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Five tips to ensure your research-led B2B thought leadership piece makes an impact

Thought leadership has become an increasingly common and effective tool in the world of B2B marketing, but in such a diluted market, how can you make your content stand out from the crowd? YouGov interviewed a sample of 262 individuals who have been involved in the production of thought leadership content to find out what matters most when conducting or commissioning primary research for B2B thought leadership.

Here are five tips to ensure your next piece of B2B thought leadership content makes an impact with research:

1. Be first and if you can’t be first, be the best

“Have something genuinely interesting or novel to say, not just a re-hash of re-heated thoughts”

If you are the first to create content on your topic of choice then great – 66% of individuals surveyed think being first is important for content to be noticed – but it is not the end of the world if you are not first. It is more important that you offer a new and interesting point of view on your topic of choice and that the content you produce is accessible to your target audience. The vast majority surveyed (85%) say it is important to add genuinely new thinking to the discussion while 81% think it is important to provide a new angle on an existing topic. This shows that you can still make a big impact as a second mover. Conduct extensive online searches to ensure you are not covering old ground, spend time brainstorming your topic of choice, challenge yourself to answer a number of hypotheses and use colleagues and clients to test new ideas.

2. Question your questionnaire to ensure focus

“Limit the areas to look at, otherwise you can experience data overload”

As with all opinion polling, questionnaire design is of paramount importance when creating B2B thought leadership content. Ensure that any jargon used is appropriate to the audience. Avoid asking respondents to speculate about things outside their direct knowledge. Make sure questions are directly relevant to them, drawing on their own experiences and knowledge, rather than asking what others in their position may or may not think. The most motivating factor for completing a thought leadership survey is that it includes questions that are directly relevant to their line of work (78% of our sample agree on this point). It is also important to make it quick – 74% are looking for a short survey.

3. Use open-ended questions to give respondents a voice

“You need a good amount of qualitative data to provide nuances and detail which quantitative questions won’t allow for”

Headline-grabbing numbers are the name of the game but people will always ask ‘why?’ Hopefully the supporting questions in your survey will go some way to answering this but what can really bring the data to life is a quote from your target audience so consider including at least a couple of open-ended questions. In-depth qualitative analysis may not be feasible (or even desirable) but a punchy quote or two can give your findings some extra flavour and it can help with the structure of your piece by supporting your section headings, as you may have noticed with this article. Open-ended questions are also a great way of allowing respondents to get an issue out into the open if they feel the questionnaire has not given them a chance to adequately say what they need to say. Inclusion of open-ended questions could also lead to a higher response rate; 55% of the sample interviewed said say they would find the inclusion of open-ended questions a motivating factor in completing thought leadership surveys.

4. Bring clarity to the discussion

“Keep it straightforward and succinct in language that is easily understood”

Demonstrating leadership is about bringing expertise to those who don’t have it. The individuals surveyed believe strongly in this maxim both from the perspective of creating and consuming thought leadership content. When asked which elements they included in recent thought leadership pieces, 67% provided clarity or interpretation on an issue for a non-expert or lay audience, the most commonly cited element from the survey response list. When thinking about which elements are most important for content to be noticed, 76% consider it important that content demystifies a difficult topic. It is clear that clarity is king so do everything you can to make sure your content follows these principles.

5. Don’t release the data all in one go

“Timing is key”

There can be a temptation to release all the data you have collected in one go but instead, consider staggering the release of your findings. We know clarity is important so breaking up your content allows you to focus more clearly on the points you are trying to convey. It will also enable you to gain greater media coverage than you may otherwise have achieved by having more than one bite at the cherry. This is particularly the case if your research includes distinctly separate sections or topics that may be relevant at different points in the year. The majority of individuals surveyed (73%) think that research conducted at any point in the last three years is still relevant so, depending on the kind of work you have completed, you may find that some of the findings will last you a lot longer than you originally anticipated.

If you are interested in conducting research for B2B thought leadership content and have further questions on the above tips, please contact the YouGov Reputation research team at reputation.uk@yougov.com.

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