When properly planned, a thought leadership research project can meet multiple objectives — it can inform sales strategy and priorities, it can help position products and services and it can showcase opportunities for growth. Those are the internal uses for it. But it’s really a valuable tool for the marketing team: thought leadership research can give you the market data to position your subject matter experts as industry leaders and trusted advisors.
In this three-part series, we are looking at each of the key elements of successful thought leadership research. In part 1, we discussed the importance of survey design. In part 2, we discuss how to look at your research results for the most meaningful insights.
Thought leadership surveys are designed to see to what extent the respondents face particular challenges, whether they understand risks associated with certain trends, to what extent they use particular types of technologies and more. Often, at face value the results do not offer any surprises. For example, in almost every study we’ve conducted over the last few years, budget is the number one barrier to adopting new technologies and cybersecurity is the most pressing concern.
While in and of themselves, these results may not appear especially enlightening, we encourage our clients to look at the results upside down. What do respondents think are the least pressing issues and why? Does lack of awareness or concern about an issue or trend signal lack of understanding about risks or opportunities? You could also look for areas where the respondents’ actions do not align with their priorities. Frequently, compelling information and key messages come from identifying areas of weakness, lack of concern or low awareness of potential challenges. More often than not, our clients are able to take the answer their customers don’t rate as important and use it as the basis to educate the market about why a particular product or solution is critical to meeting missions and priorities.
For example, a recent Brocade study on Network Security found that while 67% of federal agencies had network speeds of 10 Gbps or higher, they weren’t using the proper tools to secure data at those speeds. It was a surprise to the subject matter experts when they reviewed the survey results, and it became a key point in Brocade federal thought leadership materials.
One of the keys to unearthing these types of results is pulling together a cross-functional team to thoroughly study the report. That would include the marketing team, sales team and technical subject matter experts. Bringing together marketers, sales professionals and technical experts will enable you to tease out fascinating discussion points that go far deeper than the research results at face value.