This post shares examples of 3 approaches for publishing your research-centered thought leadership online.
What do the best thought leadership marketers do differently? Over the last 2 years, we’ve surveyed 230+ consulting firms and 1000+ clients to find out. We’ve used the findings of those studies, produced in partnership with AMCF and The Bloom Group, to confirm many of our assumptions about best practices in thought leadership and digital marketing. In all, we’ve identified at least 10-15 characteristics that leading firms appear to have in common.
One of those findings has been that the best thought leadership marketers are much more likely to use multi-faceted marketing campaigns to support their research initiatives. In fact, over 40% of leaders used up to 5 marketing tactics in their most important 2015 campaign. By contrast, over 40% of followers used only 1.
In this post, we share some approaches for how to take your research to market in this multi-faceted way. Accompanying each approach is an example from our work with the National Center for the Middle Market. The Center is the nation’s most credible source of research and insight both about the U.S. middle market and for middle market executives to help them grow their businesses. We have been the Center’s brand and digital marketing partner since shortly after its inception.
#1 – Use Topical Landing Pages and Microsites
The best firms recognize that their thought leadership is most successful when they focus on a handful of topics they must own and build a body of work around each one. And, the best way to exhibit the depth of your firm’s knowledge and research on a topic is to intelligently present it on a topical landing page.
This topical landing page is used to share the Center’s quarterly economic research on the state of the middle market. Published 4x / year since 2012, the MMI is the nation’s only quarterly business performance update focused exclusively on the middle market of the U.S. economy. Each quarter, the Center surveys 1000 C-suite executives about their companies’ recent and projected performance:
The page itself leverages a variety of different content formats to share the research in different ways for different people. We use an interactive graphic to let visitors filter the data over the last few years (~10% of visitors use it), a master infographic to let people view the data at a glance (~20% do), a short video to introduce the research (produced by the client), and a collection of state- and industry-specific infographics. Finally, the page provides access to the flagship content for the program — an 8-page research report that is downloaded by ~25% of visitors.
In this example, the topical landing page functions as an aggregator of content. The objective of each content asset isn’t necessarily to push people into a particular piece of content like we often recommend. But, rather it’s simply to give users more options to engage with the research on their terms and explore the data along dimensions that are most relevant to them.
#2 – Use Micro/Short Content to Introduce Concepts and Stair-Step People Towards Higher Levels of Engagement
In this research on the effectiveness of middle market sales teams, we used a variety of micro and short form content as “feeder” content into the longer form content published in the research report:
In this situation, the objective is to move people to higher and higher levels of engagement. There is a lot of useful insight in the research report that can create a lot of value for middle market executives — but only if they take the time to read it. The short content is designed to lean them into it. A second advantage of this strategy is that it gives us more indexable content for search. Google rewards quality and consistency. As readers of this blog know, we call cycling together this collection of content assets, the Content Marketing Wheel.
This campaign has been in operation for roughly 3 months. In that time, we have published 5 pieces of short content along with the longer research report:
- Sales Force Effectiveness: A Key to Growth in the Middle Market (Blog)
- How to Build a Better Sales Force: Sales Management “Secrets” of High-Growth Middle Market Firms (Blog)
- Sales by Size: How the Largest Middle Market Firms Sell Differently (Blog) – Motivating Sales Success: The Role of Quotas and Commissions (Blog)
- Best Practices of Effective Middle Market Sales Forces (Infographic)
Each short content asset is used to introduce a topic or slice of the research in 1-2 minutes and direct visitors to the longer form content where they can dig deeper (likely an investment of 15-20 minutes to consume the research report). Here’s a loose summary of how this has worked:
- The 5 short content assets drove 42% of the total site visits in the campaign (we’re getting a lot more “eyeballs” on this research by developing this ancillary content).
- Anywhere from 10% – 40% of visitors to those content assets migrated to the flagship research report (we’re directing users to the next step effectively).
- In total, roughly 33% of visitors to the flagship research moved through the gate to consume it (this is consistent with our research on the percentage of executives that will go through a gate to access thought leadership).
#3 – Deconstruct Broad Research into Micro Content
One of the biggest mistakes we see firms make in social media is not taking the time to look at all of the potential angles for their thought leadership. If you take the time to scan this twitter feed over the last few months, you will find that we produced 43 different individual tweets spread over the course of ~45 days related to the MMI research referenced in item #1 above:
Most importantly, no two tweets are the same. We use each tweet to share a different angle on the research and to point to the various content assets around it. This enables us to cover the research in different ways to connect with different audiences, different interests, and different user behaviors. Importantly, most of the tweets aren’t just content pushes. Each tweet provides useful snippets of information that provide value without a visitor being necessarily forced to click through to the final asset.