Much like going to the dentist, doing research is that one thing nobody wants to do but knows that they can’t avoid forever. Doing research may not be as fun as cranking out an amazing first draft for an online article, brainstorming ideas for a new content marketing campaign, or even playing around with words and numbers until you have that perfect headline, but that doesn’t mean you can simply skip the research step in the content creation process.
In fact, it’s very likely that smart research will save your content marketing career, that is, if it hasn’t already.
Not only is research a necessary part of the content creation process, but it can also be more enjoyable than you might imagine. On top of that, if you manage to do research the right way, it may help you to supercharge every other step in the creation process, allowing you to end up with a better content asset, faster.
You Don’t Know what You Don’t Know
Even though just about everybody knows that research is a necessary part of the process, there is always that occasional lazy marketer that likes to cut corners, claiming they can write about just about anything without having to do any research.
The problem with that idea? You don’t know what you don’t know.
Take any topic at random. Let’s say, septic tank pumping. You probably know exactly what a septic tank is, and you may even have one at your own house. Everyone knows the basics of why septic tank pumping is important, and we’ve all seen the trucks driving around town, cursing ourselves when we get stuck behind them in traffic. But does that make you qualified to write knowledgeable articles about this very specific business?
It’s easy to assume that just because we know the basics of the topic, we know everything we need to know. But the problem is, there could be a whole host of information hidden below the surface of a topic that you wouldn’t even know until you start doing research.
Starting to write a topic without doing any research on that topic is kind of like looking at an iceberg above the water and just assuming that there isn’t any ice beneath the surface. If you subscribe to the “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” philosophy, just ask the Titanic about icebergs.
Getting Into Your Audience’s Head
Research performs another important task. When you first approach a topic, it can be easy to think about that topic from your own point of view, or perhaps from the point of view of the employer or client that gave you your current content assignment.
However, as we all know, the very best content, the most effective sales copy, is written with the perspective of the potential customer in mind. You have to learn to think like your ideal audience, worry about the same things they worry about, ask the same questions they have on their minds, and to see value in the same things they value. Without that important step, your content is almost sure to miss its mark every time.
When you settle into researching your topic or idea, you can start to gain a new perspective on that same topic. That empathy you start to feel will not only help you to write a better article faster, but it can also help you to truly enjoy what you are doing, since you personally feel how your work can be beneficial to others.
Finding a Willing Expert
So much of the writing process is a lonely job. With the possible exception of brainstorming, which can be done in team sessions, often researching an article, or video or in photographic or podcast, is something you may feel you have to do alone. It may involve hours of reading, watching videos, and skimming through long technical articles.
But research doesn’t always have to be solitary in nature. Finding a subject matter expert who is willing to allow his or her brain to be picked in the name of research will not only make the research stage more exciting, but it can also save you valuable time.
In just about any field, you are sure to find local experts that would love to sit down with a coffee and explain to you what they do every day in their jobs. After all, this world is probably full of doctors and lawyers, engineers and factory workers that have long been silenced by their spouses and family members because everyone around them is tired of hearing about what they do at work. Finding an interested listening ear might just put a smile on their face.
Farming for Ideas
Often times, you are assigned a topic, concept, or idea, a starting point from which you must craft an amazing article or some other kind of content. That assignment may have been handed down from higher ups within your company, and you may have little choice in the matter. In such a case, with a topic or headline already set in stone, your research must follow from that point.
In other cases, the assignment may be broad enough for you to use research to help you find better ideas. As you slog through your investigations, reading articles or conducting interviews, certain things will stand out to you as exceptionally interesting. Why not take a note of anything that catches your eye? Those could very well serve as topics for future content assets.
Using research to farm for ideas can be very effective because you are finding special gems that pique your interest, which means you will naturally have a higher motivation in every further step of the content creation process.
Investigate away Writer’s Block
Yes, research is that step of the creation process that many marketers wish they could simply skip, and some, unfortunately for them, do skip it at times.
However, research is not only a necessary part of your job, but it is also a step that, when done right, can help grease the tracks for the entire process. If you come away for your research excited about your topic, your mind reeling from all the interesting ideas you farmed from your interviews and reading, outlining, writing, and editing your next article will be a breeze.
If you’ve done your research right, you’ll be so excited about creating that next content asset that writer’s block will start to feel more like a mythical beast, something other people believe in, but something you’ve never personally been bothered by.