Of all the various functions in marketing, research is probably the least one exercised diligently and regularly. Yet, you’ll hardly find anyone who will disagree with the fact that proper research is the underlying foundation for successful analysis and planning.
There’s of course a compelling reason for that; market research is relatively expensive to conduct and maintain updated. Yes, it’s not enough to run that research once and then work with the resulting report for the next decade. Given how fast everything is changing, your market research needs to be updated at least annually so your data remains current and reliable. In some industries that are notorious for sudden and drastic changes, research may need to be conducted even semi-annually or quarterly.
Regardless of how expensive or cumbersome market research may be, designing strategies and tactical communication activities without having adequate research at your disposal is the equivalent to walking around in the dark.
Avoid misleading perceptions
In the absence of substantiated and quantified research, marketers tend to base important assumptions on their own perceptions and values. It’s simply human nature and inevitable. The problem is that this could be drastically misleading, especially if your brand serves a market segment you do not belong to. You’ve got your own values and believes that you’ve built and manifested over years or even decades. But are you really certain that those also reflect the values and believes of your targeted market segments and audiences?
Don’t miss out on in-depth analysis
What people will tell you is one thing, but what they really feel, want, desire, and aspire to may be something entirely different. So even if you run an occasional light survey or poll, you won’t get to the crux of the matter. Quantitative research is great, but if not supported with qualitative research you will end up building your strategies and tactics on incomplete or misleading data.
Price sensitivity is a good example of a decision-making driver that will probably not be listed as the “most important” one during quantitative researches. People are simply not that comfortable in admitting that price is that important to them even if their identities remain anonymous. However, once you get a group of people together in a focus group and start digging in, you’ll most likely realize that price is after all very critical to making a buying decision.
Don’t wait until it’s too late
Competitors that will hurt your business usually don’t announce themselves and will typically sneak up on you. And once a competitor has acquired sufficient market share to become noticeable through the regular channels, it’s usually too late. If you conduct regular market research though, you will be able to detect new trends at their early stages, identify potential threats, and take the necessary corrective actions. Those could range from promoting loyalty programs to introducing a new product line, and will be designed to ensure your current customers stay loyal to your brand and stay oblivious to what the new kid on block is promoting.
Everything changes frequently and exponentially faster
With the exploding growth of the internet and foremost all – social networks, everything is changing it seems faster and faster. Just when you thought you mastered “Facebook marketing” here comes a new channel along that’s suddenly popular amongst a certain age group.
For example, you’re still busy with your Instagram campaigns and are missing out on this new channel (Snapchat) while your competitors are gaining on you at that end. Does this sound familiar? If you’re not constantly researching and identifying the best ways and means to reach your target audiences, you risk being left behind and loosing your audiences to someone else who’s more savvy and attentive.
It’s the only way to really “listen to your customers”
Every brand claims to “listen to customers”. But do they really? Are they really exerting all possible efforts to truly understand what their customers need, want, and demand? This goes way beyond the typical research tools and involves group testing, buying and studying competing products, and so forth.
This becomes particularly challenging for companies that for example are in the business of producing new technologies. It’s difficult to assess a customer’s feedback on a product or service that doesn’t exist yet. But what you can research and understand is the benefits they would seek to enjoy from your new technology.
Take Apple for example. When they were designing the Macintosh back in the 80’s, it would’ve been futile to research the market for that particular product as nobody would’ve had an idea about what a Macintosh was all about. But what people would have acknowledged as a “need” was to being able to compute at home without having to acquire a Ph.D. in computer sciences, and not having to spend a fortune on a machine that would have occupied 3/4 of their living space.
It’s not really that expensive anymore
Market research used to cost a fortune a few decades ago. Today however, you have an arsenal of online tools at your disposal that you can basically use for free. In fact, most online quantitative research services offer you a free account which comes with one current survey and about 200 responses or so. And even if you need more, the fee you’ll pay is minimal. And the cost of focus groups? How much can they cost besides the time you need for preparations and perhaps rental fees for some space in a comfortable venue?
About the Author
Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.
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