The Lowdown on Original Research Content
Original research is one of the most valuable types of content you can create. When done well, it builds your brand’s authority and gives you a ton of options for repurposing.
But only 39% of marketers say they made original research content last year. Whether that’s due to a lack of awareness or resource constraints, the other 61% are missing out.
Here’s a breakdown of what original research content is, why you should do it, and seven examples for you to use as inspiration.
What is original research content?
Original research relies on surveys, interviews, proprietary data, or publicly available information for the purpose of identifying trends, benchmarking, or sharing analyses.
The content can come in the form of a white paper, eBook, webinar, slide deck, blog, infographic, video – really any format you like. Ideally, you’ll use more than one format because original research is great for repurposing (and you are repurposing your content, right?).
Why you should create original research content
Speak to your niche
Everyone wants to use data to be smarter and better at their jobs. To do that, they need access to information that is super relevant to their work. Original research enables you to speak directly to the niche issues that concern your audience.
Set yourself up as a go-to resource
How-to’s, explainers, and other educational content are great for getting your name out there. And so is original research. Journalists, consultants, and other content marketers need data for their content. BuzzSumo found that readers are most likely to share authoritative content and original research.
Whether you’re trying to generate leads or build brand awareness, original research is one of the best ways to hit your targets. Sixty-one percent of marketers who use this tactic say that it met or exceeded their expectations.
How to create original research that performs
Creating original research is not easy. It can be time-consuming and, depending on your approach, expensive. To reap the benefits of producing original research, take these three steps:
1. Make sure you have a plan to repurpose it
Don’t just publish the content and move on. Make the most of your time and effort. Think about webinars, infographics, and videos that you can create using the research as a starting point. Original research can be a fountain that you drink from well after its initial publication date.
2. Ask questions that will help your audience, not you
If you’re in need of competitive intel or market research, those initiatives should be separate from the original research you create for your content marketing programs. Your audience doesn't want to know about the challenges you’re up against. They want to insight into their challenges.
3. Promote, promote, promote
Distribution is critical to any content program, but it’s super important for your original research. Remember, it’s one of the most shareable types of content you can make. So get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible!
Take cues from these 7 examples of original research
1. Turn proprietary data into content: Quantum Workplace, Employee Engagement Trends
Here's a great example of using proprietary data to create original research content. Quantum Workplace conducts 45 Best Places to Work contests in cities throughout the country.
As part of the contest, Quantum surveys employees from over 10,000 companies. That data is the foundation for its yearly Employee Engagement Trends study.
2. Research doesn’t have to be limited to a single piece: Insureon, Small Business Research
Original research doesn’t have to be published in a single report or analysis. In this case, online insurance seller Insureon partnered with online small business directory Manta to poll small business owners on finances and insurance.
Then it released the data over time through different articles focused on key topics. This approach is great for SEO and being hyper-relevant to audience concerns.
3. Original research isn’t just for big companies: UpKeep, 2019 Maintenance Insights Survey
UpKeep’s Maintenance Insights Survey is proof that you don’t have to have a huge team or Fortune-500 budget to pull off original research. UpKeep surveyed 271 of its users to get an idea of the tools, processes, and perceptions that impact their day-to-day work.
Similar to the Insureon research, the report is broken up into three separate pieces focused on specific topics.
4. Create your own method of conveying your point: American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Report Card for America’s Infrastructure
The state of America’s infrastructure is a hot-button topic for audiences in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Who better than the ASCE to pull together data from local, state, and federal reports, as well as insights from experts?
The simple grading scale enables them to deliver their assessment in a format that’s easy to understand and communicate.
5. Turn user activity data into content: Glassdoor, The Rise of Mobile in Job Search
Glassdoor is known for its employer reviews, salary information, and job posts. For this report, Glassdoor’s experts analyzed a sample of 12 million job seekers to identify trends and challenges in mobile job searches.
This is golden information for recruiters and HR pros in today’s job market.
6. Associations have a unique source of data: American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), Design Census
AIGA surveyed its members, conference attendees, and members of the larger design community for this yearly pulse check on trends in design.
Member associations have a unique opportunity to develop original research. Because their members represent a specific professional group or interest area, they don’t have to look far for survey respondents in their niche.
7. Be a resource for benchmarking: Demand Spring, Revenue Marketing B2B Benchmark Report
Everyone wants to know how they stack up against their peers, and benchmark reports are perfect for that. For this report, Demand Spring surveyed marketers on the metrics, practices, processes, barriers, and priorities of their revenue marketing programs.
The report is a valuable resource for marketers who feel the pressure to demonstrate the impact their work has on company revenue.