Why Survey Reports Should be Part of Your Content Plan

At a time when marketing budgets are tightening, surveys and survey reports represent some of the most compelling and cost-effective content a B2B marketer can produce.  Why?  Because a well-crafted survey does all this and more:

* builds thought leadership for your brand and helps establish your company as subject matter experts and thus a brand buyers can trust

* helps validate, or brings awareness to, a specific business challenge – the very challenge your product solves for

* delivers real information of value – i.e. what peers are thinking or doing about a specific, current trend, industry development, or challenge

* is easily repurposed into multiple assets – reports, Webinars, blog posts, video, infographics – that help amortize the initial investment

Traditionally, one of the obstacles to running a B2B survey is getting people to respond to the questions. (“Survey fatigue” is real.) Fortunately, there are now third-party research services that can provide a guaranteed minimum number of survey responses from predefined B2B communities (or “panels,” in research lingo) that fit your specific audience criteria: industry, company size, job title, and so on.

True, if you generate survey data through a third-party service, you generally won’t receive those responses as leads, or know how specific individuals answered specific questions. However, on the plus side, you’re also eliminating the cost and hassle and risk of marketing the survey in the first place. Furthermore, the true demand generation value of surveys is NOT in the initial response, but rather: promoting the results of the survey and the content that those results makes possible.

Not all survey reports are created equal. To generate true thought leadership and brand awareness and sales leads, a survey needs careful planning, from choosing a topic to marketing the data. An effective survey supports your business objectives (by highlighting the seriousness or prevalence of a particular business challenge, for example) but does so in a way that is credible and engaging to the audience.

Based on our firm’s experience creating survey content for B2B clients, here are a few important tips to keep in mind:

1.  Select a topic that interests your audience, not just one that supports your value proposition.  A topic needs to resonate with the audience in a way that a potential customer – someone feeling the pain that you can solve – would want to know how others are dealing with that same challenge.

2.  Surveys about threats, challenges, problems or issues generally perform better than “trends.”  Also, be specific: “top email deliverability challenges” is more compelling than “top email challenges.”

3. Repeat the survey quarterly or annually, if the topic merits. Companies in the IT security space do this effectively, because IT threats and challenges change so frequently and so the data needs to be extremely current in order to have value. Repeating the same survey on a regular cadence also serves to underline you and your company as the expert in a particular area.

4.  When marketing the survey report, highlight key findings, the more surprising or unexpected or controversial the better.  (Hypothetical example: “68% of CMOs Disappointed in ABM Effectiveness.”) 

Use that “hook” to generate downloads of the complete report.  Highlight key findings through visually appealing social media snippets or graphics to generate interest and social sharing.  Create anticipation by teasing highlights on social media even while the final report is being produced.

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5.  Repurpose survey findings and survey data into multiple content assets, to better amortize the initial investment and to appeal to a variety of user preferences.  At minimum, produce a formal, long-form survey report in ebook format and a blog post.  Once the report is in place, other assets – infographics, Webinars – can simply leverage that same content. 

6.  Don’t neglect PR.  Press coverage can increase the reach and return from your survey report exponentially, and survey results make great content for the right publications in both traditional and digital channels.  At minimum, write a press release and offer up your subject matter experts (SMEs) for interviews or questions.  Consider direct outreach to key influencers and journalists.

7.  Compile a group of third-party experts or influencers or even customers to discuss the findings in a panel discussion, podcast or video.  Commentary or analysis from third-party experts adds authority to any survey and helps increase both the credibility and the perceived value of the data.

8.  For all content options, always offer the opportunity to download the complete survey report by linking to a dedicated landing page, a page that highlights the value of the data and describes in concrete detail what the reader will learn in that report.

9.  Increase the value of the data – and boost engagement – by ensuring that the survey report provides not just data but also practical recommendations and actionable insights.  Provide analysis that speaks to the implications of the data and where the reader can find related content or information.

A perennial question: how many respondents does a survey need?  There’s no hard and fast rule, but the higher the number, the more credible the results and the more likely the final report will garner engagement, social sharing, and press coverage.  Time and cost permitting, 500 respondents is a good number to aim for.  (Traditionally, press outlets often require a survey to have at least that many respondents to merit coverage.)


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