The Value of Market Research in Today’s Immediate Feedback Society

by Francine Carb, President

Many of today’s marketing tactics are focused on gaining immediate feedback—and with very good reason. We all want to know if: Our email marketing campaigns are being opened? Being read? Recipients are clicking to our websites? And to which page or pages? Believe me, I’m all in when it comes to metrics; however, most B2B companies are struggling with the real value of those metrics. Yes, they are numbers—just like GDP or the employment rate—but also like big numbers, we struggle to find relevance behind them, and furthermore, how to turn those numbers into actionable plans that can make a difference in our businesses.

Market Research, even the name, implies a lengthy drawn-out process, with questionable results. Research seems like something we had to do in college that took up an entire semester—and that we’re still trying to forget. I’d love to invent a new name for it, but in the meantime I’d like to speak out in favor of market research.

Done well, it can at minimum take the pulse of a particular audience relative to a particular product, service, or trend. At most, it can identify customer issues; find those willing to volunteer for a case study or testimonial; and help drive the future strategy of an organization. Let’s further investigate the ‘at most’ scenario.

The question you should be asking yourself is: Do I really know and understand my customers at a deep level?

Sure, I know my customers are tech, science, and engineering firms who launch new products and services, but that’s just a description. You may know that your customers are facilities managers at health care institutions, IT managers at large corporations, constructions companies in the mid west, or builders of pharmaceutical plants—to name a few; however, those are descriptions not personal characteristics, and certainly not buying criteria.

I’ve mentioned our strategic planning process, Markitecture™, many times in my blogs, but have not focused on the primary research portion for a while. Primary research, in this case, refers to one-on-one interviews with “ideal prospects and ideal clients”. It is only through the interview process with multiple companies that one can begin to hear a “voice of customer” emerge and therefore adequately describe an ideal client—real or imagined.

Let’s explore one set of results learned through primary research. As an example, my ideal clients:

  • Are referred to my business or are former clients from other companies
  • Have a long term marketing issue or lackluster performance they are actively trying to resolve
  • Launch new products and services somewhat regularly, but do not have a marketing process in place to support that
  • Use outside services, agencies, advisors, and other consultants in one or more capacities
  • May have internal resources, but either not at a senior level, or not well-versed their industry
  • Have some room to grow, so are either in a growing market, offer a product where there is increasing demand, or have a innovation with high potential
  • Have a sponsor of marketing issues who is an owner, investor, and/or executive
  • Are willing and able to spend money to solve their marketing issues

Our ideal sponsors (the person supporting and growing marketing):

  • Usually come from a business or sales background
  • Intimately understand their business, and the industry as a whole
  • Have a good handle on the competitive landscape
  • Want to put effort (thought, in addition to money) to solve their issue
  • Are problem solvers
  • Are colorful characters with big personalities

Now, I think you definitely have a picture developing in your mind. While those are quite a few criteria, they are truly the characteristics of our ideal clients.

In the world of market research, there are various methods to gain voice of customer knowledge. I’m going to explore these in my next blog. They include: surveying industry members (at conferences or via associations), taking customer feedback mechanisms to the next level, and purchasing ultra-qualified lists. I’ll also cover online surveys, telephone surveys, and focus groups as methods to conduct primary research, as well as best practices when combining several methods.

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