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Blog / Market Research

Read Customers’ Minds with Marketing Research

  • What is marketing research?
  • What’s the difference between primary and secondary marketing research?
  • How do I get started with marketing research?
Read Customers’ Minds with Marketing Research

TV shows and movies make advertising seem like a 2-step process: 1) Brilliant idea from a genius creative director, then 2) Incredibly successful ad campaign.

But we know there’s a lot more to it – like research. And while it’s smart to check out your industry and competitors (AKA market research), you should also do marketing research, which focuses on, well, your own marketing.

Marketing research looks at your branding and how your business reaches your target audience, and then tells you whether your past, current, and future marketing is effective.

There are 2 types of marketing research. Primary is when you do original research to find data that doesn’t yet exist – like how your marketing makes certain people feel about your brand. Secondary is when you analyze research that already exists.

Primary research is the process of looking for and finding original data and insights, like holding your own customer survey and polling your fans. Secondary research is the process of gathering generic, pre-existing data from an outside source, like a government census or a news outlet's poll.

It’s smart to do both primary and secondary research, but we’ll focus on primary in this lesson to show you how you can find personalized, original, and relevant data.

Like we mentioned earlier, primary research can help you discover whether people feel warm and fuzzy about your brand. But it can also measure how well your marketing boosts brand awareness.

On top of that, primary research gives you insights about your customers – their satisfaction level, feedback, habits, and how they view you versus your competitors.

From this, you’d get quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative uses hard numbers (“68% of customers buy the red product”). Qualitative uses words to describe emotions and motivations (“The color red makes people feel happy”).

The insights you gain from quantitative and qualitative data (along with secondary research) help you test out any hypotheses you have, and can lead to better marketing decisions.

Primary marketing research helped pet product company PrideBites effectively promote their customizable products.

PrideBites’ dog toys had features like “machine washable” and “waterproof.” The brand wanted to know which toys and features interested their customers the most, so they decided to do primary research in the form of a survey.

This research revealed that most of PrideBites’ customers never played with their dogs in water, so the waterproof feature didn’t matter to them. They also were A-OK with doggie drool, so didn’t care about machine washable toys.

Their research also confirmed a hypothesis PrideBites had: Customers are more interested in buying toys if the proceeds benefit pet charities.

PrideBites revised key selling points in their marketing and packaging, with less emphasis on waterproof and machine washable features. They also looked into ways their products could support animal rescues.

To do primary research like PrideBites, you need to do some prep work. Figure out the problem or question you need answered. What other brands do your customers look at? Do your ads successfully express what your brand stands for?

Then set up your research goals. Are you looking for quantitative data, qualitative data, or both? What kind of research can you do and what kinds of questions can you ask that will help you find the right information?

Next, figure out who your sample group is. Will you research your existing customers, your potential customers, your entire target audience (regardless of whether or not they’re customers), or a random group of people?

Now you can choose your research format. Businesses often do surveys or focus groups.

Surveys let you reach more people, while focus groups (moderated discussions among a small group of people) let you explore questions in more detail.

For surveys, make sure your questions use the same voice as your branding, and ask them one at a time so you don’t accidentally confuse your survey takers.

Keep your questions simple, but with enough context for people to give an informed response. Instead of, “Do you like red?” ask, “Which dog toy do you prefer: red or black?”

Make sure to set a target sample size that will give enough responses for reliable results. Sites like have sample size calculators for this.

An agency or consultant can help you organize focus groups. These sessions are usually led by a facilitator who will ask the questions and spark discussion.

Set an agenda before the focus groups begin, such as: introduction, icebreaker, warm-up questions, key questions, time for discussion, and wrap up.

Focus group questions can get more detailed and exploratory than survey questions. For instance, instead of just asking people’s opinions, ask them why and how they formed those opinions.

For both surveys and focus groups, decide how long to keep the research going. Ask yourself if the passage of time will affect your results.

If you’re doing an online survey, give at least a week for responses to come in.

So you finished your research. You have a bunch of data. Now what? It’s analysis time.

What’s the information you found telling you? Look for what’s working and what’s not working. Is it telling you that your marketing has been hyping the wrong features? Do people think of your brand the same way you do?

Finally, figure out how you can use this information to optimize your marketing in the future. What actions can you take based on your newfound insights?

While it’s important to take the time to do your research prep work, we can get you started exploring which might be better for your business goals: surveys or focus groups.

References: Google Webmasters, Think With Google, Google Primer

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