Research: The Backbone of Marketing
Whether it’s shining shoes, selling hand soap, or manufacturing car parts, the primary objective of most companies is to make money. And without customers, these revenue-hungry businesses would fall flat on their faces. Customers are at the core of any sales strategy, which is why it’s critical to understand their opinions and behaviors. Continuous pulse checks of the market and consumers allows businesses to be opportunistic, innovative, and, ultimately, one step ahead of the competition. Strategy, planning, and all other tactics should stem from the insights gleaned from research.
Market research is intimidating. With hundreds of thousands of sites online presenting their own thoughts on market research, it can be hard to know where to start. In reality, there is no ‘right’ or ‘perfect’ way to go about research, but knowing a few key factors can get you started:
- Determine what you need to know about your market: You may realize that market research is not what is needed for your business.
- Identify your customers: If you're an already established business, start looking at who is coming into your store or the type of people interacting with your social media posts.
- Identify your competitors: Who are you up against? How are they performing? Who are their customers?
- Prioritize: At this point, you should have a general understanding of where you stand so you can prioritize what to look at on a deeper level.
- Just do it: You’ve got your research direction now it’s time to start looking at industry reports and talking to your customers.
Research Can Be Expensive
Knowledge may be power, but it's also expensive. For many companies, research is considered valuable but cost prohibitive. Depending on the information being gathered, research reports can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. It must be noted that reports that cost several thousand dollars provide a ton of information; from market factors and key trends to consumer insights and potential opportunities.
Typically, businesses conduct research when they are introducing a new product or are struggling to stay afloat, but it shouldn’t be a one-stop shop. Research should be referenced regularly because markets and consumers can change on the turn of a dime. There are many market research sources, but a few to start with are:
Let’s play a game: Imagine you’re an enthusiastic entrepreneur and business owner of Joe’s Software. You’re looking to dive into the digital marketplace, but are unsure of where to start, so you decide to conduct some market research. As an owner of a new business, you don’t have a large budget to spend and are looking for as much information as possible at the lowest price. Fortunately, you find two key trends to look into.
First, you check out Mintel and find that they have released a report on 2018 consumer trends. Intrigued, you start perusing the report. You discover that trust has become one of the strongest drivers in how customers choose products and services. You also find out that they align their patronage with companies whose actions, beliefs, and morals match up with their own. Wanting to stay on the good side of consumers, you look for ways to start building trust around your business.
JWT Intelligence is your next stop. The service’s Future 100 report showcases 100 trends in 2018. A section about 5G, catches your eye. You read that it has the potential to make the world safer and more efficient by transforming sectors such as energy, manufacturing, health care, and transportation.Seeing a huge opportunity to claim 5G turf, you decide to do some more research.
Just a quick look over these two reports has given you insight into the consumer and market that you didn’t have before. Although it may not lead to large business modifications, having this knowledge in your back pocket allows you to make smarter choices. It will not only make running your company smoother, but strengthen your brand among customers.
Take Advantage of Current Customers
If your business is already up and running, you have access to the best source of information: your customers. Businesses can sit down with a few of their customers and ask them questions about their experiences with the product or service. Although surveys can be done online, going right to the source will give you more in-depth information. In addition, using open-ended questions will give customers an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings without being pigeon-holed into a yes/no answer.
Just a little bit of information can help a business adjust to consumers needs and wants. And it is always better to make business decisions (whether small or big) with a bit of knowledge about the market and your consumer.
For more information on how other brands are building their business through research, check out the 2017 Jay Chiat Award Winners.