Posts Tagged ‘research’

As a marketer, do you sometimes find yourself more frustrated than illuminated by what passes for research about the practice of marketing?

Colleagues will attest to seeing me pulling my hair (what hair I have left) and hearing me bark colorful phrases at my computer after reading the results of yet another study that left me more infuriated than informed.

Often the source of that consternation stems from one, two or all three of the following:

  • Loose language. The terminology on which survey questions were based is so loosely defined, you have no earthly idea how to interpret and apply the results. In fact, you’re pretty sure the respondents had no clear (and, as important, shared) understanding of what they were being asked.
  • Quirky questions. The question(s) seems so poorly thought through and formulated, you wonder if the sponsor had any true insight or empathy for the information needs and gaps their audience might be facing.
  • Blatant bias. Sometimes you can just tell which response a survey’s sponsor was hoping for by how a question were framed. Then, when the responses come in as you might have expected they would, you start to look askance at the legitimacy of the entire study, and the sponsor behind it.

I had one of those hair-tugging spells early this week, while reading an article by eMarketer about a new piece of research conducted by SEOmoz. Let me say, before levelling this critique, that I’ve found both of these organizations to be extremely valuable sources of information about online marketing trends and emerging best practices. So I’m going to chalk this particular instance up to someone having an off day.

But if you read the article, and take note of the first survey question it reports, I think you might share my frustration:

Judging by how the results are reported, this question apparently asked more than 4,000 marketers how frequently they “use select inbound marketing tools,” including SEO, site analytics, social, content marketing and conversion rate optimization. Optional answers included “daily,” “2-4 times a week,” “once a week,” “monthly,” “quarterly.”

Now right there, as a marketer, aren’t you stopping and shouting at…er, politely inquiring of your computer monitor: “Wait a minute. We don’t think about or approach marketing that way. Social media. Content. SEO. Conversion. These aren’t things we pick up and put down sporadically, like exercise equipment. These are integrated activities. Things we’re thinking about and doing — or at least trying to do — holistically, pretty much 24, 7, 365.”

If so, then don’t you wonder how any of the marketers being surveyed could have formulated an intelligent “choose one” response to that question? And don’t you then tend to doubt what value there is in learning that of more than 4,000 SEOmoz readers surveyed, 8.7% “use” conversion rate optimization twice per month?

Do they schedule doing it on the same days payroll checks come out?

There’s actually some potentially valuable information to be found in the survey results, such as which types of content are used most often by survey respondents. But then, two questions later, another hair puller: Reasons that online marketers use select social media channels. Glance at these results, and you might be suprised to learn that the reason 79.1% of marketers surveyed use Facebook is for…wait for it…”social media.”

Ground Research in Audience Empathy

Look, I’m an absolute advocate for research as a content marketing asset. Done well, it can be hugely valuable in almost any content marketing program, especially for BtoB audiences.

After all, what you’re trying to do with your content is create and serve a community, right? Typically, a community that shares business or personal interests, challenges and unanswered questions.

If any one of those community members had the time and the resources to commission their own research study, to get answers to those questions, they would probably do so. But by taking on the task of conducting research on behalf of the entire community, you can demonstrate that you understand them, value them, and are willing to invest in being a partner and a resource for them. And that you are willing to use your scale and resources to develop content that benefits the community.

But if you’re going to do research, then for the sake of your brand’s reputation, and your audience’s affinity for your brand:

  • Make sure your research study is grounded in empathy for the information gaps and needs your audience actually has.
  • Define your terms, both for people answering the questions and people reading the results.
  • Evaluate questions and answers on whether they are likely to produce information your audience will find valuable, even actionable.
  • If there’s any doubt, be sure and work with a professional research firm to craft your questionnaire.
  • Maybe even vet the draft questionnaire with a few members of the audience you seek to serve with the research findings. “If we ask this question, and ask people to choose from these answers, would the responses we get back be interesting and relevant to you and your life or business?


Are you using proprietary research as a core asset in your content marketing program? Are you seeing some of the same frustrating marketing research I’m seeing, and is it driving you just a little crazy, too? Comments welcome.


This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, subscribe to Content Is Marketing.


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At risk of being named grand marshal of the annual Ludditeville Labor Day Parade…

Here’s a quick post postmortem to TPC’s recent post regarding social media and its potential clash with concerns over workplace productivity.

Study Looks at Social Media Acceptance, Concerns
A new study by Minneapolis-based Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law seems to show business execs feeling conflicted — in some cases, literally of two minds — over social media’s benefits and potential pitfalls.

The online survey, conducted in July, garnered responses from a random sampling of 438 management, marketing and human resources executives. Findings included:

  • 81 percent described social media as a potential corporate security risk (the study summary does not define “security risk,” but reading between the lines, it seems to be referring to a breach-the-firewall, IT type of risk).
  • Ironically, the same percentage said social media can enhance customer relationships and build brand reputation.
  • 69 percent said social media can be a useful tool for recruiting new employees, and another 64 percent said social media can be an effective customer service resource.
  • 51 percent fear social media could be detrimental to productivity, while nearly as many — 49 percent — expressed concern that social media could damage company reputation.
  • 40 percent of the execs surveyed said their companies block employees from using social media during work time
  • Only one in three of the companies represented by respondents have implemented social media guidelines, and only 10 percent have undertaken social media training for employees.

Study sponsors say the findings argue for adoption of thoughtful social media guidelines (their summary report suggests 10 very broad ones), along with training for employees.

TPC’s Survey: Unscientific, but Interesting

For the record, TPC conducted its own survey tied to our last post on the topic of social media being potentially in conflict with office productivity.

The one-question TPC MicroSurvey asked whether, if witnessed by a supervisor or peer visiting a social media site during work hours, respondents would feel:

  • Pleased for being seen as cutting edge
  • Embarrassed at being “caught”
  • Fearful of being reprimanded or even fired.

In all, eight people clicked through from the post to answer our highly unscientific, uni-question survey. Of those eight, responses divided as follows:

  • Pleased: 4
  • Embarrassed: 3
  • Fearful: 1

Which raises what is probably an unanswerable question:

Cup half full, or half empty?

Is it a sign of growing social media acceptance, with more certain to come, that half of respondents would be glad to be seen viewing social media during work?

Or, is it a sign of a potential “chilling effect” that 50 percent — remember, these are people reading, commenting and taking action on a blog post — say they would be either embarrassed or fearful if seen visiting a social media site during work hours?

We’ll leave that question for you to ponder.

Whether you do so on work time is your call.

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It’s hard to go a day without seeing a news report, often several, with fresh research regarding consumer insights, B-to-B marketing trends or online marketing best practices.

In fact, sometimes the data stream gets so heavy, you feel like a salmon fisherman standing on shore, trying to drop a fly in front of the one fish in a school of thousands that might just be a bit more meaty, a tad more catchable. Which one is it? They all look the same. And this river is flowing so darn fast.

Recognizing this challenge of data overload — research factoids that are here today but swept away tomorrow (just when you need to find them) — Touch Point City will be keeping its eyes peeled for marketing, sales and brand data points that might be especially meaningful, perhaps even seminal.

As we collect a few of them, we’ll serve up a post, then archive them on our “Data Depot” page. Ideally, over time, Data Depot will become your scannable warehouse of not just interesting facts and forecasts, but important and useful ones, for planning or defending communications and content strategies.

So, here’s Data Depot installment No. 1:

Let’s Assume They’re Online

Do you still find yourself in strategy and brainstorming meetings where someone will say about the target audience, “Yeah, but do we really think these people are online?”

Last week a handful of data points flew through my inbox to suggest that, indeed, it might be time to stop asking this question.

African-Americans Online
Citing it as evidence that the “digital divide” — the gap between Internet “haves” and “have nots” — is narrowing, research by eMarketer in February 2009 found that nearly half (48.7 percent) of U.S. African-Americans use the Web at least once per month. By 2013, eMarketer projects, the figure will be 56 percent.

For comparison, eMarketer found these online-at-least-once-monthly rates among other U.S. ethno subgroups: Asian 73.5 percent, White 67 percent, Hispanic 50.8 percent.

Grayhairs Get Tech
People in their 50s, 60s and 70s are using technology at rates very comparable to younger folk, according to a joint survey by TNS Compete and the Consumer Electronics Association. Among other findings:

  • Consumers 50-59 are as likely as those younger to own,
    or plan to buy, an HDTV.
  • 80 percent of people 60-69 used a cell phone in the past week,
    just slightly less than the rate of people 18-34.
  • 71 percent of people 60-69 and 52 percent of people 70-79 used a search engine in the past week, compared with 77 percent of people

Social Media Surge
According to a study by Netpop Research:

  • Since 2006, the amount of time people spend online has increased 18 percent, while time spent on entertainment has dropped 29 percent.
  • 105 million Americans contribute to social media, with 7 million qualifying as “heavy” users (6 or more social media activities).

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