10 Methods Of Highly Effective Research
Research is IMPORTANT stuff.
When it comes to writing ads, way too much attention is paid to writing and way too little is paid to finding facts about the products we are trying to sell.
Because if you do the research right ads practically write themselves.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Detective-grade research takes a lot of work.
For example the timeless headline for Rolls Royce by David Ogilvy “At 60mph the loudest noise in the new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock” came from 3 weeks of reading technical manuals about the car*. Yet discovering this single gem made it all worthwhile. It ran as the lead headline for many years and brought a measurable boost in sales of about 50%.
While there is no escaping the work needed to find the stats and stories to make your ads pop, there are a few secrets you can use to cut through the clutter and find the facts your audience will love.
Which is why I’ve put together this list to help anyone wanting to get smarter about any subject…
1. Take a workshop or seminar…
Thanks to the internet you can now find offline or online courses in practically every subject you can imagine.
Taking one with the right teacher can rapidly expand your knowledge from beginner to intermediate to advanced in a short space of time.
2. Finally a productive reason to use Youtube…
Youtube is awash in ways to upload into your brain the ideas of the greatest minds of history.
Videos are by far the easiest way to digest the over intoxication of information when doing research. Just be careful not to stumble onto ideas that are commonly known by your target audience.
3. Find powerful proof inside journals…
Being honest, research journals are some of the dullest places. Which is why the complex terms and methodology are screaming out for someone like you to make them accessible to the general population.
Hidden away in academic papers you can find the most extraordinary proofs needed for making airtight arguments. These are especially useful to use for specific claims or myths you are trying dispel.
4. Find books written by masters...
A good book can save you a decade of thinking.
Charlie Munger once said – “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time—none. Zero.”
When researching for campaigns reading far and wide is mandatory because the best ideas are often trapped inside books.
One ad legend who like Charlie – a walking library – is Claude Hopkins.
He created the pepsodent campaign responsible for popularising teeth cleaning back in the 1920’s. (Believe it or not, until then brushing teeth was not a common behaviour.)
Similar to Ogilvy his big idea came while reading stacks of dental textbooks.
Claude documented in his autobiography – “In the middle of one book I found a reference to the mucin plaques on teeth, which I afterward called ‘the film.” It was this “film” he used as the main part of the ad campaign that changed our morning rituals.
Which is why if you want to get close to creating a campaign with similar impact… read EVERYTHING you can.
5. Walk the floor at a conference…
The “learning curve” shortcut available from walking the floors at a conference is remarkable. The opportunity to make important connections is even greater.
If you’re short on time for a project and need to get juiciest research in the shortest period of time, start here.
6. Become a customer of your competitors…
Let all your competition send you their best material – for free.
The idea here is not to copy what they are using, but to work out what general themes are working well to then iterate and innovate on.
7. Discover questions your audience is asking with Quora…
Here’s an amazing method that can work wonders in finding the hottest questions on your prospects mind.
Go to Quora and search through the hot topics of your industry and you will quickly see questions that get brought up over and over again. You can use these not just to figure out what your audience cares about most but to see the terminology and language they are most comfortable interacting with.
8. Appeal using the weaknesses of your competitors by reading reviews…
Every product in the market has a least one plausible objection why prospects won’t buy. Luckily there are easy ways to find what these are – negative reviews on your competitor’s product pages.
Whether it’s pricing, quality of the product or customer service, if your brand doesn’t suffer from similar flaws then you should take this information and use it to attract those searching for alternatives.
9. Travel back in time by doing historical research…
Just about every area of study has “old masters,” whose work is hard to find or even out of print, whom most ignore due to the recency bias.
This is bad thinking.
If you keep going back far enough you will see how ideas repeat brought back as if they are new, and you can do the same.
10. Go outside the field…
You can find many magical and relevant insights by researching areas that are indirectly related to your product.
For example if you are selling travel bags, you may want to research and talk about the places your audience is likely to be visiting and then find ways to relate it back to the original product.
What these all have in common… Hard Work
If you do find the time to read and synthesise the strategies on this page, your research will become far greater and deeper than you can imagine.
Granted finding the time to do all of these can be hard. At first it may be hard to find high quality sources then you may struggle with digesting them all.
But when you do you’ll naturally notice your research doing the heavy lifting in your campaigns, not your writing.
*To which the Rolls Royce engineering department replied…. We really must do something about that damn clock.