Blindly putting out content or products and hoping for the best is a thing of the past. Not only is it a waste of time and energy, but you’re wasting valuable marketing dollars in the process. Now you have a wealth of tools and data at your disposal, allowing you to develop data-driven marketing strategies. That’s where market research comes in, allowing you to uncover valuable insights to inform your business decisions.
Conducting market research not only helps you better understand how to sell to customers but also stand out from your competition. In this guide, we break down everything you need to know about market research and how doing your homework can help you grow your business.
Table of contents:
What is market research?
Market research is the process of gathering information surrounding your business opportunities. It identifies key information to better understand your audience. This includes insights related to customer personas and even trends shaping your industry.
Why is market research important?
Taking time out of your schedule to conduct research is crucial for your brand health. Here are some of the key benefits of market research:
Understand your customers’ motivations and pain points
Most marketers are out of touch with what their customers want. Moreover, these marketers are missing key information on what products their audience wants to buy.
Simply put, you can’t run a business if you don’t know what motivates your customers.
And spoiler alert: Your customers’ wants and needs change. Your customers’ behaviors today might be night and day from what they were a few years ago.
Market research holds the key to understanding your customers better. It helps you uncover their key pain points and motivations and understand how they shape their interests and behavior.
Figure out how to position your brand
Positioning is becoming increasingly important as more and more brands enter the marketplace. Market research enables you to spot opportunities to define yourself against your competitors.
Maybe you’re able to emphasize a lower price point. Perhaps your product has a feature that’s one of a kind. Finding those opportunities goes hand in hand with researching your market.
Maintain a strong pulse on your industry at large
Today’s marketing world evolves at a rate that’s difficult to keep up with.
Fresh products. Up-and-coming brands. New marketing tools. Consumers get bombarded with sales messages from all angles. This can be confusing and overwhelming.
By monitoring market trends, you can figure out the best tactics for reaching your target audience.
Types of market research
Not everyone conducts market research for the same reason. While some may want to understand their audience better, others may want to see how their competitors are doing. As such, there are different types of market research you can conduct depending on your goal.
Interview-based market research allows for one-on-one interactions. This helps the conversation to flow naturally, making it easier to add context. Whether this takes place in person or virtually, it enables you to gather more in-depth qualitative data.
Buyer persona research
Buyer persona research lets you take a closer look at the people who make up your target audience. You can discover the needs, challenges and pain points of each buyer persona to understand what they need from your business. This will then allow you to craft products or campaigns to resonate better with each persona.
In this type of research, brands compare similar products or services with a particular focus on pricing. They look at how much those products or services typically sell for so they can get more competitive with their pricing strategy.
Competitive analysis research
Competitor analysis gives you a realistic understanding of where you stand in the market and how your competitors are doing. You can use this analysis to find out what’s working in your industry and which competitors to watch out for. It even gives you an idea of how well those competitors are meeting consumer needs.
Depending on the competitor analysis tool you use, you can get as granular as you need with your research. For instance, Sprout Social lets you analyze your competitors’ social strategies. You can see what types of content they’re posting and even benchmark your growth against theirs.
Brand awareness research
Conducting brand awareness research allows you to assess your brand’s standing in the market. It tells you how well-known your brand is among your target audience and what they associate with it. This can help you gauge people’s sentiments toward your brand and whether you need to rebrand or reposition.
Where to conduct market research
If you don’t know where to start with your research, you’re in the right place.
There’s no shortage of market research methods out there. In this section, we’ve highlighted research channels for small and big businesses alike.
Considering that Google sees a staggering 8.5 billion searches each day, there’s perhaps no better place to start.
A quick Google search is a potential goldmine for all sorts of questions to kick off your market research. Who’s ranking for keywords related to your industry? Which products and pieces of content are the hottest right now? Who’s running ads related to your business?
For example, Google Product Listing Ads can help highlight all of the above for B2C brands.
The same applies to B2B brands looking to keep tabs on who’s running industry-related ads and ranking for keyword terms too.
There’s no denying that email represents both an aggressive and effective marketing channel for marketers today. Case in point, 44% of online shoppers consider email as the most influential channel in their buying decisions.
Looking through industry and competitor emails is a brilliant way to learn more about your market. For example, what types of offers and deals are your competitors running? How often are they sending emails?
Email is also invaluable for gathering information directly from your customers. This survey message from Asana is a great example of how to pick your customers’ brains to figure out how you can improve your quality of service.
Industry journals, reports and blogs
Don’t neglect the importance of big-picture market research when it comes to tactics and marketing channels to explore. Look to marketing resources such as reports and blogs as well as industry journals
Keeping your ear to the ground on new trends and technologies is a smart move for any business. Sites such as Statista, Marketing Charts, AdWeek and Emarketer are treasure troves of up-to-date data and news for marketers.
If you want to learn more about your target market, look no further than social media. Social offers a place to discover what your customers want to see in future products or which brands are killin’ it.
It represents a massive repository of real-time data and insights that are instantly accessible. Brand monitoring and social listening are effective ways to conduct social media research. You can even be more direct with your approach. Ask questions directly or even poll your audience to understand their needs and preferences.
The 5 steps for how to do market research
Now that we’ve covered the why and where, it’s time to get into the practical aspects of market research. Here are five essential steps on how to do market research effectively.
Step 1: Identify your research topic
First off, what are you researching about? What do you want to find out? Narrow down on a specific research topic so you can start with a clear idea of what to look for.
For example, you may want to learn more about how well your product features are satisfying the needs of existing users. This might potentially lead to feature updates and improvements. Or it might even result in new feature introductions.
Similarly, your research topic may be related to your product or service launch or customer experience. Or you may want to conduct research for an upcoming marketing campaign.
Step 2: Choose a buyer persona to engage
If you’re planning to focus your research on a specific type of audience, decide which buyer persona you want to engage. This persona group will serve as a representative sample of your target audience.
Engaging a specific group of audience lets you streamline your research efforts. As such, it can be a much more effective and organized approach than researching thousands (if not millions) of individuals.
You may be directing your research toward existing users of your product. To get even more granular, you may want to focus on users who have been familiar with the product for at least a year, for example.
Step 3: Start collecting data
The next step is one of the most critical as it involves collecting the data you need for your research. Before you begin, make sure you’ve chosen the right research methods that will uncover the type of data you need. This largely depends on your research topic and goals.
Remember that you don’t necessarily have to stick to one research method. You may use a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches. So for example, you could use interviews to supplement the data from your surveys. Or you may stick to insights from your social listening efforts.
To keep things consistent, let’s look at this in the context of the example from earlier. Perhaps you can send out a survey to your existing users asking them a bunch of questions. This might include questions like which features they use the most and how often they use them. You can get them to choose an answer from one to five and collect quantitative data.
Plus, for qualitative insights, you could even include a few open-ended questions with the option to write their answers. For instance, you might ask them if there’s any improvement they wish to see in your product.
Step 4: Analyze results
Once you have all the data you need, it’s time to analyze it keeping your research topic in mind. This involves trying to interpret the data to look for a wider meaning, particularly in relation to your research goal.
So let’s say a large percentage of responses were four or five in the satisfaction rating. This means your existing users are mostly satisfied with your current product features. On the other hand, if the responses were mostly ones and twos, you may look for opportunities to improve. The responses to your open-ended questions can give you further context as to why people are disappointed.
Step 5: Make decisions for your business
Now it’s time to take your findings and turn them into actionable insights for your business. In this final step, you need to decide how you want to move forward with your new market insight.
What did you find in your research that would require action? How can you put those findings to good use?
To wrap things up, let’s talk about the various tools available to conduct speedy, in-depth market research. These tools are essential for conducting market research faster and more efficiently.
Social listening and analytics
Social analytics tools like Sprout can help you keep track of engagement across social media. This goes beyond your own engagement data but also includes that of your competitors. Considering how quickly social media moves, using a third-party analytics tool is ideal. It allows you to make sense of your social data at a glance and ensure that you’re never missing out on important trends.
Email marketing research tools
Keeping track of brand emails is a good idea for any brand looking to stand out in its audience’s inbox.
Meanwhile, tools like Owletter allow you to monitor metrics such as frequency and send-timing. These metrics can help you understand email marketing strategies among competing brands.
Content marketing research
If you’re looking to conduct research on content marketing, tools such as BuzzSumo can be of great help. This tool shows you the top-performing industry content based on keywords. Here you can see relevant industry sites and influencers as well as which brands in your industry are scoring the most buzz. It shows you exactly which pieces of content are ranking well in terms of engagements and shares and on which social networks.
SEO and keyword tracking
Monitoring industry keywords is a great way to uncover competitors. It can also help you discover opportunities to advertise your products via organic search. Tools such as Ahrefs provide a comprehensive keyword report to help you see how your search efforts stack up against the competition.
Competitor comparison template
For the sake of organizing your market research, consider creating a competitive matrix. The idea is to highlight how you stack up side-by-side against others in your market. Use a social media competitive analysis template to track your competitors’ social presence. That way, you can easily compare tactics, messaging and performance. Once you understand your strengths and weaknesses next to your competitors, you’ll find opportunities as well.
Customer persona creator
Finally, customer personas represent a place where all of your market research comes together. You’d need to create a profile of your ideal customer that you can easily refer to. Tools like Xtensio can help in outlining your customer motivations and demographics as you zero in on your target market.
Build a solid market research strategy
Having a deeper understanding of the market gives you leverage in a sea of competitors. Use the steps and market research tools we shared above to build an effective market research strategy.
But keep in mind that the accuracy of your research findings depends on the quality of data collected. Turn to Sprout’s social media analytics tools to uncover heaps of high-quality data across social networks.