Quantitative Research: Establish Thought Leadership With Hard Data

Victoria Rudi
May 18, 2022
⌚ 11 min read

→ Your growth practice

Establish your thought leadership and become a go-to knowledge resource by conducting quantitative research and publishing hard data-based content, such as:

  • Reports
  • Survey results
  • Niche trends
  • Experiments and quantifiable results
  • Industry benchmarks
  • Actionable insights
  • Facts
  • And more

→ Quick explanation

When creating content, most SaaS companies rely on outdated data and statistics. Just look at articles such as “Statistics to consider in 2022.” In most cases, you’ll discover SaaS companies republishing outdated numbers and stats. This approach is not only worthless, as your audience can’t derive value from old data, but it can also erode the trust someone has in your brand. After all, you can’t be a thought leader on remote employee onboarding when you rely on data from 2015?

Thought leadership is based on the ever-expanding expertise companies gain from observing their industry, researching different patterns, gathering raw data, analyzing the information, and publishing actionable insights people can’t find anywhere else.

If your content lacks accurate data, up-to-date numbers, industry trends, benchmark insights, and thorough analysis, you can’t break through the online noise and win the thought leadership game. The solution is to conduct and publish quantitative research, becoming the go-to knowledge resource for your SaaS niche or industry.

→ Definitions

📓 Thought leadership: Introducing new ideas and getting people to think differently about specific, industry-related topics. In some cases, thought leaders may dismantle myths or change how we do things.

📓 Quantitative research: Study based on collecting, reviewing, and analyzing in-house, third-party, open-source, or generated data.

📓 Research methodology: An outline or structure that defines the techniques used to identify, collect, and analyze data on a specific topic.

📓 Single source of truth: A go-to knowledge resource based on consistently generating accurate data and irrefutable facts/insights.

→ Quick facts

✅ According to Christine Brozek, Vice President and Principal Consultant at Forrester:

“Your content will make more of an impact on your audience if it is backed by trusted data and expertise.”

✅ As Mantis Research highlights:

  • 94% of respondents agree that original research elevates a brand’s authority.
  • 64% of people agree that thought leaders should challenge how someone thinks.

✅ The 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study reveals:

  • 71% of respondents keep up-to-date with the latest thinking in their field or business sector.
  • 55% of buyers say if a piece of thought leadership does not pique their interest within the first minute, they will move on. As the study notes: “Attention spans are short. If you don’t pull buyers in quickly, they’re gone.”
  • Only 15% of respondents rate thought leadership as very good or excellent. And 30% of people rate thought leadership as mediocre, poor, or very poor.
  • 60% of buyers say that thought leadership builds credibility when entering a new category where the brand is not already known.
  • 47% of buyers say that thought leadership led them to discover and ultimately purchase from a company that was not considered among the leaders in a particular category.
  • 87% of buyers say that thought leadership content can be both intellectually rigorous and fun to consume at the same time.
  • 41% of respondents are looking for academic-style content that is thoroughly researched and designed for an expert audience.

According to Gartner:

  • 37% of technology buyers cited receiving thought leadership content from a solution provider as the most preferred approach to learning about new technology solutions from a vendor.
  • Also, as the Gartner analysts highlight: “If you outsource your thought leadership marketing, it’s not your thought leadership. The intellectual property aspect of thought leadership marketing must remain internal to the organization.*”

→ Types of quantitative research

  • Descriptive research: It describes or explains a current situation. For example, you can find research papers such as The State of Remote Work in 2022 or The State of Virtual Events in 2022, explaining a specific reality depending on variables such as industry, segment, geography, and more.
  • Correlational research seeks to identify a certain connection between two or more variables using statistical data. Think about research papers such as How Will Remote Work Impact Your Revenue?
  • Causal-comparative research attempts to establish a cause-effect connection among the variables. In this case, think about research papers such as How COVID Has Changed the Way Americans Work or How COVID Has Changed the Events Industry.
  • Experimental research: It usually derives from in-house experiments a SaaS company will conduct. For example, Buffer talks about its findings after running the four-day workweek experiment.

→ Types of data

  • In-house/owned data: Depending on your industry, product, and type of clients, you may gain access to valuable insights via your platform. For example, Onfido, the document I.D. and facial biometrics verification software, publishes annual Identity Fraud Reports. As the 2022 report highlights, “Onfido verifies millions of identities every year for our clients. We do this through a combination of Document and Biometric Verification. This gives us a unique insight into the developing trends across both document and biometric fraud.”
  • Generated data: In some cases, companies may want to generate new data by surveying or interviewing their audience.
  • Third-party data: Some SaaS brands will access and analyze data owned by other companies. In this case, we can mention different research collaborations between companies, allowing them to access each other’s data.

→ Your growth opportunities

Conducting and publishing original research will create multiple growth opportunities for your SaaS brand:

  • Publishing quantitive research-based insights and data will differentiate you from the rest of the companies that rely on outdated material and fluff content.
  • Gain people’s trust by generating reliable data instead of opinion pieces.
  • Become an educator and an authoritative source for your industry stakeholders.
  • When using gated content to generate leads, it’s crucial to produce high-quality pieces that justify asking for people’s emails. Quantitative research won’t disappoint your leads. Instead of exchanging their emails for fluff content, they’ll get access to unique industry insights they can’t find anywhere else.
  • Conducting research will help your team understand the industry better and develop efficient growth strategies.
  • Your quantitative research papers will become your brand’s amplifier helping you gain visibility and getting more industry stakeholders to cite your results.
  • Publish original research and get backlinks to strengthen your SEO position. According to Brian Dean, SEO expert and founder of Backlinko, original data and research are the most efficient link-building content.
Backlinko Screenshot

⭐ Bonus growth opportunity:

  • Boost your ability to bring talent and professionals to work for your company. A 2021 study by Edelman and LinkedIn shows: “50% of respondents say thought leadership can be important in attracting the best talent.”

→ Case examples

>> Commsor, a platform for community-led companies

  • Commsor published descriptive research called The 2022 Community-Led Report. The research gathered the survey answers of 250+ respondents from 15 industries.
  • The study presents the big picture trends related to Community Industry growth.
  • The research contains data points, facts, and valuable insights that allow people to assess the state of the Community Industry and take action accordingly.
Commsor Screenshot

>> Bevy, a community event platform

  • In 2019, Bevy acquired community-focused networking company CMX.
  • To this day, the CMX team is launching annual reports describing the state of the Community Industry.
  • The annual reports include data, facts, insights, and trends related to the Community Industry.
CMX/Bevy Screenshot

>> Sprout Social, social media management solutions 

  • Sprout Social publishes a great variety of data reports and studies.
  • Being the go-to source for social media data, Sprout Social offers different types of research, including reports on transparency, industry benchmarks, and more.
  • In 2013, Sprout Social launched the Sprout Social Index, a recurrent report on social media shifts and trends.
  • Each Index report includes detailed social media data, statistics, and graphics. Each report focuses on a specific topic.
  • For example, the latest report, Accelerate, focuses on the rise of social media usage.
  • The reports include the research methodology.
Sprout Social Screenshot

Here’s the list of Sprout Social Index reports Sprout Social published since 2013: 

>> Workable, a talent acquisition platform 

Workable Screenshot
  • In 2021, Workable published two reports about The Great Disconnect, analyzing why workers quit in droves. One report described the U.S. market, and the second focused on the U.K. market.
Workable Screenshot
  • From September 2021, Workable published monthly reports called “Your Hiring Pulse.” As the company highlights, “Even year-over-year and month-over-month data doesn’t make sense either, due to the dramatic spikes and valleys we’re seeing in the job market – let alone the craziness that was 2020.”
Workable Screenshot
  • “Your Hiring Pulse” looks at a specific month’s trend, taking numbers from that month and comparing them to the average of three previous months for the bigger context.

“Your Hiring Pulse” monthly reports focus on trends such as:

  • Time to Fill: The number of days from when a new job is opened to filling that job opening.
  • Total Job Openings: The total number of job openings activated across the entire Workable network.
  • Candidates per Hire: The number of applicants for a job up to the point of that job being filled.

>> Onfido, document I.D. and facial biometrics verification software

  • In 2019, Onfido launched the annual Identity Fraud Report.
  • The report data comes from the millions of identity checks run via the Onfido technology.
  • To create the Identity Fraud Report, Onfido works with global fraud experts.
  • Moreover, the company collaborates with other companies, such as Microsoft, to create joint reports.
Onfido Screenshot

>> Buffer, an all-in-one-social media tool

  • In 2018, Buffer launched an annual report to analyze the State of Remote Work. The first report was created in collaboration with Workform and Hubstaff. 
  • Subsequently, each report was created in collaboration with other companies.
  • The latest report provides the raw data used for analysis.
Raw data from Buffer

>> Semrush, an all-in-one tool suite for improving online visibility

Here are some report examples published by SemRush:

  • World Data Trends: 2021 Year in Review [Report Link]
  • The Olympics 2020 Digital Perspective: Key Stats and Facts [Report Link]
  • State of Content Ops & Outsourcing Report 2021 — How Businesses Scale Content [Report Link]
  • Black Friday 2021: Key Trends, Shifts, and New Lessons for Marketers [Report Link]
  • S&P 500 Companies Overview by Semrush [Report Link]
Semrush Screenshot

>> Intercom, a customer communication platform

Intercom Screenshot

>> Lattice, performance and engagement software

  • Lattice has published The State of People Strategy report for the past two years.
  • In 2020, the company report focused on the new world of work. In 2021, the report revolved around the resilience of people-first leadership.
  • It’s interesting to see how Lattice uses graphics to present the profile of the survey respondents.
Lattice Screenshot

>> Mailchimp, email marketing automation platform

  • The Mailchimp & Co Benchmark Report 2021 is the company’s latest original research.
  • The report offers insights from Mailchimp’s global survey of agencies and freelancers.
  • The report provides two documents. One is for freelancers, and the other is for agencies under $1M.
  • The report is also offering regional benchmarks.
Mailchimp Screenshot

>> Salesforce, customer relationship management software

Salesforce Screenshot

>> LearnUpon, a learning management system

  • LearnUpon launched its first research report, called The State of L&D: 2022 Training Reports.
  • The survey includes answers from 100 learning leaders. Although the magnitude of the research is small, the survey insights allowed LearnUpon to create its first original research. 

>> Asana, a project/work management platform

  • Asana published the Anatomy of Work Global Index.
  • For the report, the company  surveyed more than 10,000 global employees to learn what’s working—and what's not—in their organizations.
Asana Screenshot

→ What to consider?


  • What’s my research topic?
  • Is this research relevant to my industry?
  • Will my audience derive value from my findings?
  • What type of research will I conduct?
  • What type of data do I need to collect?
  • Where will I find the data I need?
  • Who will collect the data?
  • How will I analyze the data?


  • Remember that your content creators aren’t researchers. They won’t be able to create a research methodology, collect data, and analyze it efficiently. What can you do instead? Find a social sciences Ph.D. student to help you design your research. Paying a post-graduate student will be less expensive than paying a well-established researcher. However, Ph.D. students know how to conduct high-quality research and ensure a good level of accuracy.

→ Your action framework

📒 Choose a topic for your research. Usually, the topic combines your audience’s educational needs/interests and your possibilities, such as access to specific data or professionals.  

Your Research Topic = Your audiences’ educational needs + Your Research Possibilities (Access to data + Access to respondents)

📒 Choose the research type. Do you want to:

  • Describe a situation or present the state of a specific industry?
  • Find the connection between different variables?
  • Present the cause-effect connection between certain variables?
  • Run an in-house experiment and present the results?

📒 Identify what type of data you need/have access to. Do you have access to in-house data, or do you have to generate it? Or maybe, you can use third-party data?

💡 To consider: To generate new data, you can run surveys. In this case, it’s important to have a clear respondent profile.

After all, you can’t ask questions about company culture to someone who works as a freelancer. Or, you won’t ask questions about geography-based salaries to executives who run office-only companies.

You can classify your respondents by:

  • Pipeline stage (leads, prospects, existing customers)
  • Industry (your company may serve different sectors)
  • Job position (freelancers, contractors, employees, executives, etc.)
  • Use case (you may have customers who use your product for different jobs to be done.)
  • And more

📒 Set up a time framework to collect data. Also, if you’re running an in-house experiment, you’ll have to define its time framework. For example, Buffer conducted a month-long four-week work experiment.

📒 Analyze the collected data and identify the main insights.

📒 Transform your insights into an attractive document or report, then publish it.

‍💡 To consider: You may have to decide whether to gate or ungate this report.

💥 To remember: Opinion-based content is irrelevant, especially when you didn’t establish your thought leadership, yet. In a world of opinions and fluff content, hard data and research-based content is a breath of fresh air, helping professionals to zoom out, understand certain phenomena, and in some cases, make informed decisions that will help them achieve their desired goals. As a result, people will regard your brand as the go-to industry resource.


*Gartner Research, “5 Ways the Future of B2B Buying Will Rewrite the Rules of Effective Selling,” August 04, 2020

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.