How to do market research

If you work in any kind of competitive market, it is essential to carry out market research. Without this kind of insight, it is impossible to really know what your target audience wants. Many businesses make the mistake of seeing themselves as the brand’s customer, rather than seeking to really understand the needs, wants and desires of their target audience. 

Big brands have always invested in market research and some spend months developing the right research base upon which they can make informed decisions. Smaller businesses are also waking up to the value of marketing research for the success of their brand.

market researchWithout taking the opportunity to really understand their audience, brands cannot hope to fully engage with them. And without this opportunity, it simply becomes harder to market effectively. Money is wasted on campaigns that don’t hit the mark. Brands spend time creating content that never hits the mark – wasting time as well as resources. An interesting study by Moz and Bussumo in 2015 found that 50% of Facebook posts only had two interactions or engagements. Some may have simply been poor quality, but the chances are that many simply didn’t work for the intended end user.

So how can you carry out effective market research and what are the steps that you need to take?

1. Recognise that you aren’t your audience

This is key, and the message must be shared at the highest level of the organisation, where leaders may feel that they naturally have richer insights than most into target groups. The truth is they probably don’t, even if they do share some key characteristics of that target group. Get buy-in by explaining that successful marketers invariably invest in market research before they plan a campaign. They don’t make expensive guesses and they never make assumptions. In short, if you’re not doing market research, you can never really know your audience (however much you think you do).

2. Start with secondary research

This type of desk research is easy to carry out and shouldn’t be expensive. For example, your business is likely to have a wealth of internal data which it can mine. You may have your own CRM system and customer database, as well as customer feedback. If not you can buy industry data or reports or carry out online demographic research or use government sources. 

Secondary research looks at factors such as industry trends, demographics, competitor activity, the market itself and its growth potential, product pricing and other product characteristics. It can be carried out by various people in the business and marketers are advised to speak to other internal leads who are likely to be sitting on relevant information which can be shared for mutual benefit.

3. Move on to primary research

This type of market research is more expensive because it involves commissioning first-hand research. The types of first-hand research might include research groups, surveys and product trials. Marketers might carry out direct observation for a number of reasons, such as to ascertain how customers interact with their product, or they might commission deep-dive sentiment research into a target buyer’s view of their brand. Focus groups can result in fantastic, targeted data which can be used to redevelop a product, test a market or prepare for a marketing campaign.

When does a business carry out market research?

Market research should come before a new campaign, whatever the channel. Ultimately it will act as a road map and allow you to commit budget equipped with the knowledge of who your audience is. You might be starting a new brand campaign that requires printing on branded promotional products or launching out of home advertising on billboards. Market research will help you to justify these kinds of budgets and better measure the results of your work. Carry out market research before you enter a new market, change your brand, reposition your product or service or create a new marketing campaign.

You can either undertake market research yourself or commission a marketing agency to do it for you and there are pros and cons of each. It’s expensive to use an agency, but this gives access to particular expertise and skillsets which can give better (valid) results. Doing it yourself is good if you have the right skillsets in house and the ability to deliver valid and relevant market research which gives accurate data for decision making.

However you choose to do it, you will certainly see an improvement in your marketing efforts if you first invest in the right market research. Do this stage before you begin your product development or creative campaign process so that you can feed your findings and insight into the project before it begins. This way, you will ensure that the finished results really resonate with your end group and reduce waste, as well as improving your time to market and conversions.