Market research. Do I need it? Why do I need it? What can it answer for me? What will I get for ROI? How do I know if I need it? So many questions.
You're not alone. Unlike marketing or advertising, market research is a very specialized and niche service offered by very few firms in local and regional markets. Because so many small and mid-size businesses use it infrequently, it's hard to determine when you should use it and when you shouldn't.
A simple example of this is comparing it to advertising. If you were to ask a small business owner if they need to do any advertising they would undoubtedly say "yes". Then if you asked them what advertising was they would most likely say things like "digital ads, television commercials, radio spots, billboards" or some variation of this. Everyone gets advertising and knows they need to do it.
However, let's try this with market research. If you were to ask a small business owner if they need to use market research many would likely be unsure. Then if you asked them what market research was, the answers may vary from customer satisfaction to focus groups. In many cases there is likely some misunderstanding about how and why to use each methodology.
Well, we are here to save you.
Here are 9 signs you should invest in market research.
Sign 1: You are launching a new product or service.
This may be one of the most common and easy to understand drivers to usage of market research. One of the core benefits of market research is to provide facts and evidence to shed light on the unknown.
A feasibility study can give you answers for a new business concept or new location using components like a market analysis, competitive assessment, and demand modeling.
Online surveys are a great way to test concepts and product launches to understand appeal and potential penetration through test marketing. You can even test the proper price for a product through techniques like the van Westendorp pricing model.
Coupled with the fact that many investors and finance companies require proof of concept and demand in order to offer loans and you have yourself one of the most popular reasons to commission market research.
Launching a new product or service is a sure-fire sign you need market research.
Sign 2: Your advertising is not providing the return you need.
Do you continue to dump dollar after dollar into your advertising and see no return? Are your digital marketing campaigns and television commercials making the phone ring or filling your inbox with requests? If not, many companies and advertising agencies commission market research to find out more.
Advertising research typically involves message testing, creative testing, and customer persona development. In order to successfully market, you need to better understand the profiles of your customers and where they spend their time, catch their attention, and hit them with the right message.
Poor performing advertising? Or are you in the need of a marketing upgrade for your product or service? If you're not getting the return you need from your advertising dollars, it's a sign market research should be in your near future.
Sign 3: You don't know why you are losing customers.
Are you continually losing customers? Are they fleeing to a new competitor in your area but you don't know why? This is typically a sign of larger problems with your customer experience (CX).
Perhaps it's your poor customer service, your long lines, or your increasing hiked prices. Perhaps it is something else? You'll have your gut feelings but you'll never truly know unless you survey your customers to find out why. Maybe there you'll find out long lines make a positive impact on your brand because it creates a perception of quality and demand.
A quick Voice of Customer (VoC) email survey will get you the answers you need to start making corrections. This will provide you with objective data directly from your customers so your gut about why you are losing your customers is quantified.
Declining sales? Losing customers? Definitely a sign it is time to commission some VoC research to get you answers from those who matter most.
Sign 4: Your employees aren't performing they way you need them to.
With all of the attention on customers as part of your market research, don't forget about your employees. Unsure what motivates them, what is important to them, or how to best manage your teams? This is a perfect fit for an employee survey.
Voice of Employee (VoE) surveys are a great way to measure your culture and understand what drives your employees to perform well. The translation is high employee engagement translates to strong customer engagement.
Problems within? Time to get some more information through market research.
Measure and benchmark your employee satisfaction against other peers in your industry and against nationwide averages with a Voice of Employee (VoE) survey.
Sign 5: Your customer support receives a lot of customer complaint calls.
Is your customer service team overwhelmed with complaint calls? Are customers constantly calling about inaccurate orders, long shipping times, and a poor online ordering system? These are some more signs of a less than optimal CX.
Lots of options exist for you to measure these transactions. Here you can utilize website surveys to better understand pain and frustration points on your website. Or you can send a short 2 to 3 minute survey after a call is completed with customer service to understand how the representative managed the experience and what can be done better.
If your customer service department is constantly trying to put out fires, some proactive (or even reactive) market research will help you assess which issues are most common. It will also identify actionable strategies to incorporate into your training to assist call center reps.
Sign 6: You need to understand what, how, and where to grow business.
Stuck in a rut? Trying to find new markets or new areas to grow your business but you're not sure where to start? Enter market research. Assessments can be conducted to grade geographies to determine which make the most financial sense for growth.
This type of market research can be both qualitative and quantitative so the recommendations are comprehensive. A strong market research report will not only include an executive summary but also recommendations to help with operations, marketing, and strategy for growth.
A clear win, and a clear sign that market research is what you're looking for.
Sign 7: Your competitors are doing it.
If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you follow? In this case, you at least might want to think about it. Companies who utilize market research create a competitive edge in their market. In most cases whoever knows the customer best, wins. But they also know who to market to, how to market to them, and when to market to them.
With customer experience being a true differentiator in all industries, customer relationships are vital. Reaching out to customers, listening to their feedback, and taking action seems so simple yet it is rarely done. This is your chance to get that competitive edge.
Don't fall behind, if you see your competitors jumping on the market research train, you need to start thinking about ways to keep pace on the CX battlefront.
If your competitors are using customer surveys, focus groups, or other forms of market research they are gaining a strategic advantage over your company.
Sign 8: Your content marketing has gone stale.
Yet another non-traditional use of market research. Most of what we've mentioned so far has fit the bill of using market research to sell more to current customers or improve the customer experience.
Market research for content marketing creates a whole new benefit. Sales and market research can be friends. For years, they were told to sleep in separate beds and not talk to each other because sales was viewed as "persuasion" while market research was viewed as "unbiased". However, the two can be married together through content marketing.
This involves conducting industry studies and competitive studies where the market research is completed through a third-party to ensure credibility. After the survey is designed and fieldwork is completed, the data is released to the marketing and content marketing team so infographics, compare cards, and social nuggets can be created and marketed.
If you've run out of ideas for blogs, content, PR, and marketing materials it's a sign you need market research to freshen up your strategy. One industry study can create an endless mountain of repurposed content for your company.
Sign 9: You need an objective point-of-view.
Lastly, this might be the most simple reason for commissioning market research. This objective point-of-view could be for one person or a management team. If you are immersed in a project or your company on a day-to-day basis it is easy to lose sight of the big picture. Sometimes it helps to take a step back and bring in a third-party to conduct some strategic planning market research.
This may involve interviews with your company management team and stakeholders or even an in-house focus group. The deliverable is an objective report and insights from the market research firm. How they see things, not you.
Sometimes a simple study like this is enough to get the answers you need. If you are wondering about other's perspective on key topics or issues at your company it might be time to reach out to a market research firm.
Here are 6 tips to help you choose the best possible market research firm to fit your needs.
Drive Research is a market research firm in Syracuse, NY. Our clients span across all industries in Upstate New York and beyond. Interested in talking more about market research and receiving a quote from our team?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 315-303-2040.