July 8, 2015

With market research, one time through doesn’t get the job done

By Anjuli Doyle, Entira Associate

Good market research is like a customized strategy enhancer for your business. But just lathering it up once won’t give you the full effect—it takes repeated applications to make sure your strategy is squeaky clean…and stays that way.

Market research should be one of those projects or processes that has no end. It has to be ongoing to truly give you the insight you need to stay ahead of the game, as well as to continually modify and improve your business, whether that’s through products and services, marketing strategies, internal practices, customer service, or other areas.

Research is an investment in time and resources, but in the long run it saves you money and makes you money. Done half-heartedly, market research does nothing to help you hit your target. You’re just shooting blindly and relying on good fortune to hit something along the way.

Done tenaciously, market research makes you nimble in addressing individualized needs of your customers. You’ll ultimately be saving (and making) time and money, bringing in new revenue while not wasting resources on activities that do not impress or motivate your customers.

7 Important Dos and Don’ts of Market Research

Staying in tune with your customers is critical so that as their needs ebb and flow, you’re ebbing and flowing right along with them. Here are a few “dos and don’ts” of effective market research.

Don’t assume you already know everything.
Just because a group of customers is the same demographically doesn’t mean they have the same goals, challenges, or motivations. The only way you’ll know these things is if you look deeper than demographics. And just because you asked them once doesn’t mean things haven’t changed—don’t assume this year’s needs are the same as last year’s.

Do make every interaction count.
Engrain market research in your sales culture. Listening to your customers should be a day-to-day activity. Those face-to-face interactions are invaluable to truly keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s making your customers tick today. If you are in constant contact with your customers, there will be no surprises.

Don’t think it always has to be elaborate.
Market research can be as informal as you want it to be. Focus groups are wonderful quick hits that can be an easy checkpoint in between more formal research and analysis activities.

Do be persistent and open-minded.
Be disciplined with your research. It takes hard work and an open mind. You have to be willing to throw out all your pre-held beliefs and respond to what the research teaches you.

Don’t make them come to you.
Go to them. Go off the grid if necessary. If you talk to them on their turf you’ll be sure to garner the most candid and authentic insight. Entira knows sometimes you have to get dirty to get the most meaningful insight, and we’re always willing to do it on behalf of our clients. So if the best clues about your customers’ mindset are in the dairy parlor, then that’s where we’ll be. If it requires spending the day in a combine with a soybean producer, we’re there, because that’s time well spent.

Don’t wait for a catastrophe.
Market research usually happens when companies sense a tide change, but by then the change is already in motion and you may not be in the position to respond effectively. If you don’t stay on top of your market conditions and customer needs, you’ll always be in reactive mode—that is, reacting to the crisis du jour vs. responding pre-emptively with a sound strategic approach because your homework allowed you to anticipate the move. There’s a big difference.

Do keep asking questions.
Don’t let your market research wane. When you reach the end of a project, it’s natural to want to move on to the next thing. But it’s better to stop and ask yourself, “ok, what more can we learn?” Research needs to go beyond grasping what’s within arm’s reach. Go deeper so you can truly understand the impact on all areas of the business.

Your Research Affects more than Sales and Marketing

When companies have a solid understanding of their customers’ needs and challenges and understand how they make decisions, that’s powerful knowledge with widespread impact that will boost your competitive edge. It gives direction to product development and product positioning. It helps optimize marketing and capital resources. It uncovers new market segments and growth opportunities with existing customers. And, it can lead to improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Companies should never take their eyes and ears off their market environment, whether it’s by launching a comprehensive market study, or conducting a segmentation analysis, quantitative research, focus groups, or other research programs. Bottom line, your research should be continuous, because at any given time, you want to be able to answer questions like these:

  • What are the market trends affecting my business?
  • How satisfied are my customers with our products or services versus my competitors?
  • What will make our existing customers buy and adopt our new product or service?
  • How can we attract new customers?
  • What marketing strategies are our customers most likely to respond to?

Entira’s Approach

When it comes to market research and strategy development, Entira believes it’s the right answer only if it’s right for your company. By starting with solid research and examining the equation from every angle, we can deliver solid, practical strategic advice that gets results. We use the insight gathered to design strategies and solutions for carving your niche, building the right competencies and growing your business.

Entira’s approach is unique because we work with you from beginning to end, sticking around to make sure the solutions work. None of your hard work and investment will pay off unless you’re able to implement change successfully. We lead companies through customer segmentation, qualitative/quantitative research, sales team analysis, focus groups, pricing analysis/price sensitivity, value proposition testing, product concept testing, and more. If you’d like an overview of our market research program, contact me today at 231.679.1627 or adoyle@entira.net.