Full disclosure: I am a research geek. Back when I was in college and grad school, few things would give me a greater thrill than finding one resource and then looking in the bibliography to find even *more* resources. So, when I say that for marketers, research is an essential activity, I suppose you could dismiss this as a mere personal bias. However, at our agency, research is always emphasized as a key first step before doing just about anything. Research, for us, is integral in answering the following questions:
Which tactics should we try?
We have never been proponents of the “Spray and pray” marketing methodology. Time and money are too precious in most companies for this kind of strategy (or lack thereof) to make sense. There are multiple ways to research answers to this question. We like to research competitors first to see what they are up to, and we also like to talk to publication contacts who have been in the industry for awhile. They can usually give very good insight as to what the audience is like in any given industry. For example, we can learn whether a given industry is more or less likely to react well to online advertising or social media marketing. This research is, of course, completed after objectives have been set so that the proper tactics are being explored in the first place.
What is the size of our market?
Is there room for your company to expand its market share? How much money do customers spend in your market on an annual basis? These questions come up quite often, particularly when a company is contemplating adding a new product. Research is far better than taking a guess, even though in this case research can represent a heavy investment if you are interested in professionally conducted market research. A front-end investment is better than discovering after the fact that there is nowhere to go but down.
How would the market react to the new product we are thinking of launching?
Again, investing in front-end research (in terms of time and/or money) can seem like a drag when your company is chomping at the bit to launch a new product, or to begin the development of a new product. Again, however, it is far better to discover that there may not be a desire for that product before you go to all of the trouble of investing in product development. There are many ways to research answers to this question, including surveys or polls of existing customers, researching whether other companies have tried something similar, or even pulling together a “think tank.”
The process of research, like so many other facets of marketing, will be what you make of it. It can be extremely time-consuming or it can be rather painless. It can be extremely expensive if you purchase a report from a leading market research firm or it can be combined with marketing investments you are already making. For example, many publications we work with offer a “reader study” to advertisers, so you can garner a lot of additional information by investing in an ad on which you were already planning to spend money.
Sometimes research can seem like an unrewarding process if you are anxious to spend your time doing other things. No matter what your personal feelings may be about research, we strongly suggest that the problems research can prevent are well worth the investment of time and/or money.
Do you agree?
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