Content for marketing – Why bother doing research?

There are two ways to go about creating content for marketing; one is quick and easy, the second requires a lot more effort.

Which one do you think people choose?

95% of content marketers take the fast track, frantically creating pieces of copy in an attempt to rig the search engines, which doesn’t seem like a bad idea does it?

Yet, the trend of writing content for marketing has taken a huge shift. Unique content trumps these days because Google has got wise to the SEO tricks and favour websites that really do provide an experience for their audience. Also, who wants to be told the same thing page after page and never quite finding what they searched for.

That’s why we created our guide to researching content for marketing, to help businesses, local or international, in creating great content that not only keeps their audiences engaged but also keeps the search engines happy. Most importantly, great content for marketing moves away from marketing tactics to a long-tail content approach that runs across multiple communication channels and exceeds ROI expectations.

Tools for researching content marketing

Below are fourteen ideas for developing marketing content, many of which have come from different disciplines but ultimately give you a clearer insight into your audience’s beliefs and values. Knowing how your audience thinks means you’ll be less likely to introduce personal bias into your content and move closer to striking marketing gold.

Ethnographic studies

This involves the study of people in their natural environment. It means analyzing people’s behaviour, which can often lead to deeper insight. For example, what people tell us vs. what they actually do can be two separate things entirely. Take the Facebook earth warrior for example. Online they’re are, but in reality, they might not even recycle their rubbish. This could even be unconscious. So if we approach our research through observation we can learn new and interesting facts. Often we would never have gained this insight from other research methods.


I like this, but it requires a little management. In essence, we’re providing a space for people to build up content around an area. It could host a web survey and a blog too. But the main focus would be to encourage those with a collaborative interest to be part of the input and editorial process.

Mobile dialogue

This is ideally suited If you’re managing a campaign and have access to a communal space. The idea is to create a number of themes on a board. Then provide post it notes and pens. It gives those who do not have the time to provide audience insight the opportunity to have a voice.

The diary room

Getting into the places where your audience are can make a huge difference in uptake. Let’s take mothers with young children for instance. It can be quite hard to reach out to this group. They are often very busy, and kids are generally unpredictable. So setting up an interview booth in somewhere like a shopping centre is a great idea. Frequency of visitors is often high, they are likely glad of a break, and if they are out and about, why not?

Expert interviews

What’s great about an expert is that they can quickly bring you up to speed with all the other information you might not have considered. This could include history, innovation and context. Often they are up for a chat with someone who shares a similar interest. Let’s say we wanted to research healthy food habits in primary schools. You could speak with parents, teachers, local authorities, NGOs, celebrities, even food manufacturers.

Conversation starters

In an area where you’d expect a high frequency of people passing by, you may want to create a conversation starter. That is developing a number of scenarios which you could ask in order to gauge reactions. If you have made contact with some from your target audience, be open to the answers. Keep asking questions. You could make this into a game, eventually it could lead to the generation of new ideas resulting in rapid prototyping.

All sides of the fence

If you want your solution to work for the most amount of people, then you’ll need all their views. Both the people on the fence, and those in the mainstream too. Mostly this technique is used in part as a process for selecting for interview or focus groups. However, getting the views of as many people with varied opinions helps to remove cognitive bias.


It’s a bit like ethnographic study, but instead you gain audience insight by becoming involved in the lives and communities. It’s about hearing the voices and understanding the lives of the people we’re working with. You could shadow them, or ask them to walk you through how they make decisions.

All sides of the fence

If you want your solution to work for the most amount of people, then you’ll need all their views. Both the people on the fence, and those in the mainstream too. Mostly this technique is used in part as a process for selecting for an interview or focus groups. However, getting the views of as many people with varied opinions helps to remove cognitive bias.

Abstract inspiration

You can gain a new perspective by changing up your focus to a new context. Once you have your behavioural or attitudinal objective, the next step is to write down scenarios which might parallel that situation. For example, if we wanted to increase collection of litter by young adults we could observe the collective behaviour of Pokemon Go activists.

The value tree

This one is a simple concept. But it’s a goodie. This is where you give your audience a deck of cards and asked them to put them in order of importance. You could make this one more abstract too. For instance, using a deck of cards to identify value in unrelated images. For instance, asking which type of animal habitat seems the best fit, or what kind of animal best represents the community need.


Instead of working under your own research biases, try working with people within your research audience. They may see things differently. Don’t forget to provide all the support they’ll need, and you’ll learn more than you imagined.


This is a classic ideation technique. The name SCAMPER is an acronym that uses nine different techniques to transform an idea into another. They are:

  • Substitute something
  • Combine it with something else
  • Adapt something to it
  • Modify it
  • Put it to some other use
  • Eliminate something
  • Reverse or rearrange it

Guided tour

In some instances, you may have the opportunity to create a guided tour experience. For instance, asking a person to show you through their workplace or home. It’s possible you’ll experience different dynamics than you’re used to, like gender and cultural. Take care not to cause offence. Many even ask beforehand if you’re not sure. It works best if there’s two if you, one to talk the other to take notes. Or maybe use a Dictaphone instead. Make observations about the space, the equipment, the walls, the outside perimeter, who uses the space and where it’s located.

Remember: ask lots of questions.

Drawing out ideas

Make an illustration, or ask your audience to do this. Use graphs, timelines or sketches to break down language barriers. Ask them to show you their daily routine for instance, or an aspect of their working processes

Play it out

For children, the most natural way of communicating is through play, so work to their abilities. Get interactive and use scenarios with play to understand their world.

Content Marketing Ideas

Summing it up

  • Ethnographic Studies
  • Wikis
  • Mobile dialogue
  • The diary room
  • Expert interviews
  • Conversation starters
  • All sides of the fence
  • Abstract inspiration
  • The value tree
  • Co-creation
  • Collage
  • Guided tour
  • Drawing out ideas

Play it out

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