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How To Tell Data-Driven Stories: Crafting Compelling Narratives from Original Research

How To Tell Data-Driven Stories: Crafting Compelling Narratives from Original Research written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Michele Lin. Michele is the founder of Mantis Research, where she helps marketers conduct and publish compelling original research. With her expertise in leveraging data to drive impactful narratives, Michelle shares valuable insights on how to […]

How To Tell Data-Driven Stories: Crafting Compelling Narratives from Original Research written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Michele Lin. Michele is the founder of Mantis Research, where she helps marketers conduct and publish compelling original research. With her expertise in leveraging data to drive impactful narratives, Michelle shares valuable insights on how to craft compelling stories from original research.

Key Takeaways

Learn all about the the transformative power of original research in content marketing, with an emphasis on its role in establishing credibility and trust. I and Michele highlight the process of crafting data-driven stories, from defining research objectives to repurposing findings across various channels for maximum impact. By leveraging original research, marketers can optimize search engine visibility, attract backlinks, and position themselves as authoritative voices in their industries, driving deeper engagement and meaningful impact through their content.

 

Questions I ask Michele Linn:

[01:49] What is original research?

[03:11] How do you transform survey and data into a compelling story?

[04:35] Do you believe that sharing data builds thought leadership?

[06:00] Tell us about using data to validate a story

[07:28] How do you probe for data-manipulators?

[09:16] How do you draw conclusions from graphs, charts and data altogether?

[13:15] Is there a benchmark number of responses that can make a given data valid?

[15:06] Do interacting industries bring new thought to data collection?

[16:47] What are some of the great social media platforms for sharing data?

[20:04] What are your thoughts on search engines and how they view data?

[21:12] Is there some place you’d invite people to connect with you and find out more about the work you’re doing?

 

 

More About Michele Linn:

 

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn

 

This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Porkbun

Go to ng24 to get a .BIO domain name for your link in bio page for less than $3 at Porkbun today.

 

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(01:02): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Michelle Lin. She’s the founder of Mantis Research where she helps marketers conduct and publish compelling original research. Prior to Mantis, Michelle was the head of editorial at the Content Marketing Institute where she led the company’s editorial strategy. She’d often been cited as a content marketing influencer and was named as one of Folio’s Top Women in media. So Michelle, welcome to the show.

Michele (01:35): Thanks so much for having me, John.

John (01:37): So you mentioned it in your bio, but also part of my interest was you had written about this idea of using original research in content production. So this may sound silly, but let’s start with what is original research?

Michele (01:52): That is not a silly question at all. I feel like there’s a lot of people here research, and it means a lot of different things to people. So when I talk about original research, I’m talking about that type of research that you take and you publish out for thought leadership, content marketing and so forth. So it’s very different. I have some people contact me and they want to learn more about their audience and so forth. That’s very valuable. But if it’s not published, it doesn’t really fit in the context of our conversation here.

John (02:22): So maybe give me an example of some that you’ve worked with that would be pretty concrete, that type of business, and here’s the research they did and then we can get into how they used it.

Michele (02:31): Yeah, absolutely. So there’s a lot of different original research that you can do. You can do anecdotal, you can do first party interviews, you can do first party data analysis. The kind that I do specifically is survey-based research. So for instance, like you mentioned, I used to work for CMI for many years, content Marketing Institute, and one of the things that we did there every single year is we conducted a survey of marketers to understand if and how they were using content marketing. So we took everything that we learned, we asked questions that we were asked and we’re wondering about. We took all of those insights and then we published those out to help other marketers do their jobs better with content marketing.

John (03:11): So surveys and data are lovely. How do you turn them into a compelling story, particularly one that maybe age your cause of getting more customers?

Michele (03:21): So I think it’s a really interesting question. I think a lot of people, I think some people want to do research as a way to prove the value of what they are selling. I’m personally not a fan of that so much. I look at as more I look at original research as a way to show your customers that you know them that will hopefully generate like and trust with you. So I always tell people think about what are those unanswered questions in the industry that you can answer with data? Or I tell people, what are those things that you see and how can you help people do their jobs better? How can we ask questions to uncover those or how can we uncover what their pain points are so you can help them? So I look at it as a way to be relentlessly helpful to your audience. And when you do that, it’s not always a direct correlation to sales. Although I have had many people tell me that they do get direct correlations to revenue and sales and so forth, but for many, it’s just a great way to do thought leadership.

John (04:18): Many years ago, PR was about getting media mentions, and we used to do some of this kind of original research just because a lot of people would be writing a story about something and they wanted research to validate their story. And so it was a really good way to get quoted. Do you find that sharing this kind of research is a way to also build your thought leadership, your mentions out there in the world?

Michele (04:46): Yeah, I mean, I have this graphic that I often share. I talk about the value of original research. So yeah, it helps people get mentioned. It helps people get interviews for podcasts. It helps people. They base speaking presentations off of their research. It helps with leads, it helps with sales, it helps sales have better conversations. They have something new and interesting to reach out about so it doesn’t feel so salesy. And I think it even helps marketers just find joy. So many marketers get excited to do something new and meaningful and different, and I love just seeing people get energized about the work that they do. And then too, we’re talking about today when you do a study, well, you can take it and you can repurpose it. So every single client that I work with, one of their goals is always we want to create this editorial engine based on this Swiss one research study. So it works on so many different levels.

John (05:37): One more question related to that and then we can maybe start breaking down. How are the ways that you would repurpose this, but what about creating industry benchmarks as a way as somewhat of a lead generator? I see a lot of people do that to say you’re spending X on ads, for example, but in the industry, this is what’s going on and here’s why you’re spending too much or not spending enough or talk a little bit about using data to validate a story.

Michele (06:07): Yeah, I mean, absolutely. I think there’s a lot of value, like you said, in using data to validate what people believe or using data. Like you said, if you could find that benchmark, which you can get via survey data or you can get via first party data analysis depending on what you’re trying to do. If you’re trying to analyze the behavior, sometimes first party data analysis is better. But anyway, if you find that benchmark and you can validate what someone believes to be true or they want to validate where they actually need to be, and then you can give them other data to help them get there, I think that’s a really powerful thing to do. I once worked with this client and we had this whole model and we knew there was four stages. I can’t remember what they were, but from beginner to advanced, and we wouldn’t call them those four things, but you could see the beginners do this, the next stage, they do this and so on. So no matter where you were, there was very concrete data-driven evidence. If you’re here do X, Y, Z things to get better. So I think that validation and those ideas of what to do, those insights are really helpful.

John (07:10): Well, and in some cases, just even telling somebody, Hey, your peers do this and you’re not doing it, is also a way to get somebody’s attention perhaps as well. So if you’re listening and you are a true data scientist, cover your ears right now for what I’m going to say. There’s a lot of people that can make data say anything they want it to say to support and validate any case they’re trying to make. How do you sometimes look for like, let’s probe for this because that’ll give us the greatest opportunity to make something to tell a great story, or they’re kind of proven things that you should be looking for to what you might even do research on.

Michele (07:49): Yes, absolutely. And to your point, John, I think people are smart and I think if your research neatly points or neatly proves, Hey, by the way, this proves that you actually need to buy X, Y, Z product or work with us, people see right through that. And I don’t think that research is very credible, which goes back to really trying to be relentlessly helpful. So what I always tell clients to do is to think about things like, for instance, what are some things that you think people in your industry aren’t doing but should be? What are those missed opportunities? How can we poke at that or how can we find disconnects? So for instance, I once did a survey with marketing profs and we asked a question to understand what would you like your B marketing? Which elements does your B2B marketing training have and what would you like it to have? We found these huge gaps in disconnects. People wanted examples and frameworks and so forth. So it’s not a big fan of surveying for pain or to survey to, you need to do this, but really figure out, like I said, gaps, disconnects, missed opportunities and so forth. And then coincidentally, those are also great jumping off places to then share your thoughts and really use that for repurposing and so forth. So does that

John (09:02): Help? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Definitely the gaps. I think you might develop products and surfaces based out of that kind research, let alone this kind of editorial approach. But let’s turn to the editorial part. A bunch of graphs and charts are lovely, but how do you make then say, what’s our angle? What’s our story?

Michele (09:24): So I start that thinking process at the beginning during the planning and the strategy phase. And as we’re thinking, I always think about what topic can we talk about? What topic can we really dig into that says something new that’s relevant to our audience and that aligns with our brand. And so once you have that topic nailed down, it then comes to, okay, well what are those headlines you want? What are those I call ’em big picture questions that you want to answer? What are those big broad stories you want to tell? We always figured that out at the starting place, like figuring out how can you be most helpful and then taking those questions and then answering them with the survey data so that by the time you get to the data analysis, you’re then answering those questions and your themes and your stories are much more likely to rise to the surface because you’ve done the thinking work from the beginning.

John (10:17): So I mean, are you suggesting we have a hypothesis story almost and then hopefully the data validates that? Or are we going to just go with the story that the data tells us?

Michele (10:29): I think you can certainly can have an hypothesis. Sometimes the data shows it to be correct, sometimes it doesn’t. But I think if you thinking to yourself again, what are those questions that my audience has or what are those things that I want my audience to think differently about? How can we structure questions to poke at those particular things and answer those questions? So it’s almost figuring out what big broad questions you want answered knowing that the data’s going to be what the data’s going to be. Oftentimes it’s not that surprising, but sometimes we hear things that aren’t expected what we expected. So a hypothesis is great, but I wouldn’t lean too heavily on that. I would lean more onto what would be relentlessly helpful to answer for our audience,

John (11:15): Your website, your domain, I mean, that’s real estate that you want to own. If you’re an influencer, online creator, blogger, or really anyone who cares about their personal brand, then you need a unique domain. And now you can get your name, do bio, right, John Jantz, do bio, right, create a bio page to house all your various interests. It’s short, simple, easy to remember. Put all your links in one place instead of a laundry list of locations you want to send people in a profile, you can reserve your own link for around three bucks right now at pork bun.com/duct tape marketing 24, that’s right around $3 right now. Pork bun.com/duct tape marketing 24. Do you have an example of how you’ve taken maybe numbers and charts and really created or Yeah, an example would be helpful, but if nothing else, just your approach too. The most impact comes if you can make the data tell a really great story and use even storytelling techniques. So do you have an approach to getting there or even a great example where you’ve used data to really enhance some storytelling?

Michele (12:35): Yeah, absolutely. So in that example I mentioned with marketing profs, they were studying how B2B marketing teams were approaching training. And so one of the things that we did is we dug, we decided we want to understand what is the culture of training in the organization. We had a four C model. I’m trying to remember all of the Cs. What is the personal commitment to actually training? What is the composition of training look like? Does it include the examples and so forth? So it’s really nice sometimes just to base your story around some kind of model or some kind of framework. I think it makes it really easy to tell that story at the end if you kind of ask questions around that particular model.

John (13:15): One more sort of technical question. Is 10 responses valid enough? Do we need 200? I mean is mean obviously people that do this kind of true research for a living would say you need X and there’s a margin of error and all that kind of good stuff. But I mean, a lot of ways we’re almost just looking for themes and things, right? So talk a little bit about the validity part, I guess.

Michele (13:39): Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s something people ask all the time. I’m also a very big proponent of not doing survey-based research if it’s not going to work for your case. And one of those reasons, like you said, if you thought you could only reach 10 people, don’t do survey-based research instead, interview those 10 people, get into more nuance, pull out those themes that way. That’s very valid and useful. I tell people in general, if you’re doing a niche B2B audience survey, at least 125 people at the bare minimum, anytime you can survey more than that is even better. Because one of the great values of doing research is that you can start to compare segments. What are those who are more effective doing differently, or what do different industries do and so forth. And obviously if you have a smaller sample size, you’re not able to slice and dice the data. And because those segments all become so very small, so long answer is more is always better. At least 1 25 for B two, B two 50 is even better. And then for consumer based studies, I mean typically I would say 1000 people is a good benchmark.

John (14:45): So one of the types of surveys I guess I’ve had the most fun with is when you have both sides of a market. So the sellers of something and the buyers of something and to find out how off they are. So a great one might be home buyers and real estate agents, how their opinions about what the market wants or what they want are so vastly different. I think there’s a lot of opportunities, and I think there’s a lot of industries that have that kind of approach they could bring in, don’t they?

Michele (15:12): Without question. So I’ve done a lot of those studies and I actually am fielding a couple of studies right now that we’re looking at two different audiences and we can find stories within that audience. But our bigger story is going to be to show the gap and the differences between those two audiences that work together. There’s slightly more complicated because you need to survey two audiences, but they are so interesting and the stories you can tell I feel are exponentially more interesting, exponentially more. So that’s a great way to do it, John. Yeah,

John (15:40): So we recently did surveyed fractional CMOs and buyers of fractional CMO services, and one of the things that just immediately jumped out was we asked them what was the most important in, we asked the fractional CMO, what did you think was the most important aspect of why they were hiring you? And then we asked the business owner, and the business owner was very interested in, they have deep experience in our industry. And the fractional CMO was like, no, that’s almost bottom of the list. Like a vast, it’s this multiple industries that we work with, and really we can dive into what it means necessarily. But I think it showed a real disconnect between the two as far as what they thought was valuable. And those kinds of things to me are also great in messaging for just even our sales materials and things because it’s like that’s an objection almost that we have to bat down in our initial messaging.

Michele (16:39): Yes, that’s a great example. And they’re great conversation starters on social media. Why do you think this is?

John (16:46): Yeah, so let’s talk about channels and format and how do we get the most out of this stuff editorially, I know you come up with a whole plan for week one, week two, week three kind of thing. So talk a little bit about the basic plan and the channels.

Michele (17:02): So what I like to do, and I’m just going to back up for one quick second because one thing I think is helpful. I think so many people here reuse research and they don’t even know what that means. So if you don’t mind, I’m just going to talk about that really quickly, then I think that that flows into really well into how to use those things. But when I talk about repurposing research, I look at it, I have a model called the five R is of repurposing research, but the first R is all around reuse. So just taking that chart and putting it on social media or in your blog post, it’s very easy, but there’s nothing that you really change. The next one is repackaged. So taking that and taking your key findings and turning those into a webinar or something like that where you really make it fit the actual channel.

(17:41): The third thing, and these last I think are far more interesting, the third way to repurpose research is to reflect on it in public, just like we just talked about. Have a conversation, share your thoughts, get other ideas and perspectives. It makes the data really meaningful. It’s my favorite way to use research. I think it brings joy to people, but you could also take your research and you could use to reveal solutions. So what are those missed opportunities and then pain points and how would you solve them? And then the last way is to reimagine it. So what is all of those different segments that you can compare? How can you look at data that you haven’t already published and then take that to the market to give people a different insight? So I think it’s just helpful to help people think it’s not just taking charts and placing them in different things. It’s really taking that one study and trying to think what are all of the stories that I can tell from it holistically, and how can I tell them in a way that’s going to be really meaningful to my audience?

John (18:38): And obviously every channel’s got a different format that the data seems to work better in, or the story seems to work better in, right. LinkedIn and YouTube are completely different in how you would package the content, right?

Michele (18:50): Absolutely. Like you said, YouTube and LinkedIn are very different. And I have this, I’ve worked through this, but you can use LinkedIn in 10 different ways to actually share your research. So there’s a lot of different ways, no matter what channel you’re on, you can think about using your research in a lot of different ways.

John (19:08): One we haven’t really touched on because I think when you talk about repurposing content, people immediately jump to a blog post or LinkedIn posts, but what about presenting it live? You talk about speaking and webinars and maybe even doing pure round tables. Could you see those as channels for doing this as well?

Michele (19:27): I 1000% see those as channels for this. I think especially webinars. And the other thing I think about too is what is the goal with your research? If your goal is to get leads, do stuff like webinars. I talk to so many clients and their webinar is their best lead generating thing that they’re actually doing. But if your goal is brand awareness, speak at those events or be on other people’s podcasts. So really try to think of what are your goals and what are the channels to help you get there? And that’s how I would prioritize all of the opportunity that you have in front of you.

John (20:01): Okay. One last question on the content itself and using it, do you have an opinion on how search engines view this type of data and research and backing as opposed to theory and opinion?

Michele (20:15): So I will say I feel like I had a better sense of it a couple years ago, and my searches has changed so significantly, so I’m not going to say I have the end all be all answer. That said, that’s a really great question. You’re posing that said, I know so many people who are doing research and you look in tools like consumer or tools that track links, their research is their best source of getting back links because if you’re answering those unanswered questions, then people link to you as the source. So I don’t know if that’s changed recently, but I know historically research has been wonderful if you’re trying to get back links, build your domain authority and so forth.

John (20:53): Yeah, I mean, I have hundreds of speakers that go out there and they make presentations and they always have somebody’s research or somebody’s statistic to validate their point, and they probably just went and did a search and grabbed it. So I’m certain that a lot of, well, I know for a fact backlinks are coming that way. Well, Michelle, I appreciate

Michele (21:09): A hundred percent. It works well.

John (21:10): Taking a moment to stop by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, is there someplace you’d invite people to connect with you and find out more about the work you’re doing?

Michele (21:17): Yeah, I would recommend connecting me with me on LinkedIn at Michelle Lynn. I’m also in the process of updating my website, so it’s a little, but you’re welcome to visit my website too, mantis research.com.

John (21:28): Awesome. Again, I appreciate you taking a moment. I think, well, I see you in Boston in the fall at B2B or at Marketing profs.

Michele (21:35): I don’t have plans yet, but I’m still kind of getting my whole schedule together. Okay.

John (21:39): I think you’ve spoken there before, have you not?

Michele (21:42): I have. Yeah. It’s a great event for anyone who’s thinking about going go without hesitation. That’s fantastic.

John (21:47): It is. It’s a lot of fun. Alright, take care. And hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

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