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Betty has a product
Betty builds a marketing campaign
People buy Betty's product
Everyone is happy!
Be like Betty!
Except being like Bob isn't always as easy as Bob makes it seem. Anyone living in the real world of marketing, or business in general, knows that the process from product or service conceptualisation through to selling is nowhere near as linear and easy as it is for Bob.
While many factors impact the success or failure of a product, service, campaign or brand, let's focus on the market place. Today's consumers have more options than ever before, while at the same are also facing tough economic times. Furthermore, consumers are more educated than ever before. This means that they now seek superior utility value from a purchase, and also, a sense of fulfilment. For example, yoghurt is not just yoghurt – it is a reflection of the buyer's diet – often linked to a set of values - a recognition of appreciation to the brand's social responsibility and sometimes even a representation of the buyer's identity. These factors mean that brand owners need to understand what makes their buyers tick – on a functional and inspirational level, and aim to align all marketing activities to such an understanding.
How does a brand owner go about gathering an understanding of the wants and needs of the market? Whom should they be targeting through their marketing and advertising? What message and visual creates the greatest desire to buy? It's not easy to get these answers, particularly from behind a desk in an office.
There is a whole marketplace; indeed, a whole world, outside of the office of the business seeking to make an impact with their product. Nine times out of 10, the people in the great wide world will very quickly let a brand know if they are getting right or wrong. The challenge lies in understanding buyers before embarking on a costly marketing campaign, brand or product launch so that the likelihood of success is increased. The answer to this challenge is market research.
What is Market Research?
Simplistically, market research is any effort that seeks to gather, document and understand customers in a way that guides decisions. It's a way to profile and target people to know what they desire or what they need, so businesses can use that information to create something to their satisfaction. Market research is also key to keeping an organisation competitive. To often business rely on institutional knowledge without looking outward and questioning how to stay relevant within the minds of their buyers. Market research is an ideal way of pulling external insight into the organisation.
There are various techniques for market research. Some are qualitative and use focus groups, in-depth interviews and ethnography, while others are quantitative, which involve customer surveys and analysis of secondary data. Arguably, the best type of research is primary research where data is collected to answer a specific business challenge by asking target markets for the answers. This type of research creates reliable, fresh and unique insights to unique business problems and doesn't fall prey to interpretation or other biases that may crop up out of secondary research (for example, just because an article says green socks sell by the million in Australia, doesn't mean they will in South Africa).
Why Market Research is Important
Market research is important for the obvious reason – the better you understand your customer, the less you are flying blind. But more than that – the more you know, the greater the likelihood that opportunities will be uncovered that you can capitalise on – whether from a product innovation point of view or sharing a compelling advertisement that speaks directly to the subconscious need of your buyer
Land the message
We all anecdotally know about giant missteps that marketers have taken within advertising – missteps so calamitous, the brands never recovered (here are some pearlers in case you can't recall any). When huge chunks of budget are being invested into advertising campaigns (be they online, in print or on-air) – it is worth pausing and checking if the messaging and visuals have the desired effect on the target audience. Furthermore, conducting research amongst the target audience to test, for example, their expectations and associations with the brand may uncover campaign and messaging opportunities that can guide marketing strategies into the future. When weighing up the value of advert testing – consider this example– Dolce and Gabbana ran an insensitive advert back in November 2018 – despite apologising and retracting the ad, the brand was forced to cancel various runways shows, costing them millions – perhaps they should have taken a week, and a few thousand Rand and found caught the error before the campaign went live – it would undoubtedly have been worth it.
The why creates the what
Market research is not just about pushing sales. Its also about ensuring that products and services sold in fact, meet the needs and wants of the customers. Customer satisfaction is the result of needs being met (and exceeded), and this can only be done when the customer is understood. Using survey or other research techniques to gather information from existing customers will unearth insights about why a customer chose your brand over a competitor, or why the customer loves your product (as well as any places it falls short). These insights can then in turn drive product development, innovation and marketing to not only gain more customers but help delight the ones you already have.
Know thy enemy
Brand health or positioning studies as your target audience to rate your brand or product against your chosen competitors according to specific criteria. These types of studies will allow you to gain a great understanding of your competitors and their place in the minds of your customers. This information will arm you with the knowledge of how to strategically go-to-market to make sure that you gain the positioning, and market share, you want to stay ahead.
Criticism of market research
Many marketers are skeptical of the value that market research adds, and this is mainly due to all the bad research being conducted. There is widespread DIY research advice out there; however, this is time-consuming, and often not statically reliable – causing brands to take a long time to make the wrong decision. Another oft reference objection is that market research is hugely expensive. It can be but doesn't always have to be depending on who you partner with. Also, the losses made through a wrong move, often far outweigh the cost of getting it right through research.
As marketing conditions become tougher across the board, there is no good reason not to get research into the burning questions you have about your marketing. Chat to us today about how we can help.
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