Everyone is doing surveys these days. I get at least two or three invitations every day to participate in surveys, often with enticements ranging from a chance to win an iPad to a pledge to donate money to a charity in exchange for responding to the survey. The purpose of surveys is ostensibly to understand what respondents like me think about a particular topic. At the same time, digital marketers often ask, “Why surveys when marketing automation can track everything?” The underlying assumption is that surveys are about understanding what buyers are looking for and serving it to them. So having content and collateral on the website and tracking the online footprint and behavior of a prospect provides adequate guidance to what they are interested in, and that’s all we need to know about targeting them with sales collateral.

While surveys can and do provide information on the needs and preferences of potential buyers, the broader purpose of surveys is to establish thought leadership. Thought leadership content is the most effective form of engagement with potential buyers today. They generate awareness and interest in a company and its offerings by differentiating their products and solutions.

Here are four examples of how surveys help build great thought leadership content.

Bring audience pain points to life: Thought leadership content is about earning the reader’s trust and confidence. It is important to address your target audience’s pain points in the industry, offer new thoughts or approaches to address these and indirectly draw attention to products and solutions that are well-aligned and relevant to them. For example, this CEO survey by consulting firm PwC captures current and future pain points and challenges of CEOs of pharma companies globally. The survey highlights the key trends and aspects contributing to each. The results of the survey provide CEOs with insights on industry-level issues and challenges that, by association, PwC can help overcome with consulting and other services.

Surveys deliver new insights: One of the key objectives of thought leadership content is to help the audience become better informed about a subject, which triggers them to remember the company and reach out to them when they are ready to engage. Surveys can be effective tools for sharing new knowledge and insights as a part of ongoing thought leadership marketing efforts. By providing new insights with credible data points, businesses can demonstrate a deep understanding of a topic and build a relationship with their audience based on credibility.

For example, Deloitte’s global healthcare outlook for 2017 report better informs the audience – the B2B healthcare technology industry – about the topics, trends and issues impacting the global healthcare sector. Besides providing valuable information about the subject, it also reinforces Deloitte’s position as a thought leader in healthcare with a deep understanding of global healthcare markets.

In Damo Consulting’s annual survey of the healthcare IT demand environment for 2017, respondents highlighted that the key buyer for technology solutions remains the CIO, notwithstanding the emergence of other buying centers within the healthcare enterprise. Sometimes, surveys provide confirmations on existing market conditions. Our survey indicated that demand generation and deal conversion were their biggest pain points.

Surveys are highly amenable to repurposing in multiple formats: The goal of any thought leadership program is to educate and inform the audience with information and insights that help them to be more effective in their roles. At the same time, it is also important for marketers to continually generate high-quality content to gain mindshare and increase engagement.

In B2B technology buying cycles, buyers are engaging with content till well into the evaluation phase of a technology purchase. It is not uncommon for target audiences to have hundreds of touch points with content before an in-person interaction takes place. However, this creates challenges in generating large volumes of content while maintaining content quality. Damo Consulting’s survey of content marketing trends in 2017 identified scalability as one of the biggest challenges of thought leadership content.

Repurposing content helps build content volume and maximize reach. Surveys are particularly well suited for this objective. Each trend identified by the responses can be spun into a separate thought leadership content piece that informs and engages audiences over an extended period. By using interesting data or story bits from survey results, businesses can also optimize content development effort. Here is how the Deloitte report mentioned above was repurposed into an infographic, a webinar, and a blog post. In another instance, Deloitte built another study on top of a previous survey – 2016 Global Healthcare Outlook – to examine how local and regional health systems are taking on various health care challenges.

Fig.1: Survey results can be repurposed into multiple formats to engage target audiences across multiple stages of a buyer’s journey

Surveys can be the driver for launching new programs: One objective of thought leadership content is to develop and sell an idea that helps differentiate a company or its solutions from its competitors. In one example, Novo Nordisk, a leading pharmaceutical company that sells drugs for diabetes, leveraged a survey to develop a brand new offering that has become highly successful.

Novo Nordisk knew diabetes was a problem in bigger cities. Just how big it was, was not clear. To understand this, the company launched a survey in 2015 to study diabetes in some of the major cities across the globe. The first-of-its-kind survey revealed that the vulnerabilities to diabetes in cities around the world were far more than earlier thought. Novo Nordisk used the survey results to drive home the idea that diabetes is a much more acute problem in bigger cities and that dedicated steps should be taken to address this problem.

Based on this insight, Novo Nordisk dedicated $20 million, and in 2016, started a unique partnership program for cities around the world, called the Cities Changing Diabetes. The website contains everything from the latest research study to stories about cities fighting diabetes, actions cities are taking to help its citizens fight diabetes, events, news and more.

Fig.2: Novo Nordisk’s thought leadership initiative to address diabetes in cities

While the above exercise helped Novo Nordisk establish itself as a thought leader in the diabetes market, it also helped the company record strong growth in diabetes care in both developed and developing markets.

Thus, surveys enable companies to drive thought leadership content effectively by quantifying reality and establishing credibility. It enables audiences to look up to you for information when it comes to purchasing decisions across products and solutions that make your portfolio.

When did you last do a survey to help create thought leadership content? We would love to hear about your experience. Write to me at arpita@damoconsulting.net

Visit us at https://www.damoconsulting.net/thought-leadership-marketing-tlm/ for more about DamoDigital™ thought leadership content solutions.