One of the first considerations in creating a Marketing Plan is to do research. For your Marketing Plan to be effective, you cannot base it on assumptions. You must take the time, or hire someone to the leg-work, which involves getting hard, objective data on customers.
Assuming you know your customers and what their expectations are can be detrimental because research shows that customers often do not see themselves or the company as the company assumes.
Two types of market research are required – primary and secondary.
How to Do Primary Market Research
Primary research is research where you gather the data yourself. What makes it primary is that you are the one who uncovered it. Primary research may include questionnaires, interviews, surveys, or focus groups where you go straight to your customers for their feedback.
Ways to gather primary research include:
- Asking customers what they think about your products. Would they buy it? How much would they pay for it? You don't have to ask only customers. You can also ask friends, family, or acquaintances for their input.
- Do research on the competition. You can visit businesses that are similar to yours and find out some of their strategies. Depending on your industry and the market environment, some may be quite helpful in giving a new business some direction simply by visiting and asking.
- Conducting a survey of people in your market either at a relevant offline location or online. 'Relevant' means a place relevant to your business such as a sports club if your business sells sporting goods.
- Contacting organizations in your industry and speaking to representatives from these organizations.
How to Do Secondary Market Research
Secondary research is where you analyze data that has already been published. There are many ways to conduct secondary research using the wealth of information online.
Secondary research includes:
- Keyword research – looking at search volume and demographics for certain keywords related to your products
- Researching competitors, which includes looking at their sites, their products, their marketing efforts online, and their reputation
- Reading blogs and websites to better understand your market or industry
- Case studies about your target market researched and published by someone else
- Joining social media groups and listening to conversations among your target market
- Looking at reviews on websites like Yelp or Amazon
It’s best to conduct both primary and secondary research. Primary research is more labor-intensive for you, but it yields direct feedback that’s very useful. Secondary research is easy but not quite as fruitful. Yet, you can glean important insights through secondary research because the subjects aren’t on the spot. They’re more likely to be freely discussing their opinions. It’s also easier to get ‘big picture’ data through secondary research.
What to Look for in Your Research
You should look for data related to your customers, competition, and environment. Pay attention to your customers’ buying habits and their feelings about what they buy. Focus on the problems they want to solve through their purchases and what deciding factors push them to buy. Find out where and how they like to make purchases.
Study your competition to find out what products and services they offer, and what makes these offerings unique. How and where do they reach out to their customers? Try to learn about their sales figures and in what areas they’re having success or not having success. Pay attention to their reputations and how their customers feel about them.
Finally, your research should include the industry and environment in which your company exists. Look for trends in the industry that could affect your sales or reputation. Look for the top selling items and services in your industry and how their sales vary over time. Don’t forget to also look at technological changes and how these might affect your market.
Where are you in creating a Marketing Plan? Are you at the research stage or have you gone beyond that? What challenges have you come up against in creating your Marketing Plan?