It isn’t news that marketing research is an absolute necessity. Research forms the backbone of any informed business decision and especially with the constant changes around us, it should be everyone’s priority to keep informed about the market and useful marketing strategies. (I should also point out that research needs to be more than just a “gut decision” made by a select few.)

Research doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. All it takes is some planning, thinking and time. Even better, the benefits are vast; it will drive communication with current customers and target prospects, give you the possibility to identify opportunities, keep you focused, and maintain your competitive edge.

The primary objective of any research is to answer a question put forward by the management. If you’re in management and are not sure what questions to ask your marketing department or person, have a look at these:

1.       Do we know everything about our market?

2.       What is happening in the market?

3.       What are our customer’s needs, wants and demands?

4.       How do our customers make purchase decisions?

5.       What is the competition up to?

6.       How is our brand perceived, by customers and stakeholders?

7.       What other opportunities are in the market for us?

8.       What could be part of our product portfolio?

9.       What are possible strategies for expanding the business?

10.   How could we structure our marketing communication?

One, or several of these questions will form your research objective and the starting point of the marketing research process.

The next step will be the design of the research, also known as planning. I mentioned before that planning is a crucial part of this process, it will build the base and keep you on track for the rest of the process. For this, you must determine what data you are going to gather and from whom, how and when you will collect the data, and how you will analyze it once it is collected. The main decision is whether to use primary or secondary data. Since collecting primary data is very time consuming and there is already plenty of research out there on a vast variety of topics, stick with the secondary data. Unless of course there isn’t sufficient available! If you are keen on knowing how to determine what secondary data is good to use and where to find it, stay tuned for some tips in another blog.

After collecting and/or gathering the data, it needs to be analyzed. Programs such as Microsoft Excel or other statistical programs allow to tabulate and/or calculate the data. Furthermore, the programs can be used to calculate averages and percentages, as well as other values such as standard deviation, mean and median for each question. You will also see if there is an additional need to undertake more research in certain areas or clarify some issues.

The findings will be presented in a report, alongside the methods you used, constraints placed on the procedure and some recommendations on what actions to take. From here, you will develop you marketing campaigns.

Having said all of this, sometimes the best research is achieved by simply having a conversation with your customer. Identify your top five customers and ask them why they like doing business with you. Simple and effective.

Carrying out marketing research gives you a better insight in your customer and their behavior patterns, as well as allows you to analyze your competitor and foster better decision making. If you’re not sure of these things, ask them. Moreover, research is imperative for increasing sales, having a smooth new product introduction and spearheading business growth. Keep it simple to achieve amplified results!