Data grabs your audience’s attention faster than opinions and it adds credibility to your story.

Everyone loves data. You see it on billboards, hear it on the radio, and read it anywhere there is content to consume. There is a reason for the data-everywhere reality: data gives content its credibility.

SurveyMonkey was so confident that people preferred consuming content with data that it conducted a survey (go figure) to prove it. Using its SurveyMonkey Audience, SurveyMonkey polled more than 1,000 adults in the U.S. about how data changes their perceptions of what they read. The results show that 82% of respondents said they prefer content based on data rather than an article based on a writer’s opinion.

This bit of data from SurveyMonkey means marketers must up their original research game to help audiences better understand the markets that impact their businesses and the customers they support. And there are several reasons why original research will improve your message, your marketing, and even your business bottom line.

Why Data Works

At the recent Content Marketing World 2019 conference in Cleveland, research became the primary focus of a panel discussion moderated by Morgan Molnar, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at SurveyMonkey. The panelists considered the reasons why data makes content significantly more compelling to audiences and how to incorporate original research into a bigger content strategy.

To start, solid numbers give a premise or opinion a bit more legitimacy. Attaching a percentage to the number of people who prefer a data-based blog with a link back to the source (like we did with the SurveyMonkey poll above) lets readers know that it is not just my opinion, it is a theory supported by statistics. And marketers are always looking for a statistic to support their thoughts on subjects such as successful ways to reach an audience or how to best develop quality leads.

“If you can find the missing data in your industry, you are filling in a blank for that industry and ultimately furthering the industry with your research”said panelist Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Orbit Media Solution. “If you make a case without supporting it with data, sadly it will just be a case of unsupported marketing claims.”

Most likely customers are also curious about marketing or business data, and if you can create the research that answers these questions, you can also potentially win the trust of existing and potential customers.

“In the content marketing space, it is often hard to find something new and meaningful to talk about,” said panelist Michele Linn, Co-Founder and Head of Strategy at Mantis Research. “If you do research well, you can say something new and meaningful and start a conversation with an audience and customers. Often research is the best way to do that.”

Creating Data-Rich Content

Creating original content challenges many companies, so the idea of creating original research to ultimately feed a content engine might also seem like a daunting task. But keep in mind depending on your industry, you might not necessarily need your research to answer critical questions such as healthcare or legal issues.

For instance, said panelist Colette Des Georges, Senior Content Strategist at SurveyMonkey, one bit of research-based content she recalled focused on whether respondents would rather eat a spider or sit through a three-hour work meeting. SurveyMonkey offers several examples of more irreverent topics to base research, but other marketers could certainly help solve some real issues for customers by crafting the right research questions.

“There is always something interesting in the research when you can bring numbers into it, even if it is not a big breakthrough, it can show what people are thinking,” panelist Des Georges said.

Panelists shared many insights around how to create research with a survey that could help amplify existing opinions or content assets. And no, companies don’t necessarily need to have years of academic study and scientific research skills behind their survey efforts.

To start, tailor the questions to your potential audience. For instance, research data can be better qualified if potential participants are asked about their years of experience in a specific industry at the outset of the survey. Research owners could choose to have less experienced respondents exit the survey process and only collect answers from those respondents with, for instance, five or more years of experience in that industry.

Content assets can be targeted at different vertical industries or different personas in an organization.Structure your survey to ask about the vertical industry the respondents work in, the type of business they work for (B2B or B2C company), or the region of the country or world in which they live. The options are many, and that means the content assets created from the research will also be many.

“You can take the research and keep slicing it in different ways and publishing it to new audiences,” said panelist Andy Crestodina.

Go Big or Go Home

Some research results don’t warrant much of a reaction. But there are ways to maximize the impact of data by structuring the surveys with multiple choice questions.

One method to get bigger data bites (for instance, 40% vs 4% of respondents agree) is by offering multiple choice questions with varying degrees of agreement or disagreement. You have seen this before (14%=very satisfied, 20%=satisfied, 32%=somewhat satisfied) and often content assets featuring the research will state that two-thirds (or 66%) of respondents are to some degree satisfied with the product or service. Two-thirds is a “big, meaty stat” that any company would like to share if it supported their position on a topic.

“By combining answer options, you can get the big meaty stats around your proof points,” said SurveyMonkey’s Molnar.

Another method to gather bigger stats around results is to ask polarizing questions—go for the extremes. Ask questions that might strike a chord with the known audience. For instance, perhaps a survey will ask a pool of marketing respondents how effective marketing is to the business or ask a sales audience how important a marketing organization is to sales. Perhaps, you will get a response that speaks volumes to these professionals and their relationships.

It’s important to consider your market, industry, and business when crafting a research project to drive content. The questions could reflect what you know about your business and it could uncover challenges that are new to you. But if you are asking the questions in the research, you are taking a bit of control of the story you get to tell to your audience and customers. The data could reveal challenges, but more likely it will pose opportunities for you to build better, trusted relationships with customers.

“If you want to get your brand out there and do it in a way that is within your control, original research is the way to do that,” said SurveyMonkey’s Des Georges.