Interested in creating your own industry study?
You should be – not only is it a great way to stir up some serious publicity, but it’s an effective tactic to solidify yourself as an expert in your industry and attract more clients.
Today, I’ll walk you through my specific seven-step process to creating and implementing your first industry study.
Pick a Topic
No surprise here: the first step to creating a study is deciding on a relevant topic.
And (no pressure), it’s arguably the most important part of the entire process.
First, you want to pick a topic around the products or services you have.
Why? Because ultimately, you want your industry study to get attention and to get people thinking about your business, but in a way that relates specifically to something you want to sell.
Remember, your goal here is to provide a study that will be relevant to your audience, but also illuminates a need that your business can fulfill.
We recently released an industry study at Ignite aimed at uncovering how marketing budgets would be allocated over the next three years.
It revealed that marketing dollars would be shifting heavily online, which, as a digital marketing company, means our services will be more in demand. See what we did there?
In addition, you want to select a keyword to target for the industry study. Keep in mind that an industry study is another piece of content to promote and gain traction for your business, and should be treated and optimized as such.
For example, if your goal is to rank higher for words like “auto loans” or “engagement rings,” you want to create an industry study around the term you want to rank higher for or sell more of.
That way, you can ensure you’re generating more backlinks, shares, and credibility around your most important product.
And finally, when choosing the best topic for your business, you want to take a look at the news.
If you can align your product or service and keyword with something buzzworthy, you’ll take your industry study to a whole new level.
Not only will more people be likely to search for that subject, but news outlets will have a field day with a study that touches on the latest news in the industry.
Think about this: if you can create an industry that hits on all three of the things above – a product or service, keyword, and something newsworthy – once a quarter, just imagine the impact that could have on your business.
Spoiler alert: it’s a big one.
Select a Demographic
Next step in creating an industry: narrowing down your demographic.
Just like any other piece of content you produce, you need to craft your study with a very specific target audience in mind.
Unlike other pieces of content, this demographic is the one you’ll actually be polling for your study, which means the demographic you decide on will have a major impact on your data.
Think about it: you wouldn’t want to ask a 50-year old male about the makeup brands he’ll be using themost, and you probably wouldn’t want to ask a teenager about which marketing channels they’ll be allocating their budget to over the next year.
Instead, you want to pick a demographic that will return the most accurate, relevant results on the topic at hand.
That will likely be comprised of the demographic you’re trying to position your product or service in front of, or the demographic that audience would be most interested in hearing from.
Start with the basics, and decide on factors like:
- Job title
To get the most accurate demographic possible, start by taking a look at your customer base. What qualities do most of your customers have in common? This will give you a good starting base.
You’ll also want to take a look at your products and services and determine your ideal customer. Who are you trying to attract? Ultimately, they’re the people you should be singling out as an ideal demographic for your study.
Create a List of Questions
Here comes the fun part – the questions.
I don’t think I need to tell you this, but the questions you choose will inform the entire shape of your industry study.
As far as numbers, you want to pick anywhere from 5 and 20 questions, depending on how in-depth your study is. Generally, 15 is a good number to go for.
Then it comes down to formatting the questions. Remember, the goal here is to expose or shed light on something new or unexpected in your industry, so formulate the questions with that goal in mind.
Specifically, think about things that might have shock value. You always want something that points towards the unexpected, so include questions (and answers) that have the potential to yield surprising results.
Next, think about your customer pain points.
Pain points are specific problems your target audience is facing. A good industry study could either highlight a pain point or expose an entirely new one.
You want to think in terms of the common issues around a product or service that you are selling. What kinds of questions will expose a lack of knowledge and return results like “98% of people don’t __ causes __.”
For example, as a digital marketing company, we might want to run a study into websites and how to improve user experience. To do so, we’d create questions that would lead to specific issues many users have.
A few questions, then, might look like this:
- What’s the most important feature on website, in your opinion?
- How do you feel about ads and pop ups?
The results could very well highlight that most users are put off by pop-ups, which in turn exposes a common issue, or pain point, that many marketers may not be aware of.
As an example from our last study, we found that the majority of small businesses were unable to track the ROI of their major marketing channels.
One last thing here: think about in terms of percentages. You want questions that will return a major percentage. People notice numbers like 99% – they care much less about numbers like 35%.
If your questions aren’t producing answers that add shock value or uncover something unexpected, you may have a boring industry study on your hands. And you can bet your readers and news publications alike won’t spend any time on a boring study.
Analyze the Data
So you’ve created the questions and the survey is in.
Now, it’s time to analyze the data.
As you get it back, it’s incredibly important that you look at and analyze it from a business perspective.
Often, that means having a senior, experienced person in your company look over the data and bring their industry expertise.
That said, there are a couple things you’ll want to keep in mind as you analyze.
First, look for outliers. What numbers or responses are different and deviate from the norm? These ones should jump out at you as you go through, and disrupt any overall patterns.
You’re also looking for shock value here. Again, this will be anything unexpected that the data reveals. If it’s largely accepted that Facebook is the number one social media for business and all of sudden your data reveals that Twitter is the new go-to, people are gonna want to know about it – and plan accordingly.
On top of that, you want to bring your own expertise to the data. What conclusions can you, specifically, draw from the answers?
Think about what the data means and the impact it could have on the industry, and formulate your own conclusions and hypothesis going forward.
Not only will this add some unique insight into the data, but it will help promote you as a thought leader and industry expert to your audience.
In addition, if you’re comfortable, you can bring in other industry experts (not direct competitors) to weigh in on the data and form any additional conclusions.
Create the Content
Let’s call this phase two.
Because after you’ve done the initial set up and collected and analyzed the data, it’s time to turn your attention to the physical piece of content you’ll be producing.
First and foremost, you need to create a blog post that highlights the most important findings in your study.
In that blog post should be images. These will likely be taken straight from your data, and should again highlight big percentages and major outliers.
Also, make sure to include share buttons. You want as many eyes on this study as possible – not to mention as many links and references as possible – so make it easy for your readers to share it.
And of course, your post needs to contain a big, well-positioned download button where readers can grab a PDF version of the full study.
When They Click the Button…
That button, and what happens after it’s clicked, deserves its own step in the process.
At this point, you’ve captured the attention of someone truly interested in your study. Because of that proven interest, they also become a pre-qualified lead.
So as they go to download to your study, you’ll want to collect some information from them in return.
Your landing page should do a few things. First, it should include a few bulleted highlights from the study – a teaser, if you will, to convince readers they’re making the right decision in downloading your study.
As with any page, make sure it follows the approved landing page rules:
- It’s concise and easy to read (no major text blocks and not too much information, just the essentials)
- Has a clean, on-brand design
- Funnels readers to the desired action (in this case, completing the download)
- Contains a clear call-to-action (CTA)
- Contains quality images
- Asks for the appropriate amount of information.
That last point is the one we want to focus on.
Remember, the people most interested in your study are ones you want to keep in contact with, so your page should be collecting contact information like their name, email address or phone number before they download.
What information you collect is up to you and will likely depend on your industry, but keep in mind: the less information you ask for, the more information you’ll actually get.
Asking for too much becomes a big barrier to entry for many users, so choose your form fields wisely, and only ask for what is essential going forward. I recommend sticking to just an email address initially.
When they do hit submit, that should trigger an automated email be sent to them with the download inside.
They should also be redirected to a thank you page where they can download the PDF directly.
After all, if they went through the work of submitting their information, they deserve some instant gratification for their efforts.
The final step in the industry study process is promotion.
At this point, you’ve put in the effort and done the work to create a truly compelling study. Now it’s time to make sure people take notice.
This isn’t your average promotion strategy. In fact, the promotion for something as major as an industry study should be ongoing, and generally take about six weeks.
So what does a good promotion strategy look like?
The first step is to embargo with a news site, which means you want to partner with a major news source who will publish the study first.
It’s a win/win: the news source gets the opportunity to publish the study first, and you gain the credibility (and viewers) that comes from being associated with that site.
Next up, you’ll want to create a media outreach list.
This will be list of 100 sites or more that you can reach out to and pitch your study to. Your outreach email should make the major highlights of the study clear and ask for an image or link placed on their site.
Additionally, you should ask for a small write-up to accompany the link, or offer to submit a blog post for them to publish.
With a good enough pitch in place, you’ll likely get picked up by 20%-30% of the sites you reach out to. That’s more than enough to make a major impact on the distribution and overall recognition of your study.
This may require a few follow-up emails, and I recommend tools like Pitch Box or Outreach Ninja to help streamline the process.
In addition, you should be installing pop-ups on your own site to promote the study to anyone who visits your website.
These pop-ups should lead users to the same landing page where they can download the study in exchange for their email.
To announce your new study to an even wider audience, you should absolutely release a series of press releases. This will automatically get your study picked up by 50-100 websites, so whatever you do, don’t skip this step.
Pro tip: don’t go the super-cheap route when it comes to your press release. You put enough effort into making this study, and you may as well put in equal effort making sure valuable sources are seeing it.
And finally, make sure you’re running ads to promote your study.
That means ads across the marketing board – YouTube, Google, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn – you name it, and you should be running ads on it.
The format and creative you choose will depend on the network, but in general, try to keep your ad simple (and if possible, try including a video rundown of some highlights!)
And of course, don’t forget about remarketing.
Remarketing is excellent for studies. Any past visitors to your site who later see an ad featuring a study produced by you will be that much more likely to look at you as an expert and thought leader in your industry.
Wrapping Up How to Create an Industry Study
And there you have it, a fool-proof seven-step process to creating an industry study your users can’t resist.
Remember, it begins with a relevant, interesting topic and well-conducted research into your demographic.
Then, it’s all about creating questions that will provoke unexpected answers and give your study an edge.
Next, you need experienced eyes to analyze the data and create a solid piece of content for your study.
And finally, you need a solid promotion strategy in place to reach as many people as possible.