Market Research: How, Why, What, and When 

This blog focuses on Market Research: How, Why, What and When answers.

What you know is great!  What you think you know is questionable!  What you don’t know is dangerous! Market research reduces risk and drives growth by filling the knowledge gap.

How are you embracing Market Research to reduce risk and stay clear of the danger zone?

Keeping Up with Change

Knowledge is Power. We’ve all seen this phrase repetitively.  While the phrase is overused, it is also spot on.  Especially now as the world and our economy continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, things that we may have known or thought we knew, have likely changed significantly.

As marketers and businesspeople, we are constantly making choices and decisions based on what we know, or what we think we know yet without certainty.  Making marketing and business decisions based on what we think we know is quite a gamble but making blindsided choices and decisions without current knowledge is downright dangerous. What you think you know or don’t know can really work against you. Today more than ever, knowledge is power!

Research: A Critical ‘Vane’ of Marketing

Throughout my career as a brand, marketing, and communications professional, I have always embraced market research to gain and maintain a pulse on the market.  In addition to this ongoing market research, I often engage in research specific to a business or brand, product and service offerings, new product opportunities, and/or client satisfaction and retention. Research is a tool in the marketing kit to surface untapped, under-tapped, or newly discovered opportunities in the market, and for always keeping a close eye on the competition.

As someone who still conducts research regularly for my own business and for clients, I witness firsthand what an eye opener the findings are for many businesses.  In fact, I believe market research and the insights, intelligence and knowledge gained from research is one of the four critical ‘vanes’ of marketing.

To discuss market research and its critical role in marketing, it is important that we share the same knowledge baseline.  So, whether you are reading this because market research is new to you or not, I will share what you need to know about market research for you to gain the understanding and knowledge required to embrace it.

What is market research?

While most of us have formed some definition or perception of what market research is, let’s break it down to one statement.

Market research is the process of gathering information about your buyers’ needs, wants, behaviors, beliefs and attitudes, your target audience, and your customers to determine how appealing, viable and successful your product or service will be or is to these people.

Why do market research?

Now that we have defined what market research really is, let’s look at why market research is important.

Market research provides a competitive advantage.  Because through research, we gain the intelligence, insights, and knowledge we need as marketers and businesspeople to make timely, insightful, and informed choices and decisions.

There are numerous reasons for conducting research.  Yet the primary reason to conduct research is to obtain knowledge of who are buyers are, their needs, wants and behaviors.  The purpose is to gain knowledge that we currently do not have to move the needle from thinking we know something to actual knowing it, or from not knowing something to knowing it.

You may have heard the term, “meeting your buyers where they are”. By conducting market research and learning more about your buyers, you are better informed on how to meet them where they are. Today more than ever, there are so many distractions and demands for our attention. Conducting research, allows us to better understand our buyer’s problems, pain points, and desired solutions, so we can create or adapt our product or service to appeal to them, where they are today.

Key Questions Answered by Market Research

Market research provides insights, intelligence, and knowledge in several areas that have an impact on business. Here is a sampling of questions that market research can be used to identify the answers:

  • Where your target audience and customers research a product or service
  • Which competitor/s your target audience considers a resource for information or purchases
  • What’s currently important in the eyes of your buyer (in your industry)
  • What the current challenges are for those in your market
  • What influences purchases among your target audience
  • How is your brand currently perceived in the market
  • How is your brand perceived versus competitive alternatives
  • Does your product or service meet the current and anticipated needs of your target audience?
  • What product or service do you already have that can be offered or adapted to appeal to more buyers?

While this is not a complete list of questions that market research can answer, you can gain a sense of some of the areas it is used to answer.

Categories of Market Research

The two main branches or categories for conducting market research are primary research and secondary research. Let’s look at the differences.

Primary Research

Primary research collects first-hand information. This type of research proves useful to examine and segment your market and to define your buyers and their respective personas (needs, wants, behaviors, attitudes, sources, etc.).  Primary research can be conducted for two purposes, either exploratory or focused on a specific area or topic.

Primary Research for Exploratory Purposes

This kind of research looks to surface potential problems that may be worth addressing. It generally precedes specific research, and lends itself to more open-ended questions, surveys, or interviews with fewer people.

Primary Research for Specific Purposes

This research follows exploratory research or is done on its own without exploratory research. Its purpose is to dig deeper into issues or opportunities that have already been identified as important. Specific research allows you to take a more precise or targeted segment of your audience and ask specific-type questions to help solve an issue or identify an opportunity.

I often compare primary research to the process of building a custom home by creating something specific to your needs. Whereas secondary research is more like buying a home that already was built and available for your needs.

Secondary Research

Secondary research is all the information you either have at your access or can readily gain access to the data or information from which you can draw your own conclusions and form your own insights and knowledge base. Examples of these may include industry trend reports, industry forecasts, market statistics, competitive analysis reports, and other internal data you already have. Secondary research is particularly helpful when conducting competitive research.

Sources of Secondary Research

Secondary research can be obtained from a variety of sources, some include:

  • Publicly Available Sources
    These sources are often free and are the most accessible sources for secondary market research. Examples include public market statistics originating from the government and other public entities.
  • Commercially Available Sources
    There is a multitude of secondary research available as market or industry reports. They are fee-based, and contain research conducted regularly by firms that specialize in certain industries or sub-sectors.
  • Internally Available Resources
    This is the market data your organization collects on its own. Examples include revenue, quantity of sales, customer satisfaction and retention rates, and other data collected in your CRM or accounts management and billing system.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive even deeper to consider the various types of market research that as marketers and businesspeople we may want to conduct.

Types of Market Research

There are various ways of conducting market research. You can collect the research in-person, via in-person groups or individually, by phone, via online research methods, surveys and more.  Identifying your research need and objectives for doing the research will inform the best approach for conducting the research.  Here are some common types of market research to consider, and what they offer.

  • Interviews
    Interviews allow for face-to-face discussions either in-person, by phone or by other virtual means. This type of research allows for better back and forth conversation and when done in-person or by video, allows you to see the body language of the interviewee which can also be of benefit.
  • Focus Groups
    Focus groups provide you with a group (generally 12 or less) of carefully screened and qualified before being selected people. This format of research enables you to get answers to your brand, product, or service questions, to test your product, to have people watch a demo and react to it, to show and tell and get feedback, and to get answer to specific questions.
  • Polls and Online Surveys
    Polls are generally kept short with a limited number of questions.  They provide choices for each question, and generally no more than 3-4 choices per question. Polls are useful for getting a pulse or quick read on where things are at on an area and may identify areas to further explore with more in-depth research.Online Surveys are also another means of capturing feedback on a specific subject. There are several online survey tools that can be utilized to create both a visually attractive survey that asks both open-ended and close-ended questions from your target audience.

While the methods above are common formats for collecting information while conducting research, it is important when selecting the method that you keep in mind what kind of information you need in return to achieve your research objectives.

Qualitative and Quantitative Research

  • Qualitative Research

    Qualitative research is the collection of data and information that cannot be measured. It can come from primary or secondary sources.
    Qualitative research using primary market research methods help businesses find out how customers really think and feel about their product or service. To do this, you will want to ask open-ended questions. This type of market research gives us critical insight into what customers are thinking and feeling. It is the only way to ask specific questions to discover why a customer decides to trust your brand, product, or service, which in turn informs your brand, marketing, and product strategies.

  • Quantitative Research

    Quantitative research is less objective and refers to collecting numbers for statistical analysis. Like qualitative research, quantitative research can be primary or secondary.Quantitative research provides the hard numbers to support your marketing strategy. These figures are empirical evidence and not subjective.The objective data can serve as a benchmark for where to spend more time and money in your marketing efforts. Once you know where you stand in a market, you can adapt your marketing strategy to address your findings.Quantitative research does offer the distinct advantage of enabling use of analytics to track your progress.

The Applications for Market Research 

Listed below are different types of applications for market research and how they can be of valuable.

  • Product/Service Research
    Product or service research provides insight into the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ your audience uses your product or service, and the specific features. This research also provides you with the product or service’s usability for your audience.
  • Observational Research
    Observational research allows you to watch the ways in which your target audience uses your product or service. You can view what works well, and what works ok but not well, and what does not work well.
  • Buyer Research
    This research gives you a real-world understanding of who makes up your target audience, what are their challenges, why they want your product or service, what they need from your brand or business that you currently have, or currently don’t have or need to modify to have.
  • Market Segment Research
    The purpose of this research is to categorize your target audience into specific segments based on each group’s defining characteristics. This allows you to better understand and identify the most effective ways to meet their needs, understand their challenges, learn their goals, objectives and expectations.
  • Price Point Research
    Pricing point research informs your pricing strategy. It provides you with information of what similar products or services in your market are selling for. It also offers you an idea of what your target audience is expecting and is willing to pay for your product or service, and what’s a fair price for your product or service.
  • Competitive Research
    The value of this research is that it provides you with a deep understanding of your competitors. It informs you about what’s doing well in your industry, what and where your target audience is buying the product or service in your industry or market, which of your competitors you need to keep up with and work to surpass, and how you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
  • Customer Satisfaction and Retention Research
    This type of research is never a one-off endeavor.  Marketers and businesses must always have the current pulse and measure of satisfaction and loyalty of their customers. Identifying what it takes to delight your customer, how to motivate customers to remain loyal, and new ways to delight your customers which can come from upselling or cross-selling new products or services.
  • Brand-related Research
    Brand-related research informs you if your target audience is aware of your brand. Do they recognize your brand, and if so, what is their perception and associations of your brand? Many businesses do brand-related research prior to developing a brand, refreshing a brand, or doing something noteworthy with the brand.  Collecting information related to your current brand state, provides an excellent foundation from which a brand can be built, refreshed, or further enhanced.
  • Campaign-specific Research
    As companies increasingly analyze campaign effectiveness to improve their ROI, campaign-specific research enables you to analyze the success of your past campaigns and among your current customers and target audience. It takes a hard look into what reached your audience, and what resonated with your audience once reached. This enables you to develop future campaigns that not only reach your target audience but resonate with them because it focuses on what matters most (what is most relevant, compelling, and appealing) to your audience.

As you can see the applications for research are numerous.  Those listed here are the most common applications for market research, yet there other applications that businesses use for conducting market research.

Next Steps

Now that we share a common baseline on market research and how and where it can be used to fill the knowledge gap, our next blog will focus on how to conduct effective market research for meeting your marketing or business needs and objectives. Stay tuned…

In the meantime, if you have a specific question about the contents of this blog or need time-sensitive information before the next blog is posted, please contact us directly for a response. Also, feel free to check out how we help clients conduct research when they prefer to use an objective, independent party versus conducting it in-house.

Need some help?
Some businesses need a bit of extra help from an objective resource with specific expertise.  If you find this to be true, we’re here for you.  Just let us know .

Marketing Matters based in Stamford, CT in Fairfield County serves diverse businesses and organizations in CT, NY, NJ and throughout the US. We help clients across the entire marketing spectrum from conducting research to gather insights and intelligence, developing strategy and plans, branding, traditional and digital marketing and communications, and aligning with and enabling sales to drive growth and achieve results in today’s evolving market.  For questions or to learn more, contact us by phone at 203.329.7773 or online.