Here are three things that may surprise you about original research:
- You may not need to gate your findings.
- You may not want to create a PDF of the findings.
- You may be leaving an opportunity on the table.
Original research takes a lot of time to do well — and you want to get the most from that investment.
While there are many thing you can do to amplify your findings once they are live, step back and consider the answer to these three questions so you have a solid plan to publish your findings.
Should I gate my research?
Many marketers report that original research is their best-performing lead asset. And this makes sense: you are sharing data that is not available anyplace else, so people are willing to register for it.
While research does make a great lead source, it does not always make sense to gate your findings.
- What is the goal of your research? If you are trying to generate awareness, build your reputation as a thought leader or increase backlinks, consider keeping your report open-access as more people are likely to see and share it.
- Why is someone downloading your research? Does it signal an intent to buy and would be suitable for sales follow up? Or would this person be better suited to take some other action?
Even if you decide not to gate your research, it can still be used as a lead magnet. One option that works well is to create a second piece of content that is closely tied to the research and gate that. Read the section called “What is the next step you want your reader to take?” for more ideas.
What format should I use for my findings?
While your mind may immediately jump to the idea of creating a formal, PDF research report, this isn’t your only option. There are unlimited ways to present your findings, but these five ideas below will help you figure out the path that is best for you.
Detailed blog post
It may come as a surprise to you, but releasing your findings in a blog post instead of a more formal report may be a great option. This works well if:
- You want to maximize the SEO potential of your research. Make this post as detailed and useful as possible. (Note: You can create this and include a PDF of a more formal report as well.)
- You don’t want to design a formal report.
Example: Orbit Media’s annual blogger study blog post is a great model to study (in fact, we incorporated many of the elements Andy Crestodina uses when we published our own research report with Buzzsumo). This format works well because Andy includes:
- A table of contents so people can easily see the report at the glance. These links make the long post very easy to navigate!
- A short summary of the key findings for those who don’t have time to read in-depth.
- A chart for each finding. Remember to include your brand and a link to the report as people will clip and share these! I also love how Andy includes the sample size for each chart.
- The “why” behind each finding. Because Andy has year-over-year data, he also looks at trends.
- Quotes from industry influencers and friends that provide color and commentary. Of course, these also help with social sharing!
Consider publishing your #originalresearch findings as a detailed blog post. @crestodina has a great model to study! Click To Tweet
Another way to present your findings is to focus on “just the facts.” We refer to this report as Content-Lite because it focuses on the data findings with minimal editorializing. Think: key headlines + data visualizations.
This type of report works well if:
- You are releasing your research with one or more partners. Because it’s just the facts, each brand can use the report as a starting place for the stories they want to tell from the data.
- You want a simple version of the report you can use as a jumping off point for your own editorial.
- You want a version of your research you can embed in blog posts—and an option to point people to a more detailed, gated version.
Example: CMI and MarketingProfs publish annual content marketing benchmarks and trends each year, and they have perfected the art of presenting their research in an easy-to-understand way. The research is organized by key themes, and each finding is clearly illustrated.
If you are publishing #originalresearch with a partner, consider a Content-Lite format with just the facts Click To Tweet
The POV report is lengthier and offers a more detailed analysis and prescriptive advice based on findings. This type of report often includes outside industry data and trends to add context. It also offers an ideal platform to include influencer perspectives. A point of view report works well when you:
- Want your report to have gravitas by looking at the industry broadly and authoritatively
- Want to provide a mix of data analysis and prescriptive advice
- Want a document that details your broader story, which you can share with analysts, clients and others
Example: Litmus does a tremendous job with their research reports, including this one: 2018 State of Email Marketing. When you review these findings, you’ll see the data they collected serves as a jumping off point for industry trends and other key industry data.
Looking for a great example of detailed and prescriptive research? @Litmus has you covered. Click To Tweet
The hybrid report falls somewhere between the content-lite and POV findings. It summarizes key findings and provides brief analysis about the findings. This type of report works well if you want to present key findings and make the report easy to consume, but still want to provide some context to explain why the findings are important/relevant.
Example: Salesforce regularly publishes research, and they have a great model to study. One example: Fourth Annual State of Marketing. There is a lot to love about this report, and the others from Salesforce. It offers:
- A straightforward methodology
- A clear explanation of which segment the report is comparing
- Succinct takeaways that serve as a way to organize all findings — and a table of contents
- Appendices that “slice and dice” the data by country
@Salesforce does a tremendous job with their: clear dataviz, takeaways and the right amount of commentary. Click To Tweet
Another common way to release your findings is through something that looks like a blog post on steroids. It’s often a mix of commentary, social sharing and (sometimes interactive) visuals.
Example: Study how Spicework’s presents its State of IT research. It includes elements such as:
- Short key takeaways that can be shared on Twitter or Facebook
- Interactive datagraphics that show results based on the overall sample, the region or company size
- Short commentary about the data
- Quotes from influencer quotes
- A clear call to action: sign up for their newsletter
Consider a highly visual presentation of your research findings like this example from @spieceworks Click To Tweet
What is the next step you want your reader to take?
So many clients we talk to know they want to create research, but there is often a pause when we ask, “what do you want someone to do once they download or read your research?
You invested time (and often money) on your research, so it only makes sense to identify what you want to happen once someone reads your findings.
Of course, your goal may be to use the research to get new leads, but that is not your only option. Consider these ideas:
- Create a gated, related piece of content that specifically addresses the gaps and/or opportunities identified in your research.
- Create a toolkit with the report and other related content that addresses the pain points identified in the research.
- Ask someone to subscribe to your newsletter — and then publish follow-up articles about your research.
- Offer an online assessment in which someone can benchmark their efforts against others — and get customized recommendations.
Example: I love the toolkit that accompanies CoSchedule’s State of Marketing Strategy. It includes:
- PDF of the findings
- Persona template
- Marketing plan sample and template
Your research needs a specific next steps. One great example: the toolkit published by @coschedule Click To Tweet
These examples of how to publish your research findings just scratch the surface of what’s possible. Learn more about the process of conducting, publishing and amplifying your own research by downloading our ultimate guide on how to create survey-based research for content marketing.