By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

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This week our own Josh Baez, Marketing Engagement Manager at Heinz Marketing joined me in an episode called, “The Power and Pitfalls of Commercial Insights

We talk about (among other things):

  • The importance of research and commercial insights in the market today and some best practices and related pitfalls
  • What goes into creating good research (valid research that can stand up)
  • Statistical significance
  • Creation of content
  • Promotion of content
  • When you get it done, what do you do with it to get the most out of it and to have the best impact on your business
  • Context
  • Curiosity

Paul:  Welcome back. Time for another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. Grab your board, let’s swim out into that sea and see if we can follow Matt Heinz lead as he catches that sales pipeline.

Matt:  How we doing, Paul?

Paul:  I’m struggling with my system a little bit here today, so I’m going to keep the banter to a minimum.

Matt:  That’s my struggle every day, and my System, capital S, there’s lots of systems, Paul, in the world, always a struggle. Well, it is the beginning of calendar year Q3. For those of you that are on a July to June, happy fiscal new year. Happy Q3 to those of you on a calendar year.

My goodness, half of 2019 already in the books, and hope everyone who is starting the month, the quarter, or the year fresh is starting strong and has a good plan and ready to make adjustments as you go. Thanks very much for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. We are here every week live on the Funnel Media Radio Network at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. Thank you for those of us joining us in the middle of your work day. Also excited to have those of you that are listening from a podcast.

We are now over 100,000 listeners, Paul. We continue to grow, so it’s amazing, love love, all the love we’ve been getting from the sales and marketing community. So thank you so much for listening. And every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio is always available past, present, and future at salespipelineradio.com.

We are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in the sales and marketing world. Today is absolutely no different. I am really excited, Paul, I don’t know if you knew this, today it’s Heinz Marketing talking to Heinz Marketing. We haven’t done this in a while, we usually have external guests. But today, very excited to have with us Josh Baez. He is the Client Engagement Manager for Heinz Marketing.

Hey Josh, thank you very much for joining us.

Josh:  Really happy to be here. You say best and brightest, and then also there’s me.

Matt:  No, that’s not true. That wouldn’t be fair. Josh has been with us … How long have you been with us now, Josh? It’s been like-

Josh:  Coming up four in September.

Matt:  So Josh joined us and has been a rising star and one of the key members of our team for quite a while. One of the reasons I want to have Josh on today, you know, if you followed Heinz Marketing and check out our stuff, you notice we publish a lot of research. We do a lot of research on various topics in the sales and marketing world, and Josh and his team really have been driving a lot of that research and execution.

I thought it’d be a good opportunity to talk a little bit about the importance of research and commercial insights in the market today, what some best practices and pitfalls are related to that because I think we see more and more companies that are thinking, “Okay, if we’re going to challenge the status quo of our prospects, we really got to think about what that looks like.” Now you can find some good insights out in the market, but you might as well create some on your own as well.

Josh, you really have driven a lot of the research we’ve been producing over the last couple years, so obviously thank you very much for that. What are some things you’ve learned along the way about creating research and the importance of commercial insights?

Josh:  Hmm, yeah, well I think the cool thing about commercial insights and research is that really I think that anyone can do it. I don’t think that you necessarily need to have this team of analysts and data scientists and all of that just to essentially get research done. I think that all you need is a good hypothesis and the means to actually survey people.

I think that’s one of the really cool things about the research that we do, Matt. You know, we get to be able to work with all these different companies and learn industry trends, and see them firsthand, to see how people in the market are doing. I think you get that extra validation from people, either confirming a hypothesis or a messaging point, and from that, you can really build out an entire marketing program from one kind of research project.

Matt:  Well, I think back in the day when we were saying, “Okay, we’re creating a benchmark per quarter, we’re doing some research,” I mean, we took it very, very seriously. We would hire a formal research firm, and we would spend a ton of money, and there’d be focus groups involved. I mean, to your point, you could literally just create a survey in Survey Monkey, mail it out to a bunch of people on Mail Chimp, collate the data, and guess what, you got some research. So I think it’s just like a lot of content, you know, creating research has been a lot more accessible recently.

But I know with you, and with our research partners, we focus a lot on the integrity of the research. So even if we’re going to do it without having to spend all the costs of traditional research, we still need to make sure we’ve got valid data. What are some keys that you’ve found to make sure that you’ve got data with integrity, and you’ve got data that can stand up on its own?

Josh:  Yeah, well we worked with our guy, Don Gregory for a really long time now. I want to say longer than even I’ve been at the company. I think he has really taught me a lot about the different things that you need to consider when you conduct this kind of research.

The first, and probably most important thing, is just making sure that you have enough of a data size to have significant data. And I’m no data scientist, so I am probably butchering the keys that you need for data, but I think that to speak to what that means in terms of data significance, is you need to have enough of a sample size to be able to actually make calls and make conclusions about the data that you get back. Otherwise, if you’re surveying five people, and two of those people say one thing and three of them say another, that’s not really significant. You can’t really make a basis that an industry is moving a certain way based on a sample size of five people.

But if you have a sample size of, say, 200 or 300 people, you know you have a much better chance of having some kind of salience with the people that you’re trying to message, and having some kind of meaningful size behind what you’re actually talking about. So I think that having that significant data is really key for this.

Another, second point, is having a hypothesis, one that you might have a hunch about. You might not necessarily know fully about, but at least to help guide that storyline, and to help guide the kind of questions and answers that you want to uncover. We’ve done a ton of research, everything from buying committees to generational differences between millennials and the rest of the buying committee, how the c-suite engages the buying decisions, content trends, ABM, personalization, marketing automation. You name it, and we’ve probably done a research report about it.

And I think that the driving factor behind all of those research reports is that there was some kind of through line, you know, a very clear understanding of what we wanted this research to uncover. I think that when you can really explicitly state what you want that through line to be, you’ll be in a much better position to then write your questions and write your abstract, and the research report that comes out of it, it becomes much easier to write something like that.

Matt:  That is such an important point. Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Josh Baez, one of our own. He’s one of our Client Engagement Managers, and has been really spearheading a lot of the research you see coming out of our shop over the last year plus. We’re talking about sort of what goes into creating good research, valid research that can stand up. We’re talking about statistical significance. I love your point about the through line and having a sense up front about what you want to say.

The other pitfall that I often see people do is say, “Well, we’re just going to go ahead and write the survey ourselves. It couldn’t be that hard, right?” There really is a science to writing a questionnaire, especially to make sure you’re not leading the witness. So back to the concept of creating research with integrity, making sure that we’re creating questions that are objective in nature, there’s really a science to that. Talk about how important that is and what are some keys to getting that done?

Josh:  Yeah, I think that the question writing is probably the most, I mean, it’s obviously the most important part of doing any kind of research. The way that I’ve started to go about it, again, like Don Gregory is the guy who really kind of taught me how to write these kinds of questions, and I think that it’s really just a matter of putting on your objective glasses. And kind of like what you said, Matt, you’re not leading anyone toward a specific answer. So instead of asking someone, “Do you think content is good to have?” Then having them answer it that way, you would rather ask, “How important do you believe content is?”

It’s just those kind of tiny tweaks to the way that you write questions, where instead of putting in a thought that might interfere with someone’s original answer, you give them more of this objective, very cold, very unempathetic kind of approach to question writing.

Matt:  Well you know, we’ve been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that actually, it does not come from research, that comes from an advertising firm. There was an advertiser trying to create more demand for cereal, and went out and basically asked doctors, it says, “Do you believe people should eat breakfast?” And most of them said yes. Then they asked the question, “Do you believe that breakfast is important?” Well, yes, of course. So that’s where you say, “Four out of five doctors agree that breakfast is important.”

So I think you can ask the wrong questions and obviously get to a place where you’re sort of leading the witness. And I think, look, any good person looking at research should probably pay attention to where it comes from, how many people did it come from, what kind of questions were asked.

We’ve had the opportunity now to create research that is sort of benchmark year over year. This is where it gets really interesting as well, where you can ask the same questions year over year, and get a sense for how the market is shifting. Talk a little bit about the advantage of creating that sort of annual opportunity to create an annuity and a benchmark and a history of data to just sort of amplify the impact of those commercial insights.

Josh:  Oh yeah, I think that that’s probably one of the coolest things that you can do with research. How trends either increase, decrease, or stay the same year over year. We just did one with one company about marketing automations and how trends within that kind of ecosystem have changed, or actually stayed the same from last year.

I think it’s really cool to see as needs continue to grow for marketing, and as we as marketers continue to evolve our processes and as businesses start to experience more of this digital transformation in this age of new and improved technology, you get to see trends change much faster. I think that having that background of how things were a year ago to how they are today, you can really explicitly communicate to your readers just how important a trend like this would be.

You get to see things like rate of change and how important it is for companies to be ahead of that curve, otherwise they risk falling behind. One thing that I thought was really interesting was we were looking at how people view content, and content marketing, and that content experience, and we saw that when surveying people between the importance of having content versus the actual effectiveness of their content, the gaps are just crazy wide. We saw that technology, specifically the technology industry, has the widest gap of all of the industries that we surveyed.

So I think that being able to see how these trends are changing, not just in technology, but in everything, you get to see how things change and how fast you really need to act in order to stay ahead of the curve and ahead of the competition.

Matt:  Well, there is certainly a difference between sort of a single statistic, which can be valuable, and a trend, right? And when you can establish a trend line from a commercial insight standpoint, you can communicate that a market is changing. You know, one of the best sales decks I’ve ever seen, instead of starting with the pitch, instead of starting with the demo, brought up an insight, showed a change to the market, and showed that the market was shifting over time.

And it really pointed out that based on this shift, people that were in a steady state, people that were in a status quo moment, there were going to be winners and losers based on how you reacted to that change in the market, right? And this is a big part of where that commercial insight can really become valuable.

You mentioned through lines before, and knowing what you want to get across. Talk about objectives. I mean, I think a lot of people, when you think about research, they think, you know, they have a perspective in terms of sort of how they think they’re going to use it. But talk a little bit about the process of identifying an objective of identifying that through line up front, because I mean, you mentioned how important writing the questionnaire is, and I totally agree with, but knowing why you’re doing something and what message you want to say, like almost writing the headline of press release in advance, critically important. Talk a little bit about that process.

Josh:  Yeah, I mean, whenever I go into a survey project, and you know this, we typically have at least the idea of what we want to talk about, whether that be content or videos or marketing automation, things like that. I think that my first step is to always meet with the client and really understand, “What is it that you are really trying to uncover here? Are you trying to see importance of something? Are you trying to see the effectiveness or the gaps? Or are you trying to shift the industry to start thinking about a product differently than how they’re thinking today?”

In addition to that, you need to understand who your actual audience is. “Do you want this research report to be for consultants? Do you want it to be for managers? Do you want it to be for directors or for the c-suite?” Because whoever you decide to promote this research to, you need to make sure that the questions are questions that would be relevant to that kind of audience. Otherwise, you know, you talk about revenue savings, and you can talk about overall effectiveness of something in terms of your pipeline, but if your report is meant for someone in operations, they’re not going to care about that, right? They’re going to care about things like ease of use, and things like, “What kinds of trends should I be looking for?” And new technology on the horizon.

So it’s really a matter of aligning what it it, what your purpose is, like what do you ultimately want to communicate, and aligning that with who you’re target audience is, and really kind of combining the two to find some kind of alignment between objectives and target audience. Then from there, you can start to build out, “Well, how do we actually want to get this done?”

I mean, it’s a pretty similar approach to how we kind of approach everything. You know, objectives always come first.

Matt:  Absolutely. We’re talking today, on Sales Pipeline Radio with Josh Baez. He is a Client Engagement Manager right here at Heinz Marketing. We got to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be right back. We’ve been talking about the creation of content, now we’re going to talk about the promotion of content. When you get it done, what do you do with it to get the most out of it and to have the best impact on your business?

*Break*

Paul:  All right, back with Matt and his guest.

Matt:  Matt and his guest. Thank you, Paul. Hey, we didn’t really talk about the weather. You got any beach drizzle down there now that it’s summer, is it finally gone?

Paul:  No, it was horrible this morning. It was all fogged in, and I wanted to just turn around and stick my head under the blanket.

Matt:  Walk back in my flip flops, I know it, but yeah, terrible. The beach drizzle will be back, I’m sure, don’t worry about it.

Paul:  It’s nice now, though. It finally burned off. We just have to wait a few hours. You kind of have to pull the cover over your head and just regroup and wait for a couple hours.

Matt:  Our guest today is probably just fine with beach drizzle. Christmas is his favorite time of the year, I think when the weather gets a little darker, a little colder, when it’s sort of inside weather to huddle up and enjoy the holidays. Josh, am I talking your jam now?

Josh:  I was about to say, you’re speaking my language, Matt.

Matt:  See what I’m saying? Well, I mean, as we record this, it’s the beginning of July, looking outside, it’s overcast, it’s going to rain. This is not the kind of summer weather that most of us signed up for here, even in Seattle.

But we’ve got a few more minutes here before we got to wrap up with Josh Baez. He’s Client Engagement Manager here at Heinz Marketing. We’ve been talking about best practices for creating and executing research to create some commercial insights to drive your business. And I mean, when you think about objectives up front of what story you want to tell, I think it’s also important to think about how you’re going to communicate that.

And a lot of times, research is created by a marketing communication team, and it might be published in a press release or maybe a blog post, but a lot of the work we’ve done has really been fronted not by marketing communications, but by the sales and marketing teams that are driving pipeline.

So creating something that people can register for, creating insights that a sales team can actively use up front in outbound communication becomes a critical part of this. Talk a little bit about how you sort of create a strategy and a plan, how research gets launched, but then also how you create a long tail of usage and impact for it as well.

Josh:  Oh man, I think research is really cool because it has such a long tail. I mean, you can use research for months and months after you conduct it, and that’s such a cool thing with this kind of content. Then from that research, you basically have your own content strategy. The way that I typically like to write our research reports is kind of similarly to how we go about the stages of the funnel.

I like to start out by uncovering the need of the research. You know, you bring up the topic, and then you kind of try and introduce different kind of problem areas, and then as you go through the research reporting, as you read through it, you start to get more and more details about more of the deeper level things. Like once you uncover the need, you start to get into more of those details that are far more specific to the topic.

I think that doing it that way, you basically have your own content plan laid out. You can use research to do everything from inform your messaging, to inform the different kinds of sales outreach that you use. You can use it in presentation decks, in white papers, in blog posts, in tip sheets and infographics. There is quite honestly an endless resource of content that you can create using these kinds of research reports.

Matt:  Oh, and there’s a lot of channels, I think usages that people just don’t think about. I think when you’ve got kind of fresh research, when you’ve got new insights into the market, that is liquid gold for conferences that are looking for smart people to get up on stage. So when you can say, “Hey, we’re just launching this new report. It’s new insights that the market is going to need,” it’s a great way for you to get your executives in stage.

I know that we’ve also seen a lot of companies translate this directly into sales label materials that is not just sort of PDF summaries of their research, but like literal, tactical talking points, email templates for sales teams to build some early pipeline interest among prospects. Talk a little bit about that process and what that looks like.

Josh:  Yeah, I think that what you need to do is just make sure that you’re, kind of like what I said before, you need to ground whatever you’re saying to the right audience. If you’re doing a research report that’s all for the c-suite, that’s quite honestly one of the best things that you can do and you can give to your sales team, especially as they start talking to people who are higher up in the organization, you can start talking to them about things like revenue, and about things like performance, and opportunities, and all of that.

So the way that we’ve typically done this is after we’ve written the research report we’ll go through and find the most relevant key findings or statistics that we can, and then put them in the context of, “Who would this be good of? What do we want to communicate here? What kinds of offers could we kind of supplement this statistic with? Is there an offer that we have on hand that we could use as a way of kind of giving gravitas to the statistic? Or is there something that we could also just create for either sales or marketing that could help give more weight to the statistic, and give more detail about it?”

Matt:  A couple more minutes here, wrapping up with Josh Baez. He is a Client Engagement Manager here at Heinz Marketing. We’ve been talking about research, and I want to pivot just a little bit, Josh. I mean, it’s been really exciting to watch your growth here in the organization, and just curious, as you sort of really continued to grow in your skills and career, as you kind of even look a little bit back at some people that maybe just graduating and getting out of school. We regularly have interns here at Heinz Marketing. What’s some advice you’d give to people early in their career that they should be focused on, they should be seeking to really sort of not just set themselves up for future growth, but also to just enjoy what they’re doing?

Josh:  That’s a good question. I think I would put it into two categories, context being the first one, and then curiosity being the second one. Context, insofar as you’re starting your career, and even for those who are in their careers now, I think that we assume that everyone in the room knows exactly what we’re talking about and it’s always on the same page. But I think that what we’ve kind of learned, and what a lot of people probably know, is that’s rarely the case. So having that kind of context that can help support and give everyone who is in the room, put them all on the same playing field, it’s a really important skill to be able to have for people. It helps make sure that everyone is on the same page, and it helps shape and frame the conversation in a way that lets you kind of dictate what people think about how they think about it.

The second part being around curiosity. And I think that that’s really centered around, you know, no one in their career should ever be at a point where they stop learning. I think that education and continuing with that kind of education is really important, especially after you’ve kind of landed even your dream job. There’s always something more to learn, and I think that everyone you talk to will always have something new to teach you, no matter who they are or no matter where they come from.

You never know everything, and that’s something that’s really cool about doing these kinds of research projects, is that you get to have both the context foundation of the research, as well as the curiosity to actually fuel the research to kind of elevate you in your career, and to make you just a better all around business professional and just person because of it.

Matt:  This has been fun, Josh! You did great!

Josh:  Much better than the first time, I think.

Matt:  You know what? We have on our blog now, thousands of blog posts, and I write less frequently now because a lot of the team writes most of the blog posts now so we can get diversity of voices, but you know the first couple of thousand, at least, it was only my voice. And if you look at the stuff that I wrote when I first started blogging 12, 13 years ago, I cringe. I cringe at the approach, I cringe at the writing. So hopefully, we are all getting better every time.

But I want to thank you, Josh, for joining us today. Should have done this a long time ago. We had a last minute cancellation, you were good enough to join us here today. But I think this topic was phenomenal. There’s a lot more we could talk about, but just thank you so much for all you’ve done for us with this research. Thanks for joining us today. We will have a replay of this episode up on salespipelineradio.com. We will have a summary of this conversation up at heinzmarketing.com here in a little bit. If you are thinking about doing some research, know people that would, please share these insights. Josh is the master, and some really, really good tips here today.

We are out of time. We will be here next week again at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern for another episode. But for today, and on behalf of my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us for another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

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Sales Pipeline Radio is sponsored and produced by Heinz Marketing on the Funnel Radio Channel.  I interview the best and brightest minds in sales and Marketing.  If you would like to be a guest on Sales Pipeline Radio send an email to Sheena.