Michelle Linn is the co-founder and head of strategy at Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping marketers publish and amplify original research. Before starting Mantis, Michelle was head of the editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company’s strategic editorial direction. Michele has written hundreds of articles. She is regularly cited as a content marketing influencer.
Original Research and Making an Impact
Michele’s passion is original research. She said, “I have been in the content marketing space for many years, and I’m always looking for those things that can really make an impact, that can make an impact right here in 2021, and I’m super excited about original research simply because I think no matter what industry you’re in, you can still do something really meaningful, that makes an impact, even though there is a lot of noise out there.”
Michele’s Journey to Original Research
Michele’s journey with content marketing has been long. “I started out in the product marketing space for about 10 years,” she explained. “I left to freelance back in 2008. . . . I used content marketing, even though it wasn’t called that at the time, to build my own business, and . . . that worked to be helpful.”
Michele joined forces with Joe Pulizzi at CMI (Content Marketing Institute). He asked Michele to help him launch the brand he was building. Michele was doing content and teaching others how to do content marketing.
When I asked Michele what the greatest home run of her career has been, she said it was working at CMI. “CMI was my favorite job,” Michele said. She loved being part of the team that was building something meaningful. She also loved hearing people’s feedback and being able to help them.
“There was a lot,” Michele said. “It was just a really special time in my life and a lot of gratification from the people who were just so grateful that CMI did what it did. I loved everything about that tremendously successful organization.”
Eventually, Michele left CMI. She said, “When I left CMI many years later in 2017, I knew I wanted to help content marketers, but I also knew I wanted to help them in a very specific way. So I thought about what is the best way to break through the noise and what is the best way to be mean right here, right now.”
“I really thought about a lot about original research because [they were] the projects that I enjoyed working on most when I was with CMI, and [it] was also those projects [where] we could make the most impact and had the best results [with]. . . . Clare McDermott and [I] launched Mantis Research so that we could do original research as well as educate marketers on how to do it better, so they could all get the benefits from this tactic.”
Michele’s Biggest Monetization Secret: Original Research
When I asked Michele what her biggest monetization strategy is, she immediately responded with original research. “When you do it well—and the caveat is [you must be] doing it well—I think that you are going to have a lot of meaningful data and insights that people want. . . . You can use it as a lead generator to get people into your sales funnel.”
“I’ve worked with clients who have published research,” Michele continued, “and because they’re that industry leader, we’ve actually [been able to] trace their research to clients [who] come to them. So I think it just works really, really well. It’s a great monetization opportunity.”
Social Media Examiner is an example of an organization that does it well. Their page uses original research as their leader, and they produce great content with it.
Providing Data and Saying Something New
Michele recently did a study with Survey Monkey and Orbit Media on thought leadership, specifically how marketers are using thought leadership and how marketers are defining thought leadership. They found that the essential things people are looking for in thought leadership are creating something that’s easy to understand, creating something that challenges the way people think, publishing data to validate their position, and saying something new.
Publishing data and saying something new are two things that build credibility and authority. Original research does exactly those two things. With original research we are conducting surveys and studies that haven’t been done before, then publishing that data and putting that new information out there. Original research is a powerful tool for us to use in becoming thought leaders in our industry.
The Most Linked to Content
“Authoritative research and reference content are the two types of content that consistently get links and shares.”
– Steve Rayson, BuzzSumo director, and cofounder
Original research is the kind of content that gets linked to most often. Michele said, “I’ll go to a brand, I’ll look them up on Buzzsumo, [and] I’ll search the top link to the content. So often that content is original research. It just works incredibly well because if you are the source of something new, people just naturally want to link to it.”
Original Research Helping Startups
One of Michele’s clients, Andrea Fryear (who I interviewed not too long ago), does an annual original research project called Our State of Agile Marketing. On the topic, Andrea said, “Our State of Agile Marketing has been a virtual goldmine for subscribers, backlinks, and real money in the bank of our clients. In our CRM, I’ll see someone who has downloaded the report, and within a couple of days—sometimes even a couple of hours—I’ll see that same someone requesting a call to talk about becoming a client. There’s a clear correlation between reading the report and being ready to make a purchase.”
This research was one of the first content pieces that they put together. Michele said she watched as “the really small, scrappy startup business [used] research to directly get clients to them. I’ve had other brands . . . use research for those same purposes. . . . You don’t have to be this big brand with a big budget to do research. These little . . . startups can use research to have a really great impact.”
Helping Kids Find Their Paths
Michele is also very passionate about helping kids try to find their own path. “I have two kids at home,” she explained. “I am really passionate about helping kids try to find their own path and be accountable in this world. I think that there’s a lot of opportunities for kids to be this vibrant part of society, and I’m trying to help kids help themselves.”
Kids can do great things. I had a boss who felt that our most important role as parents was to help our kids find their passion and then invest in helping them achieve that passion. By doing that, we help them find their place in society. We can help kids change the world through the things they’re good at and passionate about. As parents, that’s how we can make a contribution. Plus, as we get involved in supporting them, it helps us build stronger and more connected relationships.
Thank you so much Michele for sharing your stories and knowledge with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
1. Original research is a great way to step up our content marketing game.
2. We can make an impact with original research.
3. Original research allows us to provide data and say something new, two things people look for incredible thought leaders.
4. Original research is often the most linked-to content.
5. Original research is a great way for startups to get the attention of clients.
6. Helping kids find their path will help them make an impact in the future and help us have a stronger relationship with them.
Connect with Michele
If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Michele or connect with her, you can find her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelelinn/ or visit her website https://mantisresearch.com/.
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