Hear us out on market research for a moment. We know the term can conjure up thoughts of endless focus groups with overly opinionated know-it-alls.
You may think you need a large budget, complex statistical models, and several dozen donuts. But we’re here to tell you that’s not the case.
Sure, market research is an investment, but it’s also an important step in paving a pathway to success. Imagine how much better your marketing strategy could be if it was informed by sound research and solid data.
Before we dive into the “how” of market research, let’s dispel the common myths and excuses for avoiding it.
- We already know our business so we don’t need research. While you’re an expert within your respective industry, there may be new information you haven’t uncovered or encountered. Research can help you dig in deeper and learn something new. In turn, you can make more informed marketing decisions.
- We already conducted our research [insert number of years here] ago, and it’s still fine to use. Like hardware or software systems age, so does data. What was relevant when you conducted your research may not be true of your industry or audience now.
- We don’t have the budget to invest in research. Research does require time, focus, and budget, but the ROI is monumental. Depending on the type of research needed though, it may not mean a huge investment.
- We don’t have time to do research. We need a marketing plan immediately. We understand that timelines and urgency play a big factor in marketing planning. However, there are ways to incorporate research into a discovery process and still work within a tight deadline.
Why is research necessary?
When you set out to develop your marketing plan it’s best to rely on information that is current and meaningful. Data can play an important role in determining your organization’s priorities.
Marketing research is critical to providing insight into your company’s strengths—and weaknesses. It helps isolate your brand perceptions and positioning within your industry. It also helps uncover your target audiences and what motivates them to engage with you.
Types of marketing research
Like we said earlier, conducting research doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. There are different types of research, and there’s likely one that fits within your budget.
This type of research revolves around data you collect on your own. Data is collected through in-person meetings, phone interviews, focus groups (the good kind), or online surveys.
This type of data is very useful because it comes straight from the source—your customer.
But choose your data collection method wisely. Conducting individual interviews will provide a deep understanding of your customer, but they may not yield enough data or end up being too costly.
In that case, a survey might be a better fit. Simply build it using a program such as Survey Monkey, choose your audience, activate the survey, then watch the data grow.
We recently helped a client conduct a survey to identify the subscription habits of its customer base. The intent of the survey was to learn whether the current subscription and website content aligned with the needs of its target audience.
The results of the survey now fuel our marketing tactics. We aren’t simply making educated guesses; we have data to back up our recommendations.
Some questions we asked included:
- How long have you had a subscription?
- <1 year
- 1-3 years
- 4-7 years
- 7+ years
- What are your favorite types of content offered through your subscription? (Select all that apply.)
- Pick-up-and-use resources
- Longer articles
- How often do you use our website for more in-depth information gathering or research?
- Few times per week
- Aware of the website, but do not use
- Unaware of the website
Though not collected directly by you, secondary research—like online resources—can still provide plenty of valuable information. And it can be more budget friendly.
You can find great, industry-specific, statistical information from reputable sources online. You may come across a compelling article explaining the behaviors of your customers. You might find an infographic that explains a sales cycle within a particular industry.
Secondary research can also come from government agencies, industry associations, the media, chambers of commerce, public libraries, or universities. It can take the form of formal reports, pamphlets, trade publications, magazines, newspapers, or PDF downloads.
In some cases, you may have to pay to view the research or join an organization to receive access. But that still might cost considerably less money than conducting, compiling, and analyzing the research yourself.
This type of research helps us learn how your customers feel about you or your product. This can come from primary or secondary research.
As noted above in our subscription survey example, we learned what features the customers liked best. We also found out how they used the publication and what they felt the publication was lacking.
This type of data provides critical information about customer behavior and motivation. It’s less about numbers and more about observations and thoughts.
Much like qualitative research, quantitative can also be primary or secondary. Quantitative research involves the collection and analysis of numerical data.
You could use online tools to track traffic patterns on your website, like page views. Using email tools, you can track the number of newsletter subscribers you have year over year.
The numbers you collect will help you determine where to focus efforts or how to divide marketing budgets.
Maybe your goal is to increase subscriptions within a specific demographic group. So, you decide to execute some initial primary research to get a benchmark number.
Then you run a digital marketing campaign targeted to that demographic group hoping to raise that benchmark number.
Finally, you analyze the before and after numbers to determine the rate of growth. That’s an example of primary quantitative research.
Don’t shelve your market research
Once completed, don't lock your market research away for no one to see. Share it, communicate it, and revisit it down the road.
Your research results are useful tools for fueling ongoing marketing decisions. Others in your company may find value in the research as well.
Data helps guide your marketing plan by providing proof and insight into your customer base and industry.
So, go ahead. Schedule a focus group, give them some donuts, and prepare yourself for some—shall we say—interesting insights. Just know it isn't necessary to gather useful data.