It is a given that content campaigns perform better when backed up with great research; but while this form of research delivers a successful one off campaign, it fails to address the strategic issues that marketing agencies should be considering. Jane Hales, Managing Partner at Sapio Research, explains the importance of using exploratory research to deliver the ‘wow’ moment that can transform not only campaign performance but strategic direction.
Research is used widely by 84% of communications professionals but, on average, less than half of campaigns that are delivered are actually shaped by research. This apparent discrepancy is probably explained by the fact that while the majority of communication professionals have come to understand the value of research in content campaigns, significantly fewer believe they need it to develop campaigns. Therefore, are they missing an opportunity?
The statistics would suggest so. While three quarters (76%) of marketing and communications professionals say that outcomes to their campaigns are more successful when they are based on research, there is also an admission that outputs lack the ‘wow’ factor. Satisfaction with research outputs is adequate, but just 12% rate their outputs for content research at a 9 or 10 out of 10. And this is where so many opportunities are being missed. So, why do so few communication professionals use research to inform campaigns?
Content creation and/or validation research is often used to confirm what you already know therefore it is rarely going to deliver a ‘wow’ moment. It is not going to challenge client assumptions about the market, deliver deep customer insight, identify new trends in the market, shine a light on evolving pain points, highlight threats or identify new opportunities.
And that is where exploratory research delivers far more strategic value. Consider the manufacturing company that undertook research to support the launch of a new product. Rather than just creating interesting stats to back up its proposition and content, it used the insight to completely change the go-to market strategy, from pricing, to addressing barriers to adoption, even the composition of the marketing team.
By using or instigating research to understand the market, ascertain brand perception and highlight pain points, marketing agencies are in a position to challenge the status quo and drive far more effective positioning and messaging.
Whisper it quietly but, the truth is the client is not always right. How often have marketing campaigns been derailed by the client’s incorrect or misjudged perceptions of the current market opportunity? A better informed agency that understands how the brand is perceived and the true competitive marketplace is well placed to create a campaign that will truly resonate with the target market.
With segmentation to inform customer personas, both messaging and tone of voice can be refined to specific audiences; customer journey mapping identifies points of interaction and dissatisfaction which in turn supports the creation of relevant engagement and retention activities.
Critically, it is the exploratory research that delivers the ‘wow’ moment; that nugget of insight that can open up the new lines of conversation with a client, helping to break out of any entrenched positioning. With a deep insight into market expectations, an agency is able to discuss specific business problems, determine relevant new campaign direction and, critically, become far more embedded within a client’s strategic market direction.
Recent developments in research, such as the growth in online panels and new technologies, have significantly reduced costs. So, your research line on the marketing budget? It’s probably a much shorter line than you think.
By Jane Hales