Consumers today conduct research on potential purchases as though it were second nature. Think about your recent purchases, large or small—isn’t your instinct to enter a few competing brands into a search engine and compare/contrast them to figure out which is the best fit for you? Similarly, savvy marketers are empowered by understanding who is looking for their product, where they are looking, and according to what criteria.
What is market research?
A broad definition of market research is the collection of information or data relating to your audience’s consumer behavior. However, marketing professionals often refer to two major types of market research:
- Primary research is information gathered from your potential customers. Primary research is unmediated research—it involves you going directly to the source. There are many ways to conduct primary market research including, but not limited to: in-person interviews, focus groups, and surveys (either online or by snail mail).
- Secondary research is data gathered and analyzed through second-hand sources. Reading marketing blogs, analyzing consumer trends, and understanding your own successes through analytics tools provided by Google and Facebook are all examples of secondary market research.
Why is it valuable?
Market research is non-negotiable for any company looking to compete and achieve long-term growth and success. If you’re not conducting market research and adjusting your marketing strategy based on your results, you’re effectively marketing in the dark, without any knowledge of the competition, industry standards, or your customers’ expectations. There are numerous benefits to conducting market research:
- Learn what your customers are looking for, and where, how, and when they’re looking for it
- Develop a clearer image of your buyer persona
- Identify and improve your brand’s reputation
- Forge a vision for the future of your company
How can I incorporate it into my marketing strategy?
Just as there are multiple ways to conduct market research, you can use the results towards many different ends. That’s why the first step of successful market research is defining your goal. Do you want to:
- Develop an entirely new strategy?
- Measure the success of existing campaigns against previous ones?
- See how you’re stacking up against the competition?
- Search for new opportunities and audiences?
After defining your objective, you’ll be able to figure out what primary and secondary research methods will work best. It’s important to remember that if your goal is to define your buyer persona, there’s no substitute for primary research. However, if you’re concerned with your competition and the greater marketing landscape, then secondary research will be more useful and cost-effective.
The next step will be to engage with your audience and ask research questions. Social media makes it easy to identify and reach out to your ideal audience, although in-person interactions still offer the sophistication that online interactions lack. In order to have a receptive audience, you’ll need to incentivize your audience, either through stipends, special access to new promotions or by offering small tokens of gratitude.
No matter what your objective, it’s critical to ask open-ended questions—if you’re getting yes/no answers, chances are you need to rephrase your questions about your audience’s browsing habits, their opinions on your brand, and their expectations. This is an essential part of market research; contacting the wrong audience or asking the wrong questions will lead to data that is effectively useless and potentially misleading.
Putting it all together
The necessity of market research cannot be overstated. The bottom line is, if you’re doing less research than your consumer, that should be a red flag. If you’re not putting effort toward understanding your customer’s research methods, their criteria for evaluating your product, browsing habits, and expectations, you’re setting yourself up for failure. By clearly defining your research objectives, engaging with your audience, and asking pertinent questions, you’ll be able to gain knowledge about your buyer personas, surpass your competition, and create a strong vision for the future of your business.