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Mary Ellen Bates
Bates Information Services, Inc.
8494 Boulder Hills Dr.
Niwot, Colorado 80503 USA
Tel: 303.772.7095
[email protected]
Skype: Mary.Ellen.Bates
by Mary Ellen Bates
Bates Information Services
Creating Content For Marketing
On a recent coaching conference call, one of my clients asked me for advice on drumming up business. As I often say, you will get virtually all your business from word of mouth, and the first mouth has to be yours. One of the best ways to get that viral marketing going is to produce something that is of value to your prospective clients, that highlights your analytical skills, and that is easy for them to forward to others.

Say your clients are marketing directors in the consumer goods area. Think about something those people would really like to know that you can provide for them through in-depth interviews. What do other marketing directors think about the future of social media, for example. What is the most innovative use of social media that they have seen? How do they measure the effectiveness of social media? Use these as examples to get you thinking about what questions your clients would like answered.

Once you have decided on the strategic aspect of an area of concern to your clients, prepare a three-question interview that you will conduct on the phone with, say, 10 or 15 marketing directors. Make sure the questions are open-ended and that they allow space for an unexpected answer. If your research were on social media, your questions might be along the lines of:
* How do you gauge the effectiveness of your social media campaigns?
* What do you wish you could do in social media but can't?
* What do you see as the biggest opportunity for social media in your market?

Identify the prospects you want to call and write each of them a hard-copy letter, on letterhead, introducing yourself as a business researcher and saying that you are conducting a benchmarking study. Ask for 10 minutes of the person's time for a telephone interview, with completely anonymous responses, and offer a copy of the report at the end of the study. The point of this study is to get insights, not just quantifiable data. Your end product will have insights you can't anticipate, so you want to have interview questions that encourage interactivity.

Here is the Just Do It part: sitting down, identifying 15 people you want to contact, writing the letter (send it to me if you'd like quick feedback), and following up with phone calls to set up a 10-minute interview. When you conduct your interviews, don't worry about transcribing every word. Write down the key insights you've gleaned. If your interviewee has a success story that you would like to highlight, ask permission to include attribution for that specific example.

When you are finished with the interviews, sit back and look at what you have learned. What themes do you see? Is there anything that everyone was concerned about? Were there any striking successes or failures (er, opportunities for growth)? Write up the results in a way that is visually appealing and that compellingly conveys the highlights of your study. That may be a slide deck, or a white paper, or even a well-designed web page with the results. Have a simple URL for the report ( for example). Remember that this is intended to highlight your value; it may be worth your while to pay a marketing pro to help you design the report.

Print off color copies of your report and send them to each your interviewees, along with a note thanking them for their insightful observations on the industry, blah blah blah. An electronic version of this report is available at Feel free to download and share this with your colleagues. And by the way, would you like to subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter? Here's the latest issue; just email me at [email protected] to subscribe.

Now, you start spreading the word about your report. Write up a one- or two-paragraph description of the key findings of your study; no need for detail - just enough to pique readers' curiosity. Have a prominent link to the report from your main web page. Post a version of the teaser, along with the URL, on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, your blog, lists you participate in, and anywhere else you have a virtual presence.

Do you want a live version of Mary Ellen? I host free monthly conference calls; during these calls, we talk about everything from assigning a price to your value to memorable marketing "stories" and building your speaking skills. These phone calls, which are recorded, are available exclusively to my business coaching clients and to subscribers of Marginalia, my new subscription web resource. Email me if you'd like to sit in on one of our coaching calls. To see an example of what's in Marginalia, go to

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