The Vital Role of Marketing Research
Marketing Research is about finding out what you feel you don’t know enough about. That might be competitive offers, potential distribution channels, consumer behaviour, and so on. But it’s also about challenging and validating what you feel you do know. Or disputing.
Marketing research is about joining the dots. The dots between what you know and what you don’t. The dots between your customers’ wants and your planned project. Here are some ways of achieving this.
1. Focus groups.
Invite a group of people that might make up your one or more target markets to come and discuss their wants and needs. The idea here is to tease out what makes them happy and not-so-happy about providers in the market, whether that includes your business or not. The focus group is not about discussing your particular product or service. Rather, it is to talk about the marketplace as a whole and maybe you might spot some opportunities as a result of the session. Asking about your specific product or service will only result in skewed responses, as people will naturally give you the answers they feel you’re looking for.
If you have access to people’s email addresses, use a service like Surveymonkey to carry out marketing research through a number of questions. Vary the questions between yes/no, multiple choice and sliding scale types. Always leave an open “add your comments” box at the end.
3. Competitors’ online presence.
In today’s market, there is a ton of information readily available on your competitors, their offering and, indeed, their pricing. Dedicate some time to browsing their websites and social media platforms. Subscribe to their e-newsletters and go browse reviews of their businesses on third-party sites, like Tripadvisor. As a rule of thumb, I suggest you ignore reviews from people who’ve only ever posted one.
4. Government Agencies.
Depending on what sector you’re in, there’s loads of (often free) research available from the various industry-supporting Irish government agencies, such as Enterprise Ireland, Fáilte Ireland or Bord Bia. Go browse what they’ve got on sector- or market-focussed research, covering size of market, trends, players, etc. Know also that these agencies organise overseas trade visits, where you can learn a lot about what export markets require from your business and where opportunities may lie.
5. Get out on the street.
If your market is one that’s predominantly offline, then get off your seat and take a walk down the streets of your town or city. Go in to stores that are relevant and take a good look at what’s on display. Come back several times. What moves and what does not? Where are the pricing levels? What’s the branding saying to you? Marketing research does not need to be fancy stuff.
6. Anonymous shopping.
Whether on- or offline, work through a purchase with competitors. Learn how their process works and get a fell for the ‘vibe’ of shopping with other businesses. Learn where you could improve upon the experience.
7. Feedback forms.
Pro-actively request that customers complete feedback forms. Read and learn.
Marketing Research – Avoid Presumptions
There are lots of ways of gathering useful marketing research and many of them do not have to cost anything other than your time. Remember what a friend of mine once said : “Presumption is the mother of all f*** ups!”. Carry out research to make sure you aren’t guilty of making too many.