By Laura R. Vandiver, Senior Research Strategist
I can’t tell you how many times clients come to me and say “We launched a blog but we’re not getting any response from our target group,” or, “We have been offering our new product for several months, but our marketing efforts are falling flat.” The first question that comes to mind is this: Did you do your research? Nine times out of ten, the answer is “No”!
PR and marketing, whether traditional or online, is not just dependent on having a great print advertisement or a flashy website to get your message across. It’s also about knowing your audience. The bottom line is this: if you don’t know your audience, you aren’t going to reach them effectively. It seems so basic, but you’d be surprised how often this is overlooked. Market research comes in many forms: focus groups, panel research, online surveys, phone surveys, and more. Doing your research FIRST can save you a lot of time, effort, and headaches later. Plus, if you haven’t done any research, it’s much more difficult to develop the metrics for how you will measure the success of your campaign.
The foundation of any program consists of research basics. What are the demographics of your target audience? Where do they get their information? What kinds of products are they interested in? If you don’t know, find out. You don’t want to waste time and money investing in snazzy social media marketing if your target audience primarily gets their information from printed industry journals. Knowing this information before you launch your marketing plan will put you ahead of the game.
Insight is one of the most important aspects of conducting research with your customers. They will tell you what they like, what they don’t like, and any difficulties or barriers they might have when trying to access your product or service. Insight is the number one thing I love about qualitative research, in particular. You will almost certainly come away from it knowing something you didn’t know before. It will make you smarter moving forward.
Research techniques using social media platforms allow companies to respond to their customers quickly. Gone are the days of taking a yearly survey, compiling the results over six months, and then trying to make some changes a year after the fact. You can talk to your customers today, and respond to them immediately. Quick response creates loyal customers- especially when they recognize that you are addressing their concerns.
Listening to the voice of your audience will allow you to tweak your marketing strategy and course-correct where appropriate. Too often companies devise their strategies at the top without consulting their base. This is a mistake. Never assume that you already know what your customers want.
Doing some research first will give you a baseline of information from which to track changes in your target group’s beliefs, values, buying habits, and communication trends over time. If you skip your research, you can’t position yourself to be the most effective marketer in a field of more agile competitors who keep an eye on emerging trends within your targeted audience.
So, if I can leave you with one final thought, it would be this: investing in research is critical to the success of your business. Do your research FIRST and reap the rewards of basing your program on information vs. speculation.