The success of your strategic marketing plan is as good as the information that it is based on. Conducting research will give you valuable insight to help shape your marketing strategy, plan and support your branding efforts.
In today’s very competitive, global marketplace, your marketing strategy must be backed by sound research to insure a consistent and effective approach to offering your products and services. It is essential to know who your customers are and how to position your company effectively against your competition.
You need to conduct research to learn what the market’s perception is of your company or organization. The outcome of your research will help you align your image and identity with proactive actions geared to successfully shape your marketing and prevent costly missteps. Your research is the backbone of your marketing plan.
Market research includes secondary and primary research. No matter the size of your budget, you need to first do secondary research.
With a great availability of information on the Internet through web search, you can quickly gather information about your competitors, new markets, product lines and services. You can review public information provided by government agencies, local, state and federal; trade associations, chambers of commerce, census bureau statistics and much more. You can quickly look at competitor’s websites and review what they are saying, their products and services. You can review press reports and see new developments and trends in your field.
And, the good news about secondary research is that it is that it’s free. All companies and organizations should do this type of research first to blush out general information about your market, industry and your organization’s current position in the marketplace.
Secondary research can only lay the groundwork, and is not as accurate as primary research. Your firsthand, custom research can be tailored to drill down to get specific answers to questions that are needed to develop your marketing plan to address specific actions. For example, secondary research will tell you how many durable goods were sold last year, but not how much your customers are willing to pay for the newly engineered product your company is planning to launch. With primary research, you can find out how much your customers are willing to spend for a better product.
Primary research allows you to conduct a study and analysis of your company’s image in various key markets. Firsthand research can be undertaken in many different ways, including focus groups, field tests, interviews, observations or surveys. It can provide a good sampling of your target market, giving you an accurate look at a particular market segment.
You can do primary research through online surveys that are very cost-effective and easy to use. You can develop a survey internally and externally to analyze overall patterns of your company’s image and reputation.
Examples of questions that you may have addressed and answered in your research survey, include:
• How do your customers feel about your company’s overall reputation?
• What image do your branded products communicate and to whom?
• With which public is it most important to develop a strong image?
• How does your target audience describe your company?
• What are the company’s major strengths?
• What are the company’s major weaknesses?
• How would you like to see your products distributed and marketed?
• Does your present brand and products identify the image you want it to? If so, how has it succeeded? If not, how has it fallen short of your objectives?
• What qualities does your company convey?
• Which of these qualities is most important?
• What are the positive aspects of the current company trademark? Will it be effective in years to come? Should it be retained as is? Should it be modified or modernized in some way?
• Where are the greatest opportunities for growth in your market?
• In what way will changes in your company image be helpful for you to realize growth opportunities? In what ways might a change be harmful? What kinds of changes should be avoided?
• Have customer habits with your company changed? Are products moving up or down on the economic scale? Are new products needed to meet the requirement?
• What are the differences in the market strategies of the company’s competition?
Market research will help you build a synergy between all your marketing efforts so that all your marketing, communications and branding initiatives are integrated and cohesive, telling your story in a very professional and strong-branding format that is recognizable as your company, no matter what the customer is viewing.
The outcome and analysis of your research will also help you position your company well. In an increasingly cluttered market where buyers have very little time to ponder, products and services that stand for something important or are remembered for something significant have an advantage.
A powerful positioning, based on your research, leads to a powerful brand. It’ll help you develop marketing messages so clear that it begins to move customers and prospects toward your brand.
Every dollar you spend with your marketing should generate a direct and measurable return. Success is determined by how well and how often you hit your target market. Market research will help you aim carefully.