Honest question: How much research do you do before creating a new marketing plan or campaign? In our experience, the research stage is particularly easy to skip, especially if you are short on time. Many businesses also assume they know everything they need to about their client base and don’t really need to do any more research.
However, we’ve come to find that research is not only important, but often the make-or break stage of a marketing project. Because clients and markets – even those you are very familiar with – can also surprise you! We have seen marketing campaigns that looked great at a glance start to falter right out the gate because customers had moved on, or the market had shifted in key ways, or the timing was poor…and no one did any research to discover this beforehand.
Remember, with the right research you can:
Customer personas, social polls, demographic information, buying habits: All these and similar information can help build a solid foundation for your next marketing project. Consult this information before you create your next marketing strategy, and remember to ask several key questions: Do your customer personas (especially how, when and why clients buy from you) need to be updated? Do they reflect current market conditions? Does your customer data show any notable change in how or what customers are buying? Are you seeing new clients (and if so, This will feed into your ideas for a new marketing plan, showing you want you need to attract clients, and what old strategies may not be as effective anymore.
If you skip out on research, how will you know what your competitors are doing? They could already be running a similar campaign, or launching a bigger deal, or offer a new slate of products with extra features. Basic competitor research is very easy to accomplish – you can usually get it done in one quick scan of their social media profiles or website, and then you’ll know if you need to tweak your own plans in response. But not knowing what your competitors are doing is dangerous, especially if you’re ready to build a new strategy.
It’s also important to acknowledge the digital world! Here, analytics are your friend. If you aren’t using Google Analytics/Adwords or similar services to examine your site traffic closely, now is the time to begin. It’s also important to take a look at your social media platforms/blog, track your social signals, and see what types of content have been particularly effective lately. This is another area where things can change quickly and may lead to adjustments in your social media marketing and web presence, so take a look!
Deeper research, especially when it comes to polls, surveys, and client interviews, can prove particularly useful if you are planning on launching new products or services, or at least including new features. New offerings test uncharted waters, so take time to learn how your buyers respond, how they would use these products/services, and how interested they are in buying something new in the coming business cycle. Ideally, you should start this research as you are developing the new product/service, and by the time you need a marketing plan, you already have plenty of useful information left over from the design process.
Of all the quick changes in the market, technology often changes the fastest. So it’s important to do some research into channels of communication and new technologies for two reasons. First, you can find new marketing tools or services that can accomplish important tasks more quickly, at a lower cost, creating new efficiencies for your plan.
Second, your research may uncover popular new technologies or platforms in your client base that you can utilize to reach them more effectively (Instagram, for example, has been a wakeup call for business in the past year). Don’t dismiss this sort of data as passing trends, it can be very useful when applied!