What’s the news?

Every day, you likely see a headline in your feeds with phrases like, “Survey Finds …,” “Research Shows …,” or “Poll Indicates …”

You also likely see multiple polls and surveys populating your social media feeds every day. (You may even create some of them.)

So what?

People are interested in what other people think and do. They also are interested in knowing what different data means for them on a business or personal level.

Why does that matter to a content entrepreneur?

Publishing original research presents an opportunity for your content business. Done right, it can bring instant credibility to you and your brand. It’s a good way to get noticed by brands and audiences in a crowded sea of content.

The Tilt Talk and Advice

How does research help a content business?

You want audiences and brands to take your business seriously. You want them to see you as a go-to expert resource on your subject matter. Yet, that can be difficult when you’re a team of one (or even a few.)

Publishing original research elevates your brand’s credibility. When you have the data – and share it with the wider world – they likely will focus on the results, not how big the business is.

Other benefits?

Many. Original research can establish you as an authority on the topic. That can open up speaking opportunities and media interviews.

Other outlets may publish your research results, not only widening your reach but giving your site backlinks (an SEO booster.)

You can use the findings as fodder for your own content. Publish a research report. Spin it off into other content assets like a livestream conversation, blog post topics, podcasts, etc.

You also can grow your subscriber and lead-gen audiences by asking survey takers for their email addresses so they can be among the first to see the report.

Depending on the topic, the research likely will help you better understand your audience. And eventually, research could become a new revenue stream (through sponsorships or joint partner surveys.)

Does it have to be original research?

Yes. You should create something proprietary to your brand. Otherwise, you’re simply a promoter of someone else’s research.

A survey by Mantis Research found 62% of marketers who used original research for their brand said it met or exceeded expectations.

What are the options for original research?

You can execute primary or secondary research. Primary research is based on data you (or your agents) collect. It could be achieved through surveys, interviews, focus groups, etc.

Secondary research is based on data from other sources (like the U.S. Census or a Pew Research poll.)

Isn’t research costly?

It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want to go deep, your starting cost would probably be at least $20,000. But you also can start small and do it yourself (after learning all about the subject) or work with a consultant who specializes in small businesses, low budgets.

What are less costly research options?

If you want to start small (and we think you should), here are a couple of options: a quantitative survey with a narrow focus or an aggregated study using publicly available data. 

You also can do the legwork and seek partners with large audience databases. They might be willing to distribute your survey for branding on or acquiring additional data from the reports. (It might just even require one additional question.) 

Where should you start?

Look to see what research already exists around your topics and themes. Identify what might be missing where you can fill the gap.

Narrow your options to a few choices or angles. Then, ask your audience what they would like to know. You could even do an informal poll or survey on your social platforms or in your newsletter.

What else?

When The Tilt founder Joe Pulizzi launched Content Marketing Institute, the research was critical to growing its audience. No less than a thousand sites have linked to the research over the years. It helped the institute become known as an industry leader because of it, and it led, ultimately, to millions in partner revenue.

Joe and The Tilt continue to follow that advice. We’re in the midst of a survey of content entrepreneurs. If you haven’t completed it, please complete it here. (And we’ll share the results later this year.)

About the author

Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. An IABC Communicator of the Year and founder of G Force Communication, Ann coaches and trains professionals in all things content. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.