Let’s talk research.
This is one of those things that people always balk at when they see it’s something you plan on doing. It’s seen as an unnecessary step to some, others just feel like it’s something they don’t need to pay for.
As much as it might seem like just something content marketers and copywriters do to fluff up their invoices, it’s probably the most important part of the writing process next to gathering up all the words and organizing them into coherent sentences.
It’s how we get to know you
One of the best things about doing research is just how much you can learn about a client, their industry and their customers. If I’m going to be accurately representing you and your company with my words, they need to sound like they’re coming directly from you and addressing your customer’s concerns. To do this, research is necessary.
Even if I’m a leading industry expert on something, I’m still going to do research. I can and will talk your ear off about fly fishing–we’re talking all day and well into the night, if you let me–but I never sit down to write about fly fishing without doing some research.
Why, you ask. Well, it’s simple. I might know way more about fly fishing that is healthy and I probably could write something without doing any research, but if I don’t do any research, it’s not going to do what you want it to do.
Firstly, I need to know all about your specific niche. Do you specialize in dry flies for Atlantic Salmon? Streamers for pike? Stillwater fishing? Rivers? Extreme adventure fishing? Even within the relatively small world of fly fishing, there’s so many variables and details that that need to be taken into account that spending a bit of time re-familiarizing myself with the specifics is necessary.
Secondly, I need to know all about your customers. Are you targeting the gear head? The DIY-type? Those people who always hire guides? The folks who just wander off into the bush with a vague idea where they’re going to appear? Not only that, but figuring out the language your customers use is going to play a huge role in the words I use while putting something together.
My friend Jessica Merhing does a great job is summing up the benefits of taking this kind of approach. Using the language your customers use can really improve the success of your content.
As great as it would be to just sit down and start writing perfectly tailored content, I can’t do that without doing some research.
Idea generation at its finest
“Where do you get all your ideas?”
Have you heard that before? It’s something that creative writers get asked all the time. I’m going to let you in on a little secret from the decade I spent writing novels: I get all my ideas from doing research.
I kid you not. As a university student I used to spend a lot of time at the library, reading old books of folklore, fairy tales and books about whatever seemed interesting at the time.
I did this partially because I really enjoyed it, but also because when it came time to sit down and start writing a book, the time I spent reading strange old tales helped fuel my imagination and create new ideas.
It’s no different with non-fiction.
When I sit down to start researching a topic, I start by looking at what other people are doing first. Going through all the current literature on a topic, reading through studies that other businesses have put together and even talking with other writers about the topic are all excellent ways to help come up with the kinds of topics that your audience is going to want to read.
Not only does research help generate ideas, but it helps you figure out which topics to stay away from. If you want to wow your audience and really stand out in the field, you’re not going to do that with something that everybody else has written about. You need something original and the only way to find that original topic is research.
It builds authority
Here’s the thing about authority, you’re not going to convince anyone that you’re the go-to source on a topic unless you’ve done your research. It’s just not going to happen.
Sure, you can put words down that sound authoritative. You can write about topics that are 110% original. You can be the very first search result on Google for your niche. But, if you don’t have the research to back up what you’re saying, your efforts are going to fall just shy of your goal.
I went to journalism school and, while there, we learned time and time again that without quotes and facts, most stories aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
Blog posts, ebooks and whitepapers are no different.
In fact, I’d be willing to bet $1,000,000 that you’re scanning back through this post right now to look for quotes and facts backed up with links.
Well? Noticing the links now?
That kind of research can really make a difference between a blog post or ebook being great and just being okay. The more time that’s spent on things research and interviews, the better your content is going to be. Even if it’s just a handful of links scattered through the copy, when you show your readers that you’ve taken the time to verify your ideas with a reputable source, your readers are more likely to spend their time with you.
The devil is in the details
This one kind of ties into point #2, but the deeper you go with a topic, the more likely you are to start finding pieces of information that are really interesting.
This is one of those things that I’ve found to be true no matter what kind of writing I’m doing, fiction, non-fiction, blogging. You name it. The more time you spend going down the rabbit hole, the greater your chances of stumbling across something that hasn’t been covered in a very long time.
These little pieces of information can be transformational when writing. It could be something as simple as a perspective that not a lot of people take, a tip that has been lost to time or even something as simple as talking to someone who just does things differently. Whatever it is, more often than not, these interesting little details can change a piece of writing from mediocre into stellar.
YouTube is great for this. Dig deep enough and you can find old footage of your two favourite guitar players from that time in the early 90s when they were touring together. And neither of them solo!!
Let their be research!
For me, research is just one of those things that I do. It’s built in to the writing process for me and, a lot of the time, I don’t even notice I’m doing it.
I mean, sure. If you want to cut out the research there are ways to do that. But it’s not going to happen with me writing your content.
I’m not here to do a half-assed job writing your content. I’m here to nail it. The only way to make sure that happens is with research.
If you’re ready to embrace the results that well-researched content brings, let’s chat.