POST SUMMARY: There are a vast number of free reports available to download on the Internet on everything from consumer behavior to digital marketing. Before you apply this information to your business ask if it’s really relevant and take note of the author’s experience and marketing background.
Every day I probably download at least 3-4 free reports on marketing. Some are very good, but as I’m reading these reports I always ask “what’s relevant to my industry?” and look at the author’s credentials. Too many reports are written by journalists who have little experience working in a brand environment. Before you allocate hard earned dollars to Forrester or eMarketer, you need to really ask ‘is this information really going to be useful or is it useful just because it came from Forrester or eMarketer?”
Most free reports are generated to capture leads which is why you need to fill out a lead form to request a download. When you do, you probably will receive a phone call trying to set up an appointment with one of their salespeople. Of course the report findings are meant to direct you to their services as a way to increase your business just like HubSpot usually does with too much frequency.
Does this mean you should ignore these free papers? No, not at all. Read them all but remember a good marketer understands what is really important to her/his business and what provides real value and may require more testing.
Then there are the people who write these papers. Have they ever spent time really working in a corporate branded environment? Have they ever worked in marketing? What success did they have? These are questions that you should ask yourself as you read these reports. When a client recently asked me if they should renew their Forrester subscription my response was “did the information really help you provide value to the brand & customers?. I told him to take that money and use it to conduct market research of HIS audiences and listen more to consumers via social media. After three weeks they had over 12 pages of marketing insights that were actionable to provide a better brand experience.
Bottom Line: Read free research papers, but THINK about the information before you decide that it’s going to help you achieve brand objectives.