m missing that golden opportunity of really valuable customer feedback.

Asking your customers a few informal questions about how they found your product or service and how and why they continue to use it will inform you how to position and promote your offering.  You’ll be forced to rewrite your elevator pitch, features and benefits and the most gorgeous little quotes and testimonials will just fall from the page. You can polish the packaging but the best messages always come from the horse’s mouth.

2) Credibility 

You can establish credibility by demonstrating you have knowledge others do not. The only real way of knowing more than someone else is by going out and gathering the data.  Go forth and research and publish white papers, case studies, catchy infographics, interviews with industry leaders, product reviews and anything else that clearly positions you as a leader, not a follower, in your sector.

3) Product Development

Detailed analysis of user behaviour and primary research techniques such as focus groups, usability tests, lengthy surveys and personal interviews can all feed into product development. We have to make a distinction between the softly softly pop-up questions which help us in marketing towards getting the nitty-gritty that will feed product design and service delivery. A water cooler chat won’t illicit that your user interface is not intuitive or that users have no idea what specific functionality offers. Be prepared to find out what customers don’t like too. That’s ok, the product or service is there to meet their needs so you can incorporate their feedback into the next iteration.  Be prepared to deep dive into your data and consider interviewing people who refuse to use your product. The findings might not be very flattering but they will be insightful and hugely useful and will inform and impact your product roadmap. You probably won’t publish the research paper but it’ll probably be one of the most important pieces of research you’ve ever collected.

4) Media Exposure. 

I’ve written before about the 3 little words every spin doctor should know – Man Bites Dog – in that a good story has to be a little different or unusual to catch our attention; dogs biting humans is an everyday occurrence, a story is when the man bites the dog back.

There comes a time in every spin doctor’s calendar when there is simply nothing happening – no product launch, no event, no strategic alliance, no big client win and so on. Rather than burn your bridges harassing for media coverage without substance, just conduct some research and create some relevant and attractive media hooks. Those folk just love metrics: “50% of women say… , water charges will cost you a college education…” Also, a quick stat or snappy infographic will more likely go viral rather than a tedious press release that has nothing new to say. So when in doubt, research. When idle, definitely research.

5) Make a contribution.

I love the phrase content curation. It airbrushes and lets you away with plagiarism. It gives you carte blanche to repurpose other peoples’ graft and brand it as your own. I know we can credit the original source or directly share or RT but sure while you’re at it, why don’t you get up and out and conduct some fresh research yourself.

Curation is all very well but sometimes it’s just nice to give something back.

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