Elevate your marketing beyond an educated guess with research.

December 20, 2022 // Research + Analysis

Research is the foundation of all great marketing plans — and it’s perhaps more important now than ever. Recent events, such as the pandemic, fluctuations in the economy, supply chain bottlenecks and more, have influenced shifts in customer buying behaviors and brand perceptions. It’s important to understand if and how those perceptions have changed, and what that means for your business and marketing plan. If a target audience pivots, we as marketers must know about it and be prepared to pivot as well.

Bright idea

Go with your gut — and research.

Imagine you’re in a company creating an idea for a new product or service based on a “gut feeling.” Over the course of a few months, the engineering, sales, production and marketing teams all get involved to help bring the idea to prototype and then market — only to watch it fail. That’s what we call an expensive lesson learned.

While following your gut can lead to many great ideas and innovations, it’s still important to back it up with a few weeks of research before too much time, money and resources wind up in the trash. PM’s Digital + Marketing Strategist, Erin McKenrick, has some advice: “I’ve worked on the corporate side. I’ve witnessed sales and marketing teams making decisions solely based on guesses. Then investing time and money on initiatives they hope will make an impact or, likewise, not investing in areas because there’s too much unknown. That’s when research is most important.”

These are the five types of insights that can be gained from research:

1. Market insights to help you prioritize opportunities for growth
2. Brand insights to help you target the right audiences
3. Customer insights to help deliver memorable customer experiences
4. Employee insights to help you understand and engage employees
5. Product insights to help you build products your customers love

Combining these insights with your “gut” is when the magic really happens. Here’s just the tip of what can be accomplished:

  • Gain an understanding of where the greatest opportunity lies for a new product or service (or determine if there’s no opportunity at all)
  • Develop and map out your audience’s decision-making and buying processes
  • Test product features and develop the right pricing strategy
  • Determine key motivators for purchasing that can later be used to craft messaging that truly resonates
  • And more!

Magnifying Glass

Really get to know your audience.

When was the last time you asked your audience about their preferences? Values? Beliefs? What motivates them as customers? There’s absolutely no harm in really getting to know your audience. In fact, the deeper your intel, the more fun and impactful your marketing efforts can become.

Audience research consists of two methods: primary (e.g., fielding new quantitative or qualitative studies) and secondary (e.g., sourcing of existing studies or analysis of existing third-party and company data). Choosing the right research method (primary and/or secondary) all depends on the type of information you’re seeking and from whom.

Here’s how we typically approach it:

  • Start with secondary research to determine if any audience insights already exist or if there’s additional information providing new insights into what we’re studying.
  • Once that route is exhausted, we turn to primary research and build a custom study designed to gather the insights we desire.

We recommend clients start with research before launching marketing efforts. When research is used effectively as the first step, our team is then able to use the findings to develop a sound marketing strategy with objectives, tactics and KPIs (key performance indicators) that deliver the highest return.

Key point to remember: Research doesn’t end with the creation of your marketing plan or even with the launch of a campaign. It’s important to collect data and analyze information as you go so you can adjust accordingly whenever an audience behavior or perception changes.

Chasing money

It’s not in the budget.

Often, rushed timelines and tight budgets are killers of the research phase. Ironically, the more time and money you dedicate to research on the front end of a project, the faster (and more accurately) marketing teams can execute.

Research studies can range from a couple thousand up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It all depends on what information you’re seeking and from whom. The items that can drive research costs up may include:

  • The length of survey and time needed to write, program and analyze (the typical timeline for a quantitative research study is 6 to 8 weeks)
  • If lists of the target audience already exist or if contact lists will need to be purchased
  • If methods of advanced analysis are needed to mine for the right insight
  • If articles or ads will need to be purchased from publications or media sources to promote the study
  • If the audience is extremely difficult to reach (e.g., C-suite executives) and requires a scheduled phone interview

Look in the mirror

DIY research vs. third-party research.

For smaller, tactical everyday decisions, DIY research should be performed regularly. This can include collecting input from team members closest to the customer (e.g., sales and customer support). General questions could include:

  • What changes are you seeing in the industry?
  • What changes are you seeing in customer behavior?
  • What tactics, promotions, creative, etc., are competitors running?

If the opportunity exists, speak directly with customers to gain their perspective. After you’ve spoken to enough people, you’ll begin to see emerging trends that could inform key insights.

When a major business decision needs to be made requiring the input from a more representative sample, then it’s time to bring in an objective third-party expert to collect honest and confidential feedback.

Ready to discuss your research needs? Reach out to our team today.

This article was published before January 2024 and does not reflect the consolidation of Performance Marketing, Vector Haus, and Blue Traffic into Anthologic.