What makes any business plan a success is thorough market research. What makes market research a success is how well it covers all the bases of the business. In this blog, I’ve outlined a simplified approach to market research, which should make this daunting task a little less… well, daunting.
What organisations usually do when they start their research process is decide which strategy will fit their product, service or solution and then look for answers which confirm their preconceptions. The risk with this approach is that the answers they get might be biased towards what they’re looking to prove, rather than being a true reflection of the marketplace and what’s right for their business.
Here is a process to follow instead, which should result in the information you need to define a clear strategy to achieve your business goals.
Define Your Business Challenges & Goals in Detail
Identify the pain points in your business. List your short, medium and long-term goals (we like to refer to these as your campaign, business and visionary goals) and assess what it is that is not letting you achieve them.
Perhaps your website isn’t appealing to your customers or not reaching the right people? Maybe your brand messaging is not in line with your target audience’s expectations? Have you clearly defined who your target audience is? There are many reasons why you might not be connecting with consumers or converting interest into sales. List as many as you can.
Define Your Research Strategy
Once you’ve defined your goals and identified any potential obstacles, the next step is to detail how you will carry out the research process.
I would recommend a multi-layered approach which takes the following important points into consideration:
Your Industry / Market
- State of play – What is your market share and how is the market performing?
- Competitor analysis – Who are your competitors, how are they performing and what is their marketing strategy? You might not want to compare yourself, but you can learn a lot from your competitors and their successes or failures.
- Market disruption – Which trends are disrupting the marketplace – or are likely to disrupt it – and how are you prepared for them? Being ready for, or better still, ahead of the curve with, these trends could define your long-term survival and success.
- Audience expectation – What does your ideal customer look like and what are they expecting from you? Where can you find them and why would they want to do business with you? What are their needs and motivations? If your message doesn’t strike the right chord and resonate, potential customers will tune out.
- User experience / perception – What do your customers (and potential customers) think of your brand, product or service? Are you delivering on your marketing claims? Is there a gap between the portrayal of your brand and the customer’s perception? Do you know what the gap is and have a plan for bridging it? The most important piece of advice we can give is, be authentic.
Your Marketing Channel(s)
- Chosen channel(s) of delivery – Where are you currently selling / advertising? Are these channels effective and achieving tangible, meaningful results? Are there other channels to explore? If you want your brand to be visible in the right places, you need to know where your customers are and understand their communication preferences. Only then can you make a lasting impression.
Define Your Approach
Once you’ve set the strategy, there comes the question of which approach will you follow with your research?
- Exploratory Approach – Start your research based on an understanding that you don’t know what is happening in the market. This open approach, also known as inductive research, often leads to the identification of various possible solutions to your problem. Although it is an open-ended process, it will give you a broader perspective of your business, industry and customers.
- Hypothesis Approach – This method, also known as deductive research, follows a similar process to exploratory research, but you start with a hypothesis based on your current understanding of the market. The goal is to prove your hypothesis right or wrong and glean business intelligence from the testing process. This narrows down your research scenario and is more likely to produce a targeted solution. A more focused approach is usually best when you’re pressed for time and need quick answers.
Finally, when you’ve defined your goals, challenges, strategy and approach, you’ll need to work out a process for implementing the results of your research. This could be a blog in its own right, so we’ll leave that for another day.
Suffice to say, a good mix of the right people and tools is essential. We like to think that’s where StrategiQ’s expert team of digital marketers can add tremendous value.
By no means exhaustive, I hope you’ll find this simplified approach to market research useful. If you have any questions or need a hand with a research project of your own, please get in touch.