Marketing research is a process most businesses and marketers do on a regular basis. The challenge is determining how to strategically conduct marketing research that will help guide profitable business decisions. While many marketing efforts begin with hopes of improving the business, the result can render an overwhelming amount of data that might not be relevant to the primary business objective. 

Understanding how to conduct marketing research must first start with knowing the types of research methods available. This article will teach you core marketing research methods and how to use them in a way to help your business win. 

What is marketing research?

Marketing research is the process of determining the success of a product or service based on direct research with consumers. Marketing research can benefit every aspect of a business. Data and analysis collected from marketing research can help a business better position itself in terms of its product, branding, marketing, and customer service. 

A great deal of the marketing research process is based on consumer buying behaviors. Consumers’ perception of your brand or service can reflect in the data collected. With proper analysis, this data can help you strategically deliver your business in a way that meets consumer needs.
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Why is marketing research important? 

Marketing research can help define business goals and your primary business objective. With the right marketing research methods, you’ll discover any problems within your business, the industry, learn marketing trends, and be better equipped to predict future sales. Marketing research also helps you discover gapped information that affects the administrative, social, and economical aspects of your business. 

Three objectives of marketing research 

The purpose of conducting marketing research is to develop a better understanding of your industry. Acquiring keen insight on trends, consumer buying behaviors, and reactions to certain products or services will help develop a savvy marketing strategy to boost business. This type of information will offer valuable insights into how potential customers might respond to a new or existing product or service. Overall, there are 3 main objectives of marketing research: administrative, social, and economic.

  • Administrative - Administrative research deals with the internal operations of an organization. Assessing the planning and upkeep of workflow processes, management, and human resource can outwardly affect the success of an operation.  
  • Social - Social research relates to customer satisfaction. Ensuring a product or service meets consumers’ expectations is a great way to determine how well your business fares in the marketplace. 
  • Economic - Economic research gives you the ability to assess how well your product or service will succeed in your industry. In other words, is there a demand for the business your proposing to sell? 

Using the right market research platform will help you optimize your business within these 3 objectives. Through AI-powered insights, you can conduct a strategic market analysis that will help you make informed business decisions based on real-time industry trends and customer feedback. Advantages of marketing research 

The benefits of marketing research can significantly enhance business operations on a marketing and operational level. This type of research also feeds the 3 main administrative, social, and economic objectives. Marketing research provides you with key information to make decisions based on qualitative market research and quantitative market research collected from a targeted audience who is most likely to buy your goods or services. The following lists the different advantages of marketing research:

Discover valuable information and insights

Valuable market research helps gain relevant insights to assess what your business's strengths and weaknesses are. You’ll be able to reduce investment risks and make informed decisions giving you a winning advantage.

Improve your customer centricity

Customer-centric research reflects data analytics that helps you target and retarget consumers through desktop and mobile applications for advertising efforts. 

Develop forecasts  

Forecasting research helps you project the amount of sales your business can make based on marketing trends and customer demand. 

Get competitive advantages

Competitive advantage research helps you create a unique consumer market based on their buying behavior and industry shifts. 

Learn about customer preferences

Customer preference research provides key insights into a target audience's buying habits and preferences to position your business to meet their needs. 

Understand brand perception

Customer perception research reveals buyer awareness and levels of customer satisfaction. Learn more about how the market and customers perceive your brand with our Brand Tracker Solution, or get a quick pulse with this brand awareness survey template

Analyze customer communication methods 

Customer communication methods can reveal useful demographics to provide a better understanding of your buying audience. Momentive, the maker of SurveyMonkey, can help you build a customer experience program that not only helps you analyze customer communication, it helps you optimize it. 

Types of marketing research

The type of marketing research you’re looking for depends on the approach. It’s important to know your objective before embarking on the marketing research process because there’s more than one kind of research. Understanding the types of marketing research will help you focus on exactly what type of information you’re trying to collect based on your primary business objective. The following is a list of different types of market research and the survey templates to help you measure it:

  • Brand awareness - Brand awareness measures how familiar, or not-so-familiar your brand is in the market. 
  • Brand association and perception - Brand association is similar to brand awareness but relates more to product imaging and packaging. It refers to the psychological connection a customer has with your business. 
  • Marketing effectiveness - Marketing effectiveness evaluates the performance of a marketing campaign—including ads and copy—and tells you whether your campaign would effectively reach your target audience.
  • Trendspotting - Trendspotting identifies business phenomena associated with an unusual spike or drop in sales that need explaining. 

When to use marketing research 

When to conduct market research is relative to understanding the types of marketing research available to you. How often to do market research is also contingent on your marketing budget. However, it’s worth noting the more frequently you conduct marketing research, the more informed you’ll be about your industry and any shifts in market trends that could affect your business. 

Market research methods can be conducted on a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, or annual basis. These options will correlate with the type of product or services you provide and your primary business objective. This will consequently affect your marketing strategy. 

Product development 

Create a demographic audience to test your product and receive high-quality responses to help validate your product. You’ll also be able to explore the methodology behind the concept of your product. Our Product Concept Analysis uses AI-powered insights to help you understand exactly what your next product development moves should be.

Brand tracking

Through brand tracking, you’ll be able to tap into real-time insights on how your product or services is doing in the marketplace. Think of it as monitoring the health of your business. Through Brand Tracker, you’ll be able to detect any competitive threats, evolve brand perception, and measure how well your campaign is doing. Our Brand Tracker is a good way to track your brand reputation and awareness through time.

Marketing efforts testing

Choosing a white or blue background to display your product in an advertisement can mean everything to your sales margin. Looks matter! Testing your ads with a qualified panel of respondents will help you present your brand in a way that will render the best possible results. Set your product up for success with an Ad Creative Analysis

Competitor analysis

Get a broader scope of what’s happening in your industry by staying on top of marketing shifts. Competitor analysis will provide key insights that can explain the cause of industry trends. It will also reveal how your product is positioned against competitors’ products. Get in front of market trends with our Industry Tracking Solution. 

Marketing research methods

There are a variety of marketing research methods that can offer more insight into your industry. Understanding the different methods for marketing research will equip you with creating a strategic marketing approach that enables you to choose select methods to meet your specific business goal. In general, there are two types of marketing research methods: primary and secondary. 

Primary market research

Primary market research is data you collect yourself that renders two types of results: exploratory information and conclusive information. Exploratory information reveals a problem that has not yet been identified while conclusive information offers answers to that unforeseen problem. In this way, primary research helps you stay ahead of any industry issues that may negatively affect your business. 

Primary market research should be conducted on a frequent basis in order to pinpoint any shifts in the industry. It can be done before and after a new product launch or on a seasonal basis to analyze how well a product performs over a specific holiday. Because you are the one collecting the data, primary market research is time-consuming. You can start learning how to craft surveys by learning general survey terminology

Using the right marketing research tools can help truncate the amount of time spent on marketing your brand. Some of the more popular primary research methods are focus groups, interviews, surveys, and ethnographic research. 

Focus groups

Focus groups are typically an expensive method of primary market research. It involves gathering a collective group of people based on certain demographics like age, location, and buying habits to discuss and record their reaction to your product. It’s a scaled-down version of customer feedback that can reduce future marketing expenses and increase sales revenue.                            

One-to-one interviews

One-to-one interview questions and answers are a more controlled method of surveying consumers. Instead of collecting feedback from focus groups, one-to-one interviews gets an individual response to how a customer feels about your product without the direct influence of other consumers. These kinds of interviews can be conducted in person, by phone, or virtual. One-to-one interviews also provide a relaxed environment that lends itself to authentic conversational feedback.

Surveys

Surveys are a list of questions that are digitally submitted in a medley of open and/or closed-ended questions. It’s an efficient way to conduct primary research for a large audience. Surveys also provide respondents with flexible options to use the digital device of their choosing. Surveys require an internet connection. Using the right survey templates can provide precise feedback needed to make informed decisions about your business. 

Ethnographic research 

Possibly more costly than focus groups, ethnographic research requires the product to come to the consumer in their environment versus the other way around. This approach is more in-depth. It’s field research that can take anywhere from days to years. This is usually because the interviewer must first adapt to the environment and note any geographical variables in order to fully comprehend the need and practical uses of the product.  

Secondary market research

Secondary research might be the least expensive way to collect information because it’s data that’s already been collected and analyzed. While the work has already been done for you, it won’t necessarily be according to your specific business needs like primary research. Secondary market research is published information you won’t own, unlike primary research data. It’s also beneficial to businesses with conservative marketing budgets. 

Secondary market research is usually free. This information can be found in businesses that specialize in collecting and analyzing research data like the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Census Bureau, or Statistica. Collecting labor statistics can give you insight into job markets that reflect the type of products and services a company is selling. The Census Bureau can offer demographic information providing insights to understanding consumers better, and Statistica provides general facts about certain industries. 

Secondary market research is also referred to as desk research and can be broken down into 3 sources: public, commercial, and educational. 

Public sources

Public sources are found at libraries, courthouses, and of course, the internet. Access to most of this information is free. When collecting data from the internet, it’s recommended to verify it as a credible source. Launching marketing campaigns based on non-credited sources is a gamble that could result in an unsuccessful marketing initiative. 

Commercial sources

Commercial sources will be more reliable than general public sources. These types of businesses have most likely established accountability with their customers. Therefore, obtaining information from these sources may cost. Newspapers, journals, radio stations, and television keep archives that are accessible to the public. Most of these sources have an online presence where you’ll need to pay for a subscription to view more information like The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Educational institutions

Educational institutions like colleges and universities typically have a wealth of information. They archive a myriad of research projects that may be relative to your business industry. While most universities are open to the public, some institutions may require employee, faculty, and student identification in order to access certain records. 

Secondary and primary research takeaway

While secondary market research provides an exceptional amount of data, primary research offers flexibility to design surveys specifically targeted to the data you’re looking for. Data collected from secondary research can serve as the foundation for structuring your primary research. Both types of research can supplement the other providing a robust amount of information for your next marketing campaign.  

Steps for conducting market research 

Now that you understand what marketing research is and what it’s used for, it’s time to learn how to execute this process. Having a clear, primary business objective will help you structure your research in a way that renders the best possible results towards successful marketing research.

Marketing research is an investment of time and oftentimes monetary value. It renders the data you’ll need to evaluate your business to strategically position it for success. This can all be done in 6 simples steps: Defining the problem, defining the sample, collecting the data, analyzing the results, and then making a decision based on those findings. 

Step 1: Define the problem

It always helps to know exactly what to look for when planning the marketing research process. There’s a wealth of industry knowledge that’s easily accessible. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you can easily lose focus and collect information that doesn’t apply to your primary business objective. Knowing what problem you need to solve will drive the rest of the market research process. 

The best way to pinpoint your business problem is to present yourself and your team with a list of questions. Start with what you don’t know and turn that into questions. You can also make a list of goals and turn those into questions as well. Additionally, it’s important to define your target audience. Asking simple questions that identify what your customer persona looks like can pivot the trajectory of your marketing research approach. 

Step 2: Define the sample 

While your product will be displayed for the world to behold and hopefully purchase, there’s only going to be a select group of people attracted to your business. Defining a sample of this population is the next step in the marketing research process. Creating a smaller version of this group will provide the most realistic consumer feedback. This is why knowing your customer persona is so important. There are steps to acquiring this data as well. Ask yourself:

  • What is my base population? - This is where you’ll need to diversify your customer persona. There’s not just one kind of person who buys your product. Your base population will have a variety of interests, likes, dislikes, and buying habits. Demographics and economics will play a hand in this sample population. Make sure you’re not generalizing too much as you may exclude a base of potential customers. 
  • What kind of process should I use for my sample selection? - This is easy. You have 2 choices:
  • Probability - A random sample approach
  • Non-probability - A selection based on your judgment 
  • How many people should I have in my sample? - You could go with a random approach, but it’s not recommended. Surveys can help you define your sample based on your core audience will save time and help optimize your marketing research techniques. 

Step 3: Collect the data

This might be the easiest part of the process if you’re organized. Depending on your marketing research methods, your data will filter into these categories:

  • Operational - Information that deals with numbers like costs and sales. Such reports can be easily organized in a spreadsheet or matrix. 
  • Experience - Information that reflects the thoughts and emotions of consumers’ reaction to brands, products, consumer awareness, and purchasing experience. This also can be organized in a spreadsheet using graphs and figures for a better presentation. 

Step 4: Analyze the results

If Step 3 is executed in an organized way, then it will make Step 4 easier. As you analyze the results of your market research, it’s up to you to find patterns, trends, and any meaningful changes. Here is where you’ll be expected to come up with a narrative to your findings. It will also help to use analysis tools that can help benchmark your business position in the market industry. 

Step 6: Make decisions

Your analysis will direct your next step into deciding what type of marketing strategy to execute. There are plenty of marketing tools to help you interpret your responses into meaningful business decisions. For additional help, look into the ultimate guide on how to perform market research. 

How to use marketing research to win

Now that you know what steps to take in order to launch a marketing research project, here’s some useful tips to streamline your focus: Define the primary business objective, study your target customers, learn from competitors, and get feedback from your target audience. 

#1. Define the objective

This may sound like Step 1: Defining the problem, but here, you’re setting goals that solve that problem. When defining the objective, you’re imagining yourself at the end goal of achievement. In this case, you really need to see your success in order to achieve it.

#2 Study your target customers

By studying your target audience, you have a better understanding of who your customers are along with their shopping preferences. It’ll also be easier to establish a buyers’ persona. Creating a buyer's persona will improve how you approach your audience. The overall result will be a sustainable buyer and seller relationship. 

#3 Learn from competitors

It’s wise to learn from your mistakes, but it’s better to learn from someone else’s. The same applies to successes. Identifying what can and cannot help your business will save you disappointment, time, and money. Discover what business practices work for your competitors, then assess if they can work for you. 

#4 Get your target audience to give feedback

Audience feedback is everything to a business. While you may have received positive feedback in your focus group to move forward, it’s just as important to hear what actual customers are saying. Listening to the feedback and making the changes to your product according to consumer response is as good as gold. Your customers will feel heard and see their opinion is valued. This marketing technique goes a long way and contributes to establishing a sustainable customer relationship.

Use marketing research to win

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