{ The Why and When of Marketing Research }

When you think of the words “marketing research” what comes to mind? It’s OK to be honest…

If you think research sounds like the “technical”, “dry”, and “tedious” part of marketing, you’re not alone. We often hear from our partners that they know in a general way that research is important, but they want to understand specifically why marketing research is relevant and beneficial for their marketing efforts.

We’re kind of marketing research geeks, so let’s talk about what excites us so much about it. The benefits of research are compelling, and, if done right, can uncover opportunities you didn’t see or confirm your suspicions in a way that lets you make informed, data-driven decisions for your business instead of relying on hunches or vague feelings.

Here are some examples of when you might consider engaging in marketing research:

  1. You want to get baseline data on how people see your business or organization.
  2. You want to determine your return on investment — and back it up with data.
  3. You want to consider offering a new product or service and you want to test potential marketing channels.
  4. You want to pinpoint an issue at your business because something just seems “off” and you don’t know what it is.
  5. You want to get a good, objective read on how satisfied your customers truly are.
  6. You want to get a leg up on your competition.
  7. You want to get hard data on your community visibility.
  8. You want to follow up on advertising efforts to determine how well they are working.

As you can see, there are many situations where having raw, objective data might be just what you need to get a more clear perspective on your business. Furthermore, informed marketing research is the foundation upon which you will craft the solid strategy that will enable you to meet your long-term goals moving forward.

Research can (and ideally should) be conducted continuously. That doesn’t mean that you need to conduct a large-scale research project multiple times a year—once you have your baseline data, it’s easier to follow up periodically with smaller, more informal research efforts to track changes, find opportunities, drive creative messaging decisions. However, there are some general timeframes when companies typically choose to conduct research.

Initial Baseline Research

Particularly at the start of a new partnership, we find baseline research pays incredible dividends when it drives a company’s marketing strategy and its messaging campaigns. This is generally an intense period of research and requires patience and trust. There are no quick shortcuts to deep insights. You should use this time to get to know you and your customer base better, as well as to gather data from key stakeholders to develop a key understanding of the organizational issues at hand and your future goals. Once the data has been collected and analyzed, it’s much easier to develop an on-target strategy and to set performance metrics to use for future comparison with the baseline data.

Brief Ongoing Research

We generally recommend ongoing research, either formal or informal. Formal ongoing research should  be spaced out to minimize research fatigue in your staff and customers. Conducting smaller-scale research projects on a consistent basis allows you to determine how well your marketing strategy is working, and then we nimbly make adjustments as needed.

Annual Follow-up Research Evaluation

Sometimes it’s appropriate to conduct annual evaluations. This is typically useful for companies who want to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing efforts and determine an accurate return on investment. We often see these types of research evaluations in companies with a large set of stakeholders who require formalized forms of accountability. Research evaluations must be performed in careful and honest collaboration between marketing, sales, and accounting teams, whether internal or external.

The Bottom Line

In short, marketing research is never meant to be the sole factor in making a business decision and certainly does not take the place of management’s own judgment. However, what it can do is provide you with good data to help you make informed decisions about your business.

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