The research stage is not important at all!
This is the opinion of many entrepreneurs. All they want is to sell, without knowing to whom!
They think they have enough information about their target group, about who should buy their product or service. And after a while they fail and wonder why, under the impression that they have done all they can to succeed.
But how can they sell since they don’t know the most important details of their own business? They don’t know their target audience, they don’t know their market, they don’t know their competition, and other details as important as these. They start out without research, i.e. they don’t go through the research stage, which is perhaps the most important.
So one of the most important stages of your business. That’s how marketing research would be defined in a nutshell. The success of your business depends on it. The research stage lifts you up or brings you down. It gets you where you want to go or it gets you out.
That’s pretty much the definition of marketing research. By doing research you understand what your customers or potential customers want. Through research you understand their needs, their frustrations. Through research you identify problems and the need for change. You understand the need for transformation. Through research you find out what satisfies them and what doesn’t. And, what can satisfy them.
Pooja Agnihotri in “17 Reasons Businesses Fail” explains what entrepreneurs/companies need to do in order not to fail, what mistakes to avoid, non-existent or poor research being one of these mistakes.
Effective marketing research improves your campaign to promote your business product or service by facilitating an increase in sales in a short time.
Marketing Research or Market Research is also the way you can improve your product or service. How does this happen? Simple. By listening to people’s opinions about your product and turning them into a broad and healthy branding campaign.
1. What is marketing research?
Good. We’ve briefly seen what this ‘market research’ or ‘marketing research’ is all about and how it can help you in your business. But how can it be defined more specifically than I have done so far?
Marketing research is the action of gathering information from the customer or potential customer by various methods, the short, medium and long term benefits of which are as follows:
- effective marketing campaigns;
- improving the product or service by adding new features or modifying existing ones;
- rapid increase in sales, if the above steps are followed exactly.
What is marketing research?
How does wikipedia define it? As a process of collecting, recording and channeling quantitative and qualitative data on aspects of products and services.
A comprehensive and exhaustive definition of marketing research is provided by the American Marketing Association:
Marketing research connects the consumer, customer, and audience to marketing through information used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; refines and evaluates marketing actions; actively and consistently monitors marketing performance; improves understanding of the marketing process.
In fewer and more understandable words, marketing research is the process by which we use a variety of techniques to gather information that helps us understand our target audience, the business we are promoting, more specifically the product or service we are offering.
Businesses use the information gained through marketing research to create better products, launch new ones, improve the consumer experience, and outline/implement a strategy that brings in leads and increases conversion rates.
Why is marketing research so important?
How could you understand your target audience? How can you offer a product that appeals to them if you don’t know their needs, their interests, their preferences.
Yes, you can get an idea of what they would like in general. You can get an idea of what he might be like as a person, but you will only gain trust and loyalty to your brand if you know his grievances, his anxieties, his real problems. What he’s facing. And that can only happen through detailed research.
You need to know a lot of details about your consumer to win them over, or you’ll lose them to someone else who cared enough about the needs and wants of their target audience.
What Bernadette Jiwa Founder ‘The Right Company’ says: ‘Whoever gets closer to the customer wins’. And, I don’t think we can argue with her.
If Google Analytics answers your ‘what?’ questions, marketing research answers your most important question: ‘why?’ If Analytics tells you that the person put the products in the shopping cart but didn’t complete the order, Market Research will tell you why the person didn’t make the purchase.
Market Research helps you not to decide based on guesswork, emotional reasoning, trends or uninformed assumptions.
2. The purpose of marketing research
To sum up the importance of marketing research, we can say that it lies in the details that you know but others don’t, details that will make the difference in your brand’s awarness and increased conversion rate.
What is the purpose of marketing research?
That of providing:
- Valuable information about customers or potential customers. Google Analytics or any other such tool shows you what people are doing on the site, but it takes marketing research to know what motivates people to buy a particular product. Research will uncover the emotion behind the buying decision. The emotion that produces the transformation. Because it’s really transformation we’re talking about. About the imbalance produced by frustration, dissatisfaction, transformed into balance generated by the satisfaction of need, the fulfilment of desire. The ‘before/after’ situation.
- A way of enhancing the user experience. For that you need to know the consumer’s behavior and needs. Only then will the customer’s experience with your brand be extraordinary and generate trust, loyalty and sales driven to the highest heights.
- The opportunity to test a new product or add new functionality. And that’s done through marketing research. So people will say what they think, what they want, what they’re like. With this valuable information, your decisions will have an important foundation, they’ll have an essential starting point.
- A competitive advantage. Although it is becoming increasingly obvious that market research is very important, too many entrepreneurs, too many companies choose to promote a product without research. They don’t invest the time, money and energy to do so. Precisely for this reason, you, if you choose to do so, will be one step ahead of them. That means you’ll have a huge advantage that will translate into the results you want.
- Identifying competitors. You will always have something to analyze in a business. Research helps you identify other players because it’s crucial to know who you’re up against. It’s crucial to know how to plan an effective marketing strategy. Copy the best practices of others and avoid their mistakes.
- Consumer satisfaction. Customers are happy because their needs have been met, their problems solved, their desires listened to. Ultimately, it is the goal of every stage of any marketing strategy. It must be the goal of any business, because being focused on such a goal makes it clear that the product or service provided will be qualitative, competitive and that we will be able to gain the trust of our customers.
To position yourself correctly in an industry you need to understand who needs a product and why, when and where people buy certain products and how they use them. These details and more.
3. Types of successful marketing research
For effective marketing research it is necessary to know what types exist so that you can choose what is right for your business.
- Primary and secondary marketing research. Primary research refers to information obtained directly from feedback received from customers, from applying questionnaires, conducting interviews, conducting focus groups, as opposed to secondary research which takes information from social media platforms, media, official databases, etc.
- Consumer research. So you’ll discover what influences it and how your business can drive change to encourage sales growth. It’s a type of research that insists on getting to know the consumer and how they interact with your brand.
Specifically, this type of research considers the following courses of action:
– Consumer satisfaction: find out what satisfies the consumer, because that’s the only way to retain them.
– Customer loyalty to your brand. Through research you’ll discover what types of experiences have generated loyalty.
– Segmentation. Through this type of research you find out who your customers are, their online behaviour, preferences, characteristics.
- Quantitative and qualitative marketing research. When we say qualitative, we think of obtaining information by organising small groups that provide relevant details about why they buy one product or another, what their preferences are, what their perceptions are about things. Quantitative is equivalent to obtaining this information using large groups of people belonging to the target group.
- Periodic and occasional research. Periodic marketing research is that which takes place at certain intervals, as opposed to occasional research which takes place on certain occasions, for example when a product is launched on the market.
- Field and office marketing research. Field research is the direct analysis of behaviours and situations in specific locations, while desk research refers to the study of documents and statistics related to the subject under investigation.
- Competitive research. Competitor analysis is extremely relevant because you’ll understand the competition in the industry you’re in. You observe what’s working in that market. You can find out the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. You can differentiate yourself. What is particularly interesting about this type of research? Listening to the consumer preferences of a similar product to yours. The fact that you can plan an action. That you can see the horizon getting closer and closer. For example, for competitive analysis, researchers can create a SWOT analysis of your business and the competition to see the comparison in detail.
- Product Research. A type of research focused on how well your products or services fit for market launch and how good they are. The purpose of product research is to see how the product is perceived by customers, whether it brings value, and how you can improve or develop it.
From what perspectives can you do product research?
– Does your product design and brand appeal to customers the way you want it to?
– Product feature testing: what can happen at different stages of development (early stage, between releases, launch) to see if reaction is positive to new or improved features.
– How can you design a product, how do you design so that the solutions adopted solve existing or future customer problems.
– Product marketing analysis: does messaging help the product stay in the consumer’s memory or does it need improvement?
- Branding research Assists a company to create, manage and maintain a brand. We refer to tone, brand, images, value and identity, positioning, loyalty. You will be able to understand through this type of research whether:
– the brand is competitive with the competition;
– there are elements you need to improve.
- Social media research. On social media you can create surveys, analyse data from campaigns and study customer behaviour online. Here you’ll gain valuable insights into who has responded to your campaigns. See a customer’s posts and learn a lot about them.
Marketing research can come in many forms. The important thing is to fully understand the specifics of your business and choose which type of research is right for your product or service.
4. Marketing research methods that get results
There are standard marketing research methods, but you shouldn’t put a damper on your imagination and creativity. You can also think of other ways to research aspects of your brand, customer profile and behaviour towards your product or service.
Below we talk about the most common ways you can conduct marketing research. You choose the one that suits your business, the brand you want to promote.
- Online questionnaire is the most common method of marketing research.
It is a qualitative form of research that is addressed to a number of respondents and includes a series of closed-ended (yes/no) or open-ended (allows the respondent to elaborate on the answer) questions. It is a method that can be applied via email or through consumer interaction with your brand on social media channels or your business website.
Why is it such a popular method? It’s easy, quick and inexpensive to do, and the information gained is extremely valuable.
- Interview is an insightful research method.
The one-on-one conversation with a representative of the target group is the most telling because it gets to the heart of the matter. We get into the mind and soul of the target group by asking questions. The interlocutor may open up in another way, and an important detail of this method is that we can observe certain non-verbal cues.
If there is no possibility of an interview, we can set up a videoconference. This is the kind of method that offers multiple benefits.
Why is it so insightful? Because you can empathize with the consumer experience. Through it you can have many ‘aha’ moments. Interviews are a great way to get in-depth information from customers or potential customers.
After all, there’s nothing like a one-on-one conversation with your customers.
- Focus group, the most dangerous method of marketing research.
It is a research method conducted in a carefully selected small group made up of representative members of the target audience, in which an experienced moderator leads a series of conversations about the product, user experience, etc.
Why is this method so dangerous?
Because you can be confronted as a moderator with a member’s prejudices or the imposition of your own opinion, which can change the purpose and meaning of the meeting. The data collected at the end may not represent what the target group thinks and may not be relevant.
So it is best to start with one of the other research methods, and add focus group as you go.
- Observation, the most powerful research method.
During a consumer observation session, a person in the company takes notes while observing an ideal user interacting with your product or a similar one from your competition.
Why is it so powerful? It’s a perfect alternative to focus groups, much cheaper, but where you can see people interact with your product in a natural setting without being influenced.
Warning! If you choose this method, don’t drop the questionnaire or interview.
So, observation means testing a product or service by one of your customers or potential customers.
- Ethnographic research involves observing people and behaviour in real life, without pre-thought scenarios.
The purpose of ethnographic research is to find out what a day in the life of a person actually looks like. So you can find out a lot of information you couldn’t get from a questionnaire in a few minutes.
These methods of gathering information in marketing research will help you create an effective campaign to help your business achieve its goals.
5. Examples of marketing research
Whether you’re launching a new product on the market or just starting out with your business, the marketing research stage is extremely important. It’s the one that ensures your progress towards success. Marketing research for a product and marketing research for a business are similar, but there are also differences between the two.
In the following lines you will read how marketing research is done in both product and company situations.
5.1 Marketing research of a company
A firm thinking of entering the market must be aware that it often has competitors who are one level above the other. Therefore, a firm must create a solid plan by which to differentiate itself from the competition. This plan includes marketing research.
A firm’s marketing research is the key to success and how to achieve the goals set.
Marketing a firm involves researching internal and external characteristics, competition, goods and the market as a whole. These characteristics must be collected, analysed and systematised.
What elements are addressed in a firm’s marketing research?
- Analysis of objectives, development vision, SWOT analysis;
- Market volume, dynamics and segmentation;
- What are the quality requirements, market trends, what are the factors influencing the buying decision;
- Competition analysis;
- Sales forecasting;
- Business development outlook.
5.2 Marketing research of a product
Smallpdf is a PDF software that brings together 21 tools for converting, editing pdf documents. Due to a not quite effective functionality of this software, the marketing team started a research to penetrate beyond the surface, to understand the customers and build a better product and a fluent customer experience with the product.
What were the steps of marketing research?
1. Smallpdf used the online questionnaire to collect information using which it asked key questions to determine the profile of the target customer and what problems they were trying to solve using Smallpdf. The team stopped when they received 1000 completed questionnaires.
2. They created a simple buyer persona based on the data from the questionnaires. Smallpdf found that many of their users were administrative assistants, teachers and students, creating a plan to study these users.
3. They applied the observational research method to students and administrative assistants. In the case of students, covered observation was used, i.e. they were observed while working in libraries or cafeterias on university campuses. In the case of administrative assistants, open observation was used, i.e. they were contacted and asked if they could observe them while they were working and performing tasks related to pdf use.
In both cases, the observers used notes about the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘for whom’ of each action which ultimately generated a useful model of the software.
4. Smallpdf analysed the data and determined the next steps, outlining what changes they would make as a result of the observation.
5. Implementing the changes. Improved the tool that converts pdf documents to word documents. Made the process simpler than it was.
6. Smallpdf tested the results, which were as expected. Errors were significantly reduced and customer confidence increased considerably.
6. How do you do marketing research in 4 steps?
Market research in marketing is effective if we follow a few absolutely essential steps in getting the most useful information. Information that will help you achieve your business goal. So what are these steps?
- Define the problem or opportunity. If you want to find out why people stop buying a certain product or service, why your campaign messages aren’t having the impact you want, or if you want to launch a new product to market here, start with the first step. Based on this step you will move on to the next one, setting the goal.
- Setting the marketing research objective based on what you discovered in the first step. If a product is no longer selling, what will be the objective? To see why sales are down. Find out why. But this is a specific objective. But the objective of each step of the research, and of any action in the business as a whole, should be, first and foremost, to improve the consumer’s experience with our brand and meet their needs, solve the problem. The benefits will be manifold and will ultimately translate into increased visibility, sales and positive feedback.
- The next step is select what type of research and what method suits your campaign, your business. For example, if you want to know what customers think about a price increase on a product, you can use an online questionnaire, a form that asks for feedback. This way you’ll find out directly from the source what they think of what you’re doing.
- Selecting people to take part in the research. Here you need to know who your target group is. Choose people who have already bought from you, who have intended to buy from you, who have interacted with your brand or who fit your ideal customer profile. The larger the number of participants, the more representative the results will be. At this step, you need to create a simple buyer persona. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional character comprising a set of demographic and psychographic information from people who use websites and products similar to your business, i.e. from your business’s target group, the group you believe uses your products or services. You will get this information by viewing your website, your competitor’s website, on social media or with the help of the emailed questionnaire. How do you streamline this step? Whatever questions you ask in a questionnaire or interview, they should tell you the following about the consumer: who they are, what their primary goal is, and what the biggest obstacle is to achieving that goal.
Pitfalls to avoid:
- Do not ask more than 3 questions. With some exceptions, you can go up to 5, otherwise the consumer will feel stifled and you risk them not answering.
- Don’t focus so much on their age or background, but on the role they play in relation to your product and their goals.
- Establish how you reach them. You can send an email, you can address the request on social media. And necessarily offer something (a product, a discount, a special offer). Decide what questions you ask.
- Take action. Contact the people on the list you created and collect the information you need. If you’re just starting out, I recommend the online questionnaire. And, DON’T FORGET to thank you for your participation and for the information provided.
- Analyze the information and create the perfect strategy to help you achieve your goal set at the beginning.
- Conduct observation-based research which means taking notes while a person is using your product.
The difference between closed and open observation
- Open observation involves asking customers if they will be observed while using your product or your competitor’s product.
- Closed observation assumes that users are studied without knowing it. This type of observation only works if you are selling a type of product that people use regularly, but it provides the purest information because people behave differently when they know they are being observed.
- Don’t forget to explain why you want to observe them (valid for open observation). They will be willing to collaborate if you tell them you want to make an improvement to the product.
- Conduct one-on-one interviews. It allows you to explore their concerns, frustrations which leads to a series of revelations.
How do you do it in a productive way?
- Act like a journalist, not a salesman. Ask people about their lives, their needs, their frustrations, and how a product like yours might help them.
- Listen more, talk less. Be curious.
- Ask why, to explore more. To find out the reasons, the purposes. Be specific and find out about past behavior.
- Record the conversation. That way you don’t have to write down what helps you focus on the conversation. You can transcribe recorded conversations with many low-cost tools/services.
Pitfalls to avoid:
Don’t ask questions that somehow trace a direction
- A leading question directs them to an answer somehow predetermined by you. Example question: Have you taken advantage of the great new features we just released?
- A leading question leads to an assumption that, if it weren’t true, would be impossible to answer truthfully. For example, we can’t ask you ‘what did you find most useful about this article’ without asking whether or not you found the article useful?
Market research is about getting solid, actionable information quickly so you can change things and see what works.
7. Specific applications of marketing research
Marketing research can be applied to many branches of marketing. The areas of application of marketing research are production, distribution, pricing, advertising, promotion, sales and marketing.
Marketing research is the systematic analysis of problems, building a model and discovering insights to make better decisions and improve products and services.
Types of marketing research applications
1. Product research which can be used on the product planning and development branch such as evaluating a new product idea, evaluating the need to change the existing product. For testing the acceptance of the new product, acceptance of the product in terms of design, transportation and storage.
2. Advertising research which can be used in a number of ways, such as testing promotional copy, important elements: idea, visual appearance, headline, unique value proposition, clarity of message, how compelling it is and whether it stays in the memory of the target customer.
3. Distribution line research. And here we’re talking about identifying the right distribution channels, what our expectations are, measuring and evaluating channel performance, channel effectiveness.
4. Price line research. The objective of this research is to find out what price expectations your customers have and their reactions to different product price levels. We can also assess the pricing strategies of competitors, what factors influence the purchase price, knowledge of consumer psychology regarding price.
5. Consumer research. We research the answer to questions about characteristics and behavior. The objective of this type of application is to better understand the target group. We find out their location, demographics, reasons for buying a product, what they don’t like, reasons why they don’t buy a product, brand preferences and prepare a profile of the ideal consumer.
6. Market research. The collection of facts about the market relevant to a company. It assesses trends, market size, changing impact of legislation, policies.
7. Research on line sales. The objective is to identify the sales potential of products and the evolution of sales performance.
8. Marketing environment research. A very important area of marketing research. We evaluate the environment in the company. Given changes in macro-environmental factors such as demographics, economic conditions, government policies, legal factors, technology, social and cultural factors, it is judged that necessary changes include goals, objectives, product mix, pricing, and business strategies.
As we observe, research can be conducted on everything that is a product. On all the components that help it reach the attention of a potential customer.
8. Questions to ask in marketing research
The following questions to the consumer will help you understand them very well on a deep level when interviewing them. They are standard, common questions, but you can create your own set of questions depending on the specifics of your business.
1. Who are you and what do you do? How you ask this question and what you want to find out will depend on your type of business ( b2b research is usually more focused on one’s profession than b2 consumer research). It’s a question you’ll start with that will help you understand what’s relevant about your consumer demographics (age, race, gender, profession, education, etc), but it won’t be everything in this research. More specific questions follow.
2. What does one of your days look like? It will help you understand what your consumer’s day looks like and the challenges they face. You’ll be able to empathise and discover interesting things about their buying habits.
3. Have you ever bought a product or service in this category? This is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question. A ‘yes’ answer will take you to the next question:
4. What problem did you try to solve or what goal did you set out to achieve? Here, you’ll get to the heart of the problem, your proposed goal and why you should pay attention and pay for your solution.
5. Take me to the day you decided you needed to solve the problem. This is the golden question and belongs to Adelle Revella CEO of Buyer Persona Institute. It helps you get inside the mind of the user and discover what they were thinking about on the day they decided to spend to solve the problem.
Spend as much time as you can with this question. What should you cover here?
- Where they went to find the solution;
- How long it took them to make the purchase decision;
- With whom they consulted before making the decision;
- What alternatives they considered;
- What convinced them to buy;
- If anything stopped them from buying.
Other questions to ask:
- If you didn’t buy, why?
- What words or phrases did you use when you searched for the product?
- What do you think of the advertisements for the product or service? What didn’t you like about them?
- What kind of information did you look for before buying?
- What needs does this product or service meet? Does it meet all or part of them?
- What do you know about similar products or services on the market?
- What would you change about a particular product or service?
- Would you buy that product a second time? Why? What did you like best?
Don’t forget to ask why. It’s a magic phrase that will help you get deep into their experience and help you get more than just short, simple lines.
The last question you can ask at the end is: ‘Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?’ It may be the perfect opportunity for the person to tell you what you need to know. The question should be asked at the end.
9. Recommended books for marketing research
The first step of any marketing campaign is research. You need to conduct marketing research to know your audience, what they like, why they like what they like and what their buying habits are. And how can you do this in a qualitative and constructive way? By informing yourself, by researching, by attending courses.
So the following book recommendations will help you understand this process, why you need it and how it can become part of your business.
- Invisible Influence. The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior, by Jonah Berger
According to the book’s author, social influence is an invisible influence. He examines and explores the subtle influences that lead us to make certain decisions, from why we shop to what foods we choose.
Read this book if you want a quick read that psychologically explores how differently people behave in certain situations or indulge in certain socially accepted behavioral patterns.
- The Power of Moments, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Read about the experiment in which two strangers meet in a room and, 45 minutes later, leave as best friends. The authors bring ‘moments’ into the spotlight through a fantastic collection of stories that delight and inspire you to act.
The authors explore (as the title suggests) how the most powerful moments in our lives are formed and how researchers and marketers can create more moments that matter and enhance the experience they deliver.
- Storytelling with data, by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic
Storytelling is an extremely important skill for any researcher. When it comes to presenting moments of insight and making recommendations, how you do it is more important than the moments themselves, which will get participants to listen and act.
The author takes you through the ‘why’ and how you tell stories with data from how you visualize it to how you communicate it to multiple types of audiences. It should be on every researcher’s bookshelf and comes with practical examples of how you can ditch the old infographics and use new approaches to impact research.
Marketing research for beginners. A list of MUST-READ BOOKS
- Design for How People Think: Using Brain Science to Build Better Products, by John Whalen
This book teaches you how to create an amazing sensory experience for your audience. And how to create a product that everyone will love.
In the end, you’ll be able to understand the buyer more than you do now. You’ll be able to get inside their minds to see what motivates their buying decision and how you can tailor your product to fit their needs and desires. The author comes up with examples of Fortune 500 companies that have followed some important tips for growing their business.
- Strategic Market Research: A Guide to Conducting Research that Drives Businesses, by Anne E. Beall
The book provides insight into the importance of marketing research and how it should be conducted. It teaches you how to collect information, what techniques to use, and what elements to track. The most important aspect of the book is that it will help you notice and understand the nonverbal cues of your audience.
- Questionnaire Design: How to Plan, Structure and Write Survey Material for Effective Market Research (Market Research in Practice), by Ian Brace
After reading this book, you will realise that developing a research questionnaire is not as easy as it may seem to you. A questionnaire is developed in 4 steps:
- structuring questions;
- creating the questionnaire;
- asking the questions.
This book will help you learn how to go through the 4 steps and accurately collect more information in a short time.
- Essentials of Marketing Research, by Joseph Hair, Mary Celsi, Robert Bush and David Ortinau
This book is aimed at students, but if you are new to the field, this book will answer your questions and concerns about your first marketing research.
- The Market Research Toolbox: A Concise Guide for Beginners, by Edward McQuarrie
This book will help you improve your research skills and how to make strategic decisions. Covers various techniques and other skills needed for research. B2b will find this book very useful.
- The Stories Of Deadly Business Mistakes That You Should Absolutely Avoid, by Pooja Agnihotri, Kindle Edition
The secret of success in business has nothing to do with what other successful people have done. It’s about how you avoid the mistakes that those who have failed have made. Instead of repeating their mistakes, you now have the opportunity to learn from them and ensure the growth of your business.
17 reasons why businesses fail brings to the forefront the mistakes some businesses have made that led to their failure and what mistakes those who want to survive and grow should not make.
An important aspect of research is that it never ends. At least, it shouldn’t end. You don’t just need it when you launch a product, you need it throughout the entire cycle it’s on the market.
From understanding a product’s feasibility to gathering consumer feedback about the product, the marketing research process never ends. The more you invest in the process, the more competitive you will be.
Therefore, Market Research is not something you can ignore. It’s what decides the future of your business. Either you create a really good team that knows how to do marketing research or you teach yourself so that your business gets to the level you want.