Professional services firms traffic in ideas, and increasingly, those ideas must be backed up by hard data. Whether it’s a survey of customers or executives, an analysis of public filings, or economic information, data-driven content can help build credibility, raise awareness and convert sales.
But only when it’s done right. When done wrong, data-driven initiatives can be a huge budget item that targets and the media ignore or delete.
Each year we help our clients design, analyze and promote numerous high-quality surveys and studies. But as the market becomes flooded with good and bad data, we’ve found several keys to help professional and financial services firms’ data initiatives float to the top.
Start at the End
Fast forward through the weeks and months of planning and execution. When your study is completed and in market, what data points would help you meet your strategic goals?
- Are you looking to create urgency for a service?
- Raise awareness of a key issue?
- Provide perspective to your targets that they may be overlooking or unaware of?
- Uncover information that will surprise and interest reporters?
Once you’ve established the purpose, consider your hypotheses. What do you think executives or economic results will say? Knowing your goals will help you design a survey or data analysis methodology and create questions that will help you prove them out.
Say Something Different
Do you want data that shows that organizations view cybersecurity as a key challenge or are you considering a report on broad M&A trends based on public data? Get in line. Your data-driven content must be different from your competitors and key data providers in your space. You’re not going to beat a Reuters or McKinsey if they produce similar data points. How do you find your niche? Start with an audit of available, reoccurring initiatives on related topics. Assess the audience, methodology and questions. Can you speak to a more specific pool of targets? Can you look at more historical data or different industry or demographic segments to draw comparisons? Can you get your respondents to make bolder predictions?
Get Buy-In From Your Audiences
If you want to survey CIOs or get coverage in the Wall Street Journal, you need to speak their language. In the case of CIOs, before the survey questionnaire is finalized, ask a few contacts what data would be most helpful to them. Have them review question options to ensure they are comprehensive. Confirm any blind spots. On the media side, reporters are absolutely bombarded with surveys and reports. Some reporters have direction not to cover surveys without specific respondent or company examples, and others are hawks for a sound methodology. Pick a few established relationships or one you want to build and preview the survey approach, asking if there are any questions they’d like to ask your respondent pool or any trends they’d like to see in the data you’re analyzing. Consider offering an exclusive to those data points. When you get your end-audience involved at the beginning, they’re more likely to find value in the end-product.
The Report is Still Not the End
I’ve produced two real babies and dozens of data report babies, and that due date delivery is thrilling. But just like parenting, the real work begins when those data babies hit the market. Maximize your investment and your marketing opportunity with an integrated plan that starts with a splash and continues to drip through the next several months and up to a year. A few suggestions: Consider how to package and promote data for your prospects in a way that provides value and engages them to ask questions or learn more. Use it as the foundation for webinars or live panels. Ensure you’ve got a sound social media promotion plan and explore targeting and paid promotion. Look for ways to incorporate the data into breaking news stories throughout the year.
Time to start planning next year’s report? Before you start, develop an ROI report with key wins, metrics, anecdotal feedback and recommendations for what could work better in version 2.0.
Strategic planning and smart choices in the planning phase make a data initiative swim vs. sink.
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