Three free hacks to save money on marketing campaign research

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Data is the backbone of sales and marketing campaigns. Whether you’re proving the client impact of your proposition, uncovering unseen market challenges or quantifying new opportunities, data is a powerful tool for building credibility and generating demand.

But conducting external research is often where campaigns lose speed and pick up cost. Designing questionnaires and economic models, conducting fieldwork and analysing results require specialist skills, networks and, often, the lion’s share of your campaign resources. In fact, a new study identifies research reports as the most challenging to develop of any content type – estimating that they take upwards of 20 hours to create. 

There are better, faster ways to evidence campaigns. Here are our tips on how to accelerate the data gathering phase of your next marketing or business development initiative – saving money and generating greater ROI in the process.

#1 Specific

Too often market research tries to boil the ocean – uncovering new macro trends across sectors, geographies and audiences. This type of research can deliver PR headlines on a global scale, but is among the most expensive ways to evidence campaigns and is ineffective at supporting sales. Awareness is not what makes prospects buy and trying to be all things to all people often results in unfocussed data sets that do little to drive prospects to purchase.

The most effective way to drive sales from data-backed campaigns is to identify and quantify a specific business critical problem or opportunity for a specific buyer – which they haven’t spotted themselves – and prove how you are uniquely able to help realise it. Maximise ROI and avoid laborious data collection and analysis by focussing on a specific audience – for example, your biggest bets for growth or platinum clients – and target your research there.

#2 Selective

Successful data-led campaigns are not about cramming the most numbers into a white paper, but that’s often how research reports are conceived. We try to put everything we know about a sector or issue on the page, supported by dozens of data points gathered from onerous surveys. This can come at the expense of a clear and compelling narrative, and adds significant time and cost to data collection.

If your audience is specific, you can be selective about the data you gather and how – collecting only stats you need to make the case for your solution or to quantify the problem or opportunity your buyers need to act on, using an appropriate research approach. Prove only what you need to prove and don’t commission academic-level research if you don’t have to. Instead balance the time and budget available with the burden of proof required to convince prospective buyers. For example, to credibly question an industry-entrenched blindspot will require robust, bespoke research. But often just one carefully selected stat is enough to make your case.

#3 Sparing

It can be tempting to start from scratch with each new campaign. Yes, it’s important to try innovative new methods of data collection and to gather relevant data for different audiences. We must also be mindful that data has a shelf life beyond which insights lose currency. But whereas research for PR becomes chip paper overnight, you can continue to use the same stats to support sales for weeks and months.

Our first instinct is always to be sparing with your campaign resources, and work with the data you already have to evidence campaigns. Do you really need to put a new survey into the field? Often there is still plenty of mileage in research already held by the firm or existing in the public domain. Try to do something creative with data from elsewhere in the business – aggregating internal data, mining previous campaigns through a new lens or tacking on questions to regular surveys – and look at studies already in the market. Official data can be particularly fertile ground.

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