In our short marketing course today, here’s a quick look at one of the most powerful marketing tools you can use – market research. Now don’t get scared off. This is much easier than most people realize. I’m covering it in today’s short marketing course because mastering market research can be one of the most valuable ways to uncover that ONE secret that will generate more business than you ever thought possible.
Okay… I’ve seen assembly lines. But armpit sniffers testing deodorants and breath sniffers testing mouthwash? Yikes!
When I saw these photos I was floored. Yes these are real jobs. But I’ve included them in today’s short marketing course because they highlight an important reason why companies like Procter & Gamble and Colgate Palmolive are such huge companies. They use research to make sure they know what’s going on with their customers and competitors.
For our short marketing course today I’m not implying that you get in the armpits of your clients. But the more you understand about your products and your customers, the easier it is to come up with an edge over virtually everyone you’re competing with.
Los Angeles Plumber Mike Diamond interviewed plumbing customers, and discovered a few things people absolutely hated about most plumbers. He redesigned his business around what he learned, and suddenly his business is booming while so many others are struggling.
Office supplies retailer Staples was also struggling to come up with ways to boost sales for their website. So they interviewed customers. What they found was, their most important customers hated the Staples website. It turned out the problems people complained about were easy to fix, but the changes literally doubled sales for them almost overnight.
In our short marketing course today, understand that there ARE some incredible research firms and methods available to help you. But the Staples.com and Mike Diamond examples show that, for most businesses, valuable research doesn’t need to be difficult, complicated or expensive. In fact, getting this type of info is easier than most people realize. Frankly, all you have to do is ask your neighbors or customers for some feedback, and you could already have an edge over everyone else.
In today’s short marketing course, let’s discuss the six types of research most useful to marketers, with a little overlap between some of them. They include:
- Product research,
- Competitor research,
- Consumer research,
- Advertising research,
- Media research, and
- Supplier research.
Here’s a brief rundown of each of the different kinds of Marketing Research.
Number 1 in today’s short marketing course on market research is PRODUCT RESEARCH.
This is where you evaluate products and services to make sure they’re effective and to uncover opportunities for improvement and selling potential.
The main sources are:
- Analyzing a Competitor’s Products and Services,
- Interviewing Suppliers,
- Watching Customers and Users,
- Getting feedback from Customers and Users,
- Mystery Shopper Programs,
- Using Consultants and
- Using your Gut Instinct.
Going with your gut could work if you are intimately involved with your customers. Otherwise, if you don’t depend on some kind of research, you may be missing important opportunities and risks.
Number 2 in today’s short marketing course is COMPETITOR RESEARCH.
This is a great way to uncover product opportunities and marketing ideas, while understanding how your own product and business compares to your competitors.
Do you even know who your competitors are?
Have you ever seen their brochures, websites, trade show booths, or press releases?
Have you bought or used their products?
Have you visited their locations?
People at Burger King used to count the number of customers at each McDonald’s restaurant to decide where to locate their own restaurants. If a McDonald’s had lots of customers, they’d open up next door. Microsoft dissected WordPerfect and Lotus-1-2-3 to develop their blockbuster Word and Excel products. With the Internet, it can be easier than ever to review your competitors’ products and sales pitches. And checking out their press releases if they have any, could be especially revealing.
Google Alerts is a terrific free tool for uncovering opportunities that may otherwise be overlooked. At Google, type in ‘Google Alerts’ and you’ll find this tool that alerts you whenever an article with a relevant subject gets posted anywhere on the Internet. You can even enter the names of your competitors and get alerted any time an article is posted anywhere on the Internet mentioning them. When signing up, you may want to set the alerts to once-a-week to avoid having a ton of emails flood your mailbox every day.
Clipping services can also be helpful. These are companies that scour hundreds to thousands of newspapers, magazines, blogs, and other media looking for keywords and business names that you select. Of course, if you can, the old faithful of competitor research is simply buying and using your competitors’ products so you get the full experience of what they’re offering.
Number 3 in today’s short marketing course on business research is SUPPLIER RESEARCH.
Suppliers can be a great source of information about competitors and for new product ideas. In the 1980’s, Liquid Softsoap’s sales exploded when a bottle-supplier introduced them to an innovative pump strong enough to push liquid soap through a dispenser. By applying this supplier’s idea, they went from a small business to a giant one in about a year. So supplier research can be valuable.
Number 4 in today’s short marketing course is ADVERTISING RESEARCH.
This is where the effectiveness and potential of advertising gets measured and fine-tuned. Ad Research can include:
- testing of ad copy, layout and promotional offers,
- split-runs where you run two or more versions of an ad to compare which one works better,
- focus groups where in a conference room or controlled environment, you expose a group of people to specific advertising to get their reactions,
- direct response measurement where you run ads and measure the actual responses, and
- feedback through web surveys, online forums, in-person requests, post-shipment response cards, in-store or on-pack toll-free numbers or evaluation cards, mailings requesting feedback, etc.
Number 5 in our short marketing course is MEDIA RESEARCH.
This is where the media themselves are measured for audience size and characteristics. Standard Rates and Data Service (SRDS) is a great place to begin. They provide analysis and pricing for newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, Internet, cinema, mobile, social media, and outdoor advertising for more than fifty countries. AC Nielson also collects television, radio, movie theater and newspaper audience data, while Arbitron collects radio audience data.
For the Internet, the choices are more varied. Google Pagerank, SpyFu, QuantCast, Alexa, and TrafficEstimate all measure web traffic and other metrics. For statistical analysis of your own website, Google Analytics is a free service that can be useful to many marketers.
Number 6 in today’s short marketing course is CONSUMER AND BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS RESEARCH.
This is where you learn the traits, trends, values and interests of your buyers. This can range from simply asking for their opinion, to conducting focus groups, to analyzing data from government and private sources, to more sophisticated psychological analysis into what motivates people to buy.
Whenever possible, Piggyback Off Other People’s Research. One of my daughters would find out where Wal-Mart was preparing to open a new store, and then buy rental properties for her and her friends nearby. She figured Wal-Mart already did their homework. If a Wal-Mart is opening up, there’s a pretty good chance the area is a stable place to invest.
Also, Know Your NAICS code — That’s the six-digit code the U.S. Government uses that groups every type of business in North America. This system helps you identify other businesses that are somewhat similar to yours, so you can analyze and compare your business to others. For example, RMA reports (short for Robert Morris Associates), available in most public libraries, shows financial details – everything from profit margins, expense items, salaries, etc. of businesses that are somewhat comparable to yours. Knowing your NAICS code makes it easy to find and use tools like this. And if you want to bid on government contracts, you’ll need to know which code your business is under.
The Bottom Line to today’s short marketing course is… Whether you use sophisticated specialists or do it yourself, the more you understand about the people who buy and use your products, the more effective you can be with your marketing.