To be considered a thought leader, a company has to consistently demonstrate that its views and opinions are both trustworthy and ahead of the trends. It’s a high bar, but reaching it can really pay off in winning and retaining customers.
So, how do you get there? There are many paths to thought leadership distinction, but there’s one that can give you an instant leg up, immediately boosting your credibility and making your content compelling and memorable.
In 2015, online business publisher SmartBrief conducted a study with its subscribers, in which they asked 1200 business professionals how much influence various factors had on their purchasing decisions.
No surprise: 80% of respondents said one-on-one word of mouth recommendations had significant impact. But coming in second at 74% was original research, well above reviews, demos, and even case studies.[i] This means that using original research as a significant part of your content marketing can yield serious ROI for your business.
A well-designed research project enhances your thought-leadership program, in two critical ways:
Senior-level executives and decision-makers love knowing where their companies stand within their industries, and original research can give them the intelligence they crave. They will be able to assess whether they’re ahead of or behind the curve on industry trends. They’ll get to see what competitors are doing: how others are innovating and in what ways. They may also gain comfort in knowing that some of the challenges they struggle with are pain points for others, as well.
A robust, thoughtfully-crafted research project should provide you with valuable information that becomes fuel for a wide variety of marketing and sales endeavors. Once conducted, a marketing team will be able to produce:
Whichever initiatives you undertake, the output will be relevant and useful to your customers and prospects, because you’ll be speaking directly to their issues—an incredibly attractive offering.
Beyond marketing campaigns, your sales staff will be able to use the same original research to strengthen their pitches with compelling, data-driven talking points. And that will help them land new business, because a thought leadership program backed by original research shows prospects that you have a unique knowledge base and perspective that others don’t have.
BONUS: Original research frequently gets cross-cited on other outreach initiatives beyond your own. Your customers may use and link to your study in order to help sustain their own content marketing programs. Research even occasionally gets picked up by the press, which exposes your company to an exponentially larger audience.
Choosing to go with one vendor over another often comes down to the buyer’s perception that the provider is committed to understanding and solving their business problems.
By using original research in your published content, you can demonstrate a true investment in learning about your customers and their respective industries. It’s one way to prove to them that, beyond being well-informed and competent, your company cares about them, is listening to their needs, and—most importantly—can help.
BONUS: As you gain information your customers can use, you will also reap greater insights for yourself. By mapping your customer’s current environment—what they need, what they’re struggling with, and which opportunities excite them—you are simultaneously identifying key areas where your business might be able to help them.
In our experience, the key to a successful original research project is that it is done well. Again, a thought leadership program is only as good as the data and content it relies on. If you want the highest quality content with the greatest ROI, you need experts to design and conduct the research, experts who can find the story in the data.
That’s where Willow can help.
[i] “How Content Influences the Purchasing Process,” Content Marketing Institute and SmartBrief, 2017. https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2017/07/content-influences-purchasing-research/