Check any newspaper or other news site and you certainly won’t be able to miss the typical “results of a study” article. You know them well, as they trumpet that a study just released showed that Watching SpongeBob Makes Kids Stupid, or Promoting Employees At Random Increases Productivity (two actual studies, by the way…) These items spread throughout the news media like wildfire, attracting a cumulative total of thousands or even millions of comments throughout the cybersphere and reach levels of virality that can often exceed the latest celebrity gossip peccadillo. As an online marketer you’re well aware of the incalculable power of creating content that triggers viral passalong, so why not leverage your own study as the ultimate viral content? It turns out that you don’t need your own research institute or hefty corporate grants to produce it, just some savvy and a little elbow grease.
The Statistics Sweet Spot Is Just 30 People
First of all note that we’re not discussing doing medical research, clinical studies or anything that requires squadrons of Ph.Ds and millions of dollars of lab equipment. The studies that can be tackled by any small business are generally of the survey kind, where a thesis is advanced through the polling of individuals in a particular sector. You don’t need to reach the sampling levels found in major political polling where many thousands of people are called to determine the latest electoral leanings. Many valid (and widely publicized) surveys are based on as few as 30 people! Statisticians have proven that a survey of just 30 people usually jibes with the results of a much larger sampling within a few percentage points (which is generally the margin of error anyway). So if you can contact 30 people, you’re on the way to producing your own study!
The Result Should Be Shocking or Eye-Opening
The topic of the study has to be set up in such a way that it just screams for media attention. A survey that determines how many people prefer strawberry jam to raspberry is not really going to set the media world on fire, so think long and hard about what topic is applicable to your brand, can be performed within the limits of your time and budget, and presents a shocking or otherwise eye-opening result.
60% of All Companies Do Not Return Sales Calls
Let’s assume that you’re marketing sales training seminars and you want to make a big media splash on few if any dollars. Proving the point that companies need your sales training because they’re dropping the ball on their existing sales efforts will surely get those media juices flowing. The study can easily be based on calling companies at random and whenever you reach a voicemail (which will be very often) leave a message that you’re interested in their product with your name and phone number. A result of 50 makes the math easier, so as soon as you’ve reached that number of voicemails the outreach part of your study is complete. Now you give them a week to see who calls you back. You will inevitably find that out of 50 voicemails you’re going to be lucky to be receiving 20 return calls, so your study can conclude: 60% Of All Companies Do Not Return Sales Calls.
You can hand a few dollars or a case of beer to a statistics graduate student for a bit of help in properly wording the study or you can just read a few off the internet to get ideas on the right format. Now that you have your study completed it’s time to put on your PR hat and get that study into the hands of the top journalists and bloggers in your industry. If you’re doing it right and if you’ve managed to obfuscate the fact that you’re doing this study for self-promotion purposes rather than for “advancing human knowledge” you’ll hit a home run right out of the park. Get ready to be interviewed by CNN and get flown out to NY or LA to appear on major talk shows. Congratulations, you’re the latest media darling!
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