Today’s consumers have a lot of power. They can research your product or service and make purchase decisions entirely on their own.
Moreover, rather than talking to one of your sales reps, they’re more likely to ask for referrals from members of their networks or read online reviews.
With this in mind, have you adapted your marketing strategy to complement the way today’s consumers research, shop, and buy?
To do just that, you must have a deep understanding of who your buyers are, your specific market, and what influences the purchase decisions and behavior of your target audience members.
What is market research?
Market research is the process of gathering information about your target market and customers to verify the success of a new product, help your team iterate on an existing product, or understand brand perception to ensure your team is effectively communicating your company’s value effectively.
Market research can answer various questions about the state of an industry, but it’s hardly a crystal ball that marketers can rely on for insights on their customers. Market researchers investigate several areas of the market, and it can take weeks or even months to paint an accurate picture of the business landscape.
However, researching just one of those areas can make you more intuitive to who your buyers are and how to deliver value that no other business is offering them right now.
Certainly you can make sound judgment calls based on your experience in the industry and your existing customers. However, keep in mind that market research offers benefits beyond those strategies. There are two things to consider:
- Your competitors also have experienced individuals in the industry and a customer base. It’s very possible that your immediate resources are, in many ways, equal to those of your competition’s immediate resources. Seeking a larger sample size for answers can provide a better edge.
- Your customers don’t represent the attitudes of an entire market. They represent the attitudes of the part of the market that is already drawn to your brand.
The market research services market is growing rapidly, which signifies a strong interest in market research as we enter 2022. The market is expected to grow from roughly $75 billion in 2021 to $90.79 billion in 2025 at a compound annual growth rate of 5%.
Why do market research?
Market research allows you to meet your buyer where they are. As our world (both digital and analog) becomes louder and demands more and more of our attention, this proves invaluable. By understanding your buyer’s problems, pain points, and desired solutions, you can aptly craft your product or service to naturally appeal to them.
Market research also provides insight into a wide variety of things that impact your bottom line, including:
- Where your target audience and current customers conduct their product or service research
- Which of your competitors your target audience looks to for information, options, or purchases
- What’s trending in your industry and in the eyes of your buyer
- Who makes up your market and what their challenges are
- What influences purchases and conversions among your target audience
- Consumer attitudes about a particular topic, pain, product, or brand
- Whether there’s demand for the business initiatives you’re investing in
- Unaddressed or underserved customer needs that can be flipped into selling opportunity
- Attitudes about pricing for a particular product or service
Ultimately, market research allows you to get information from a larger sample size of your target audience, eliminating bias and assumptions so that you can get to the heart of consumer attitudes. As a result, you can make better business decisions from knowing the bigger picture.
Primary vs. Secondary Research
To give you an idea of how extensive market research can get, consider that it can either be qualitative or quantitative in nature — depending on the studies you conduct and what you’re trying to learn about your industry.
Qualitative research is concerned with public opinion, and explores how the market feels about the products currently available in that market. Quantitative research is concerned with data, and looks for relevant trends in the information that’s gathered from public records.
There are two main types of market research that your business can conduct to collect actionable information on your products, including primary research and secondary research. Let’s dive into those two types, now.
Primary research is the pursuit of first-hand information about your market and the customers within your market. It’s useful when segmenting your market and establishing your buyer personas. Primary market research tends to fall into one of two buckets: exploratory and specific research.
Exploratory Primary Research
This kind of primary market research is less concerned with measurable customer trends and more about potential problems that would be worth tackling as a team. It normally takes place as a first step — before any specific research has been performed — and may involve open-ended interviews or surveys with small numbers of people.
Specific Primary Research
Specific primary market research often follows exploratory research and is used to dive into issues or opportunities the business has already identified as important. In specific research, the business can take a smaller or more precise segment of their audience and ask questions aimed at solving a suspected problem.
Secondary research is all the data and public records you have at your disposal to draw conclusions from (e.g. trend reports, market statistics, industry content, and sales data you already have on your business). Secondary research is particularly useful for analyzing your competitors. The main buckets your secondary market research will fall into include:
These sources are your first and most-accessible layer of material when conducting secondary market research. They’re often free to find and review — lots of bang for your buck here.
Government statistics are one of the most common types of public sources according to Entrepreneur. Two U.S. examples of public market data are the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor & Statistics, both of which offer helpful information on the state of various industries nationwide.
These sources often come in the form of market reports, consisting of industry insight compiled by a research agency like Pew, Gartner, or Forrester. Because this info is so portable and distributable, it typically costs money to download and obtain.
Internal sources deserve more credit for supporting market research than they generally get. Why? This is the market data your organization already has!
Average revenue per sale, customer retention rates, and other historical data on the health of old and new accounts can all help you draw conclusions on what your buyers might want right now.
Now that we’ve covered these overarching market research categories, let’s get more specific and look at the various types of market research you might choose to conduct.
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