Research and communication fit together in an ongoing cycle.
What’s the biggest challenge for product marketers today?
Kira believes that it’s harder to tell stories in the product space.
This is particularly true in the B2B space, where there’s usually more focus on finance and what society at large considers ‘boring’.
Raj adds that marketers also face the challenge of achieving consistency in their messaging.
How can market research inform message optimization?
Raj weighs in on how the right approach to market research could make for more effective messaging.
He shares that effective research can help an organization break through opinion, cognitive bias and noise.
So how do you approach research?
Start by identifying your stakeholders. Don’t be myopic about it either. You need to understand the full spectrum of your customers and wider network of people who interact with your business.
Go beyond the brands you target, as far down the chain of influence as you can. Focus on the customers of your customers, and so on.
With direct insights gathered from a specific target market, you can craft a better and more cohesive message. Furthermore, it can consistently be disseminated across all of today’s available media platforms.
An example of this is Kira’s team using proprietary research and feedback from customer audiences to enrich briefs to creative agencies. This single action significantly improved the clarity of focus for the agency.
Your recipe for out-of-this-world storytelling
The truth is the most important thing to Kira, as a product marketer.
To gather the right information you have to look in the right places.
Start with the information provided by your research agency, then incorporate the data from your CRM, and other formal data sources. Eventually work your way toward how your organization is built – look at what value can people and processes add.
What you’re looking for overlaps with how you look for it, when you’re gathering information for storytelling.
Storytelling for product marketing
You need to know everything about your product. No shortcuts. What is it? Who is it for? How is it used? How much is it? Are there variations? What problem is it solving? How does it compare to alternatives in the market?
What are the different expectations that different stakeholders have for the product? There are shareholders, customers, employees, media — the list goes on and on.
You need to ask customers the right questions to unlock the true depth of their pain points. More often than not, behavior will reveal more truth than words.
You also need to explore previous performance of your product – what worked, and what didn’t?
Storytelling research methodology
There are many metrics that can be tracked. Audience segments add another layer of complexity to that.
As a result, it makes sense to strategize, prioritize and develop a hierarchy in your research approach.
Think about the high-level objectives before you dive in.
What are the long- and short-term goals? What are you really trying to accomplish?
Raj’s way of working starts with asking clients about the five headlines that could possibly be used to describe the research outputs. This method, reverse engineering, actually outlines the hypotheses on which the research tasks must focus. This is especially true for research that feeds content generation and eventual media relations.
Once you have this broad direction, you can start to develop larger quantitative and qualitative data sets. Peel away the layers of this, to keep drilling down as far as you need.
Eventually you’ll have a wealth of insights and it’ll be time to loop in the stakeholders who are affected by the data. This is where the objective data and the subjective client relationships overlap. Both layers, together, reveal the stories you need to tell.
We’re living in an increasingly dynamic era where a one-size-fits-all approach is becoming obsolete.
Turning research into communication assets
Communication can be broken down in many ways. One of the most important is your internal and external communication networks, channels, and stakeholders.
Externally, you have white papers, blogs, and advertorials, to name a few. Like with your research process, you usually will know what you want these assets to cover.
You can use the five-headline approach to figure it out, or consider this: what type of questions do you want to ask via what type of content?
There’s a format and process for each objective you have. You need to understand the parameters that come with each.
For example, a social media post and a research report are at opposite ends of the spectrum from each other. Your report would be in depth and your social media post would feature a key statistic or a headline.
Either you fit the research methodology to the stories you want to tell or your research drives what those stories will be.
Kira uses data to her advantage in simple messages like event invites. A simple statistic related to the audience segment that you’re engine is all that’s required.
Internal communication comes with its own challenges. Whatever the format, you have multiple layers of stakeholders within your organization who you need to involve and communicate with.
Data can inform KPIs. Following a solid research process, the output can be trusted as an input into the next steps for the business, including communicating how everyone gets there together.
Worthwhile success metrics
Raj believes that this is specific to each and every organization. What matters to some won’t matter for others.
He did, however, suggest that establishing a baseline and having something to benchmark against is critical.
This would be for both your customer perception metrics and your value metrics. While you’re figuring these out, don’t forget about the value of how your internal team perceives the business.
Whatever it is that you want to present, keep it simple, short, and easy to digest.
Prioritize your metrics: three to indicate overall business health; three for the health of each department or project. As you drill further down, stick to three metrics per layer.
This is how you remove the fluff and avoid the pitfalls of over analyzing.
One of the easiest ways to select metrics to work with is to ask your stakeholders (at every level) which metrics they believe define their success.
You might be surprised if some softer metrics appear, like influencers and how many people perceive integrated team success as their own.
For example, some of your customers will buy because someone else influences that decision – how far back into the buying journey can you really go? Is there a relation between any of your employees and your customers? How can internal conversations strengthen external relationships more over time?
- Focus on storytelling.
- Capitalize on research to deliver breakthroughs within your organization.
- More sophisticated audiences need new forms of more enriching engagement.
- Leverage third party research teams where possible.
- Be clear about your objectives.