Marketing is at its best when it is data-driven. An old marketing mantra is that it is not important what you think, it’s what your customer thinks. How satisfied or engaged are your clients, donors or customers? What features of your new product or service are least or most popular? Does your brand have recognition in a positive way?
Whether your business or organization is large or small, customized information about your clients, prospective clients, industry trends, and products/services attributes is vital knowledge for your successful growth. Data of most magnitudes, not necessarily the over-publicized quantitative set of “big data,” is often the best marketing tool available to guide business decisions.
For example, if 90 per cent of your business is Maryland-based, should you spend most of your promotional budget out of state to grow your business? And if you do so, was there a favorable impact or none in a reasonable time period? Should you open a new office, expand your hours of service, or change your services offered? Data can assist you in those decisions.
A small organization can clearly address these informational data need issues through “DIY” market research. There are detailed overviews of inexpensive software tools that you can purchase and manage on your own. In fact, Capterra publishes annual reviews of products such as Survey Monkey, Responster and others to fit your goals.
Digital survey tools are a significant growth market of their own and relatively easy to implement and to use for analysis of results. The trick is to understand the value of asking the right questions and wording them in a simple fashion to yield usable information. Another caution — survey tools should not be overused as they could ultimately annoy the intended audience.
Mid-to large-size organizations with the mindset to focus strategically, often seek the support of external market research firms to achieve unbiased and efficient results. This year is expected to be a strong one for research amid global and economic uncertainty.
Additionally, this is a great time to test your growth and strategies thanks to the acceleration of technological changes that facilitate speedier and more cost effective reports. The use of mobile surveys, social media “listening,” automation, and analytics can be simple, in the moment and compelling.
Use of professional market research firms provides another strong positive — they painfully and guardedly maintain diverse databases of individuals to contact for highly focused quantitative or qualitative surveys. Their test groups may enable you to connect with hard-to-reach ethnic, financial, and psychographic groups to get to “the why” of things quickly.
Towson-based Baltimore Research (BR) has a successful pedigree of conducting significant and diverse surveys for international and domestic clients. The firm is capable of using technically infused processes to assist companies, including facial recognition techniques that show emotional responses and website heat maps.
BR holds mock trials for lawyers’ message testing and can use handheld wired technology for responses. According to President/CEO Ted Watson, BR “has tested television pilot episodes, Super Bowl ads, tasting of delivery pizzas, and branding campaign message points.” He notes that BR’s valuable data bases are indeed the key to the rapid and effective results it achieves for health care, automotive, legal clients and others. Ted Donnelly, managing director of Baltimore Research, has been involved in organizing a national professional consortium group, Insights, focusing on the use of new technologies beyond the basics of marketing research.
Finally, another marketing mantra, “The product (or service) is a variable,” is an important thought to promote ongoing market research at some level for any organization. What worked one day may not be valid after a few months or the end of a business cycle. Whether you do it yourself or with an outside professional group, stay on top of your market through market research.
Glenda LeGendre is principal of Strategic Marketing and Communications and can be reached at [email protected].