If you fail to plan, you plan to fail is one of the hackneyed sayings in business, but when it comes to market research many businesses rush in without really thinking through what they’re trying to achieve.
The temptation to dive in without a plan or a strategy is always there – today’s world of marketing moves so quickly that if you’re not in tune with your customers’ needs, your communications and messaging is not going to resonate.
Many of those in business believe spending time planning and building strategies ‘slows you down’ from ‘getting things done’. But what if the things you’re trying to get done are not the things that matter to your customers?
It’s easy to focus on “getting things done”
Technology has dramatically changed the way we talk to customers and nearly every market you can think of is highly competitive. Strong competition leads to businesses fighting tooth and nail for every deal. In this environment, marketing has become rapid fire, fuelled by the focus on ‘everything digital’.
Social media platforms have made it easy to build and execute campaigns fast and relatively cheaply. They provide a real-time feedback loop between the business and the customer – and a very public one at that.
For businesses operating in this environment, there’s no time for strategy, which is every marketer’s worst nightmare. You’ll hear words bandied around like ‘agile’ and ‘disruption’. In this type of scenario, it’s easy to focus on activity, especially if the boss is saying, ‘if we’re getting the work done, we must be doing the right thing!’ And why not? Many managers and business leaders see marketing activity and believe it equates to more customers and stronger revenues.
Planning is always the better option
There’s two problems with the “just do it” approach to research and marketing. Firstly, it’s a bit like shooting a gun blindfolded: without a plan, you simply fire wildly without any knowledge of whether you’re going to hit anything. Secondly, if you rush into a piece of market research without having a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve, you’re unlikely to get any meaningful information from the process.
A genuine, evidence-based marketing strategy built on solid customer-side research means you’re more likely to understand the key target for all your marketing activity; your customer. By building a plan, you can take the time to research your customer, their behaviours and the factors influencing their decision-making.
It’s this understanding that allows you to focus your communications on what will truly resonate with your customers. Moreover, you will be able to appropriately select the right channels through which to engage them.
A strategy is like an internal communications document
Building a solid plan helps the entire business understand what it is the marketing department is doing. It’s common for senior leaders and other departments – think sales – to question the value of market research. By building a suitable plan, backed by data, you have the perfect communication tool for ensuring the business is on-board with your marketing direction.
There are significant advantages if you take the time to develop a market research strategy for your business. Again, like all other forms of strategic planning, it should be an achievable plan, not a re-creation of ‘War and Peace’. Furthermore, a strategy focused on your customer will win out most times over a loosely executed package of tactical initiatives.
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