The thought of market research can be overwhelming.
What’s the use in collecting reams of data and compiling them into reports? Isn’t research a specialist subject? Don’t I already know enough?
Despite your objections to market research, you should never skip this step.
There’s no running away from the need to do research. Put simply, it’s the only route to creating a campaign, product or service that will resonate with your target customer.
Plus, research isn’t some scientific, untouchable practice — although good research always has a high degree of control. In truth, you’ve likely conducted some informal research without knowing it.
Have you ever taken the time to watch your target audience? Do you know their concerns and expectations? Are you familiar with their buyer’s journey?
If your answer is yes to any of these questions, this means you have collected some useful research already. And this is only the beginning.
What Is Market Research?
If market research isn’t some high-brow practice, then what is it? Essentially, market research is the act of collecting information.
Something as simple as people watching falls under the term market research. As does collecting data through surveys, online forms and company databases.
The aim of any market research is to get to know your chosen target audience better.
You’ll learn how your target audience best respond to advertising, what makes them laugh and what makes them angry. Plus, you’ll be the first to know if their tastes are changing and if you need to adapt your offering as a result.
Market research goes a bit further than standard customer research in that it also provides insight into your industry. With this said, market research encompasses both customer and competitor research to give you a snapshot of your marketplace.
Why Is Market Research Important?
Market research gives you the gift of foresight.
With a reliable database of knowledge, you can make predictions on the big things like your competitor’s next move and your customer’s behaviour.
Without market research, you’re stuck with assumptions about the outside world.
Assumptions aren’t backed by data and they often include personal biases making them an unreliable source of information.
That’s right. While you might trust your gut instinct in other aspects of your life, you should never rely on an assumption when it comes to your marketing activities.
Market research is important because it provides a path to objectivity and a form of intel that everyone in your organisation can make use of.
Types of Market Research
Broadly speaking, market research comes in two forms.
These are primary and secondary research.
Now, stick with us here if it’s beginning to sound technical. The difference between the two is simple.
Primary research relates to any information you investigate yourself. It’s the act of bringing new insight to the table as a result of your actions.
To find new information, you can use tools like:
Secondary research comes from reliable sources that already exist. In this scenario, you still compile the data yourself yet you don’t have to worry about your methodology, ethics and a grand plan to get it.
As you can imagine, accessing secondary data is often quicker and easier.
And the good news is that it’s now relatively easy to find online.
Here are a few of our favourite sources:
- GOV.UK Research and statistics
- British Chambers of Commerce
- Federation of Small Businesses
- Ask a Librarian Live Chat (London)
- ONS (Office for National Statistics)
All of these are web-based resources, yet they come from reliable organisations. You’ll want to be careful when collecting information online to make sure your statistics are coming from a place of authority like a government resource.
Trustworthy secondary sources like these can act as a great starting point.
You can also gain secondary research from internal resources that already exist in your company. These include your sales figures, information gathered about your customer base and other historical data.
Yet the perfect market research mix uses both primary and secondary research to excel.
Finding out something new about your customers or your industry is what gives you a competitive edge. It also helps you to expand by looking at potential customers, as well as existing ones.
In this sense, secondary research can give you some great background knowledge to inform your decisions about which type of primary research you should then carry out.
There are plenty of forms of primary research:
- Public Surveys
- Focus Groups
- Customer Research
- Competitive Research
- Employee Research
To decide which form of research to follow, you’ll need to know what you’re trying to achieve. Are you looking to test your marketing ideas? Do you need to keep ahead of your direct competitors? Is it time to target a new customer segment? Or, are you hoping to spot a new trend?
Either way, conducting relevant research and using existing data will help to form an answer.
How to Do Market Research — Step-By-Step
Whether you’re focusing on the views of your customers, the insight of your employees or the motives of your competitors, there’s a simple formula for market research.
All you have to do is ask yourself the following six questions:
What do I want to know? Always start with the purpose of the research. This will give you a laser-focus while ensuring that you’re carrying out the most appropriate form of research. Without this step, you will end up with reams of data in reports no one is likely to read. Decide on a research question that will solve a problem you currently have. For example, if your problem is not knowing which digital marketing channel to use, your research question should be: Which digital marketing channel is best for our audience?
Which data can I access easily? In market research — especially if you’re new to it — you’ll want to start slow. Review the secondary sources available to you first. For example, if you’re looking to refine your target audience, you could review account data to find out which segment is most profitable.
What can I do to find new information? Now, it’s time to get serious. Pop your hypothetical lab coat on and decide which primary research method to deploy. Don’t panic — there’s no right or wrong answer to this question. You can choose any primary research method — usually the one that makes the most sense. If you want to find out more about your competitors, do competitor research. If you wish to learn more about your buyer’s objections, consider chatting with your sales employees or organising a focus group of recent customers.
What does the information tell me? Don’t rush to scribble down your information or make it look pretty in a report. You’ll want to hang on to your research for a little longer and analyse it. Depending on the bulk of your information, it could be wise to filter your research. Do different age groups, genders and regions think differently? Try to find the value in your research and don’t always accept the obvious answer.
What should I do as a result? After your analysis is complete, it’s time to decide a course of action. Did you find out you’re aiming at the wrong demographic? It’s time to shift your focus. Are you in danger of falling behind your competitors? If so, innovate. Is there a common problem that puts people off when making a purchase? Fix it.
How should I tell other people? The final step should be that pretty report most people think of when they hear the words “data” or “research”. This is the practice of relaying the same information to those who matter. They could be your boss, but they could also be your employees. Sometimes writing a report is the answer. More often than not, creating training materials, putting together a presentation or writing a project brief are more helpful ways to convey big ideas that come from big data.
In short, there are six steps to market research:
- Decide the research purpose.
- Gather information from secondary sources.
- Conduct primary research.
- Analyse your data.
- Take appropriate action.
- Spread the word.