3 Key Success Factors For a Research Based Content Program

An increase in the amount of content targeting small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) is making it harder for even the best marketers to gain visibility for their resource centers, white papers, email newsletters, infographics, blogs, webcasts and other content.

But one approach still works to get the attention of SMBs: creating content based on market research. Our own research has found that research reports are the most effective content format for SMB lead gen; we have also found that research-based content is among the top content types that SMBs share with peers and customers.

Here are three key success factors for a research-based-content program:

1. A good questionnaire

The best surveys for promotional content gather information of interest to other SMBs, and will also uncover provocative insights that may garner broader attention. Your survey should also make sense coming from you. The data should be related to your area of business, even if it goes beyond your specific offerings. For example, if you’re a payroll service provider, don’t just ask about hiring and compensation plans. Asking about interview tactics, workplace culture or creative benefits can generate interesting content and newsworthy results.

Highlighting differences among respondents can also help make data more interesting. You may find that survey answers vary significantly based on respondents’ size of business, length of time in business, industry, age or gender.

2. The right respondents

You should survey people who have the same profile as your content audience. Be specific about who you want to reach, including their title or role, company size, industry and location.

The right number of respondents depends on your audience and goals. For example, if you’re surveying a small group such as venture capitalists, 50 to 75 respondents is meaningful, while 300 is the minimally acceptable number of general small business owners for content and PR purposes. Surveying 500 or even 1,000 small business owners is not uncommon, and provides more statistical confidence and credibility.

3. A good strategy

Research data can support content development for months after you conduct your survey. While there is no hard and fast rule, the “sell-by” date for data is around six months to a year, so you can plan to use the survey findings to develop or promote content along this extended timeline.

To get the most mileage out of your data, create a content plan for short-and-longer-term use. You may develop a “centerpiece” content element, such as a white paper, to kick off your program, but you should add articles, graphical elements, Q&A pieces with internal stakeholders, checklists and other formats. Extend the life of your data and your research ROI by giving your ancillary content pieces a narrow focus, and avoid giving all the findings away in one shot.

Ensure that your content elements are complementary both in focus and in the targets they reach. Each element should either reach a different audience with the same story, or highlight different learnings from the survey to the same audience. Create specific pieces for use in all of your content distribution channels, such as your resource center, email newsletter, social media and possibly even your sales team.

Want to create high-value research-based content? Bredin can help. We can help you develop an effective questionnaire, plan and field your research, recommend the content elements and story lines, and create original content to boost your SMB content marketing ROI.

About Alice Bredin

Alice is America's foremost small business expert, with over 20 years of experience in the small business market. She has provided highly practical, actionable advice to countless entrepreneurs through her books, syndicated newspaper column, radio commentary and advice on small business forums on AOL, the Microsoft Network and elsewhere. Her unique insight into the needs of this audience has made her an invaluable resource to leading SMB marketers.