header, importance of research as part of content marketing plans

By John Lavey, Hammock President & COO

Creating editorial slates or designs in advance of research is merely guessing, and an exercise in competing aesthetic sensibilities. In other words, it’s a waste of time. Four basic areas of research are required to build  a successful content marketing plan. These areas help fulfill the following critical marketing commandments:

If you need any more convincing that great online content telling your story’s brand or describing the importance of your service is an essential form of marketing, consider this. According to a recent survey from Pew Research, almost 60 percent of U.S. adults say they conduct research online about products and services they are considering purchasing or using. Don’t miss your opportunity to connect with this group of existing customers and prospects by having an online content marketing strategy in place that ensures your site is easy to find and is rich with the type of content researchers are looking for.

This week the Custom Content Council (CCC) along with its magazine ContentWise released their 10th annual “Characteristics Study: A Look at the Volume and Type of Content Marketing in America for 2010.” In addition to covering print media usage and spending, this year the study included questions about marketers’ use of digital media as part of their content marketing efforts. Here are some of the highlights from the report:

[Part 2 of a Series: See: Introduction. See: Links to other posts in this series.]

The subject line of this post is a bit misleading. There is no one wiki entry that will teach you every thing you need to know about research content. Fortunately, you can pick almost any entry on a well organized and managed encyclopedia-model wiki to learn what I’m about to explain. Typically, I’d use a page from SmallBusiness.com, as many of my theories about research content have come while spending hundreds of evening and weekend hours structuring it and learning what works and doesn’t by serving as “head-helper” to people who’d like to add content to it — or who can’t find something they’re looking for.
However, I’ve decided to use the Wikipedia entry Metal umlaut as the example for today’s “lesson.” If you’re curious why, it’s because many years ago, Jon Udell used this entry’s history to demonstrate what a screencast is. Also, after the first draft, I felt this post needed more cowbell.
So here’s what you can learn from a well-done wiki entry about the elements needed in great “research” content:

[Part 1 of a Series: See: Introduction. See: Links to other posts in this series.]
Business people do lots of things on the internet other than read or watch or listen to content. So when I say that only two kinds of content matter to them, I don’t mean web-based applications and email.
I mean the kind of content we typically think of as news and information and advertising and the stuff now called “post-advertising” — the kind of content that marketing people and journalists and bloggers and Twitter users create and add to the internet. The kind of content that companies hand over millions of dollars to Google so that business people will click through to see it.
I’ve given these two kinds of content that matter most to business customers the following names:

The following are links to a series of posts written by Hammock founder Rex Hammock in which he explores the various kinds of content that is being used by companies, associations, and other organizations and institutions to build stronger relationships with their customers, members, etc.
The posts also examine ways in which different types of content and different communications channels and platforms can work independently or in a complementary, integrated fashion to help companies reach specific business objectives.

According to the study, “The ContentWise and Custom Publishing Council’s 2009 Spending: A Look at How Corporate American Invests in Branded Content,”released by the CPC, marketers spent more on custom and branded content last year than ever before. Highlights of the study include:

  • Spending on branded content totaled $1.8 million per company
  • 78 percent of respondents reported that branded content is more effective than advertising
  • 24 percent expected spending to increase in 2010

In the media world, there has been an ongoing debate for years about the vitality of print media and magazines. Rex has weighed in on the topic a number of times on his blog here on hammock.com and on rexblog.com.
At Hammock, each new relationship begins by first understanding our client’s goals, and then based on these goals, we make recommendations for the best media strategy and mix to meet those objectives. For us, it’s about identifying, creating and distributing the best media or set of media for our clients based on their goals. Today print magazines still play a very dominant role in many of the strategies we develop and execute for our clients because we continue to believe strongly in the power of print magazines for meeting certain business goals. That’s why we’re big fans of this recent Magazine Publishers of America’s “The Twenty Tweetable Truths About Magazines” slideshow. Go magazines!

Many of the clients we work with are associations, and so we are always monitoring research about the latest trends in associations. The type of challenges our association clients are facing right now are closely tied to the state of the economy. That’s why having in-depth knowledge of the latest research about the economy helps us serve our clients best by being able to create solutions that solve their problems in the context of the economic environment.
One of the sources we consistently look to for research is the American Society of Association Executives. This week they released an update to their Beliefs, Behaviors, and Attitudes in Response to the Economy study conducted six months ago about the attitudes of more than 7,000 association members on the state of the economy and how it has and will influence their behavior.

5 Tips for Focus Groups
Posted in Research, by Barbara Logan
August 20, 2009

Associations can use focus groups as a valuable research tool. They are often used to test new initiatives or concepts with a sample group of members before rolling them out to the association. Before your association dedicates the time and resources to a focus group, be sure to review our five tips:
State your goals
It’s important that you are clear about what you want to accomplish with the focus group before you start the project. Get input from key decision makers and use their input to structure the development of the focus group.