Gone are the days where market research is reserved only for mega-corporations with massive budgets. Nearly every business can benefit from the insights gained from surveying the customers and clients that purchase your goods and services. Whether you are selling B2C in a brick-and-mortar store or working SaaS deals with a large organization, finding out more about what your target audience thinks about your industry, your brand, and your product can help you identify new opportunities, refine your marketing spend, and eliminate weak points in your business model.
The obvious value of these insights means market research is becoming more commonplace for the average business, and more user-friendly tools like SurveyMonkey are available to help get valuable feedback for your company. But that doesn't mean expert market research agencies are going away, in fact, the industry is steadily growing. So I turned to my friend and fellow Real Righteous Hombre Matt Jones, Senior Research Analyst at Radius Global Marketing Research, to learn more about their process for quantitative research and how it can supplement and improve marketing results. Matt has created and managed a wide range of quantitative research campaigns for Radius in Austin, TX, and his analytical experience puts him in a unique position to see the value and impact that market research can bring to any company.
What is your professional background and how did you get started with market research?
While I was studying marketing for my undergrad at the University of Texas, I discovered I was interested in a career in research and customer insights. A senior year internship with Synovate (a major research firm that is now part of Ipsos) confirmed that interest. I went on to work for Ipsos for a couple years, then transitioned to a smaller provider called Radius in 2013.
What kind of industries have you found benefit from the kind of market research you do?
Any industry can benefit from research, but I'll speak to the tech industry, where most of my experience has been. Since tech is marked by constant change and innovation, it's critical for companies in that sphere to understand customer needs. Market research frequently bridges the gap between what companies assume the customer wants, and what the customer actually wants. In this sense, it can be extremely costly NOT to use research towards product development or broader marketing strategies.
How do you go about setting expectations and goals with the client when you start a new project?
Lots of communication. It helps to keep the whole research team involved from proposal to final report, if possible. We'll kick off the project with the client once it's been won, then discuss the specific methodologies we might employ to achieve the desired results.
What are some of the different styles of studies and surveys you use to gather relevant data for your clients?
We conduct a pretty broad range of studies and have a pretty big toolbox in terms of methodologies. I've worked on brand/engagement/loyalty tracking studies (tracking specific metrics over time for our clients and their competitors), segmentation studies, new product design/optimization/pricing studies, usage trends, product trials... you get the picture. Pretty much anything you would want to measure, or test, or probe into, research can help with. We do a lot of simple analytics based on straightforward questions, but we also have some very useful advanced techniques. One of my favorites is conjoint analysis, which puts a respondent in a series of realistic purchase scenarios and asks them to make decisions, tradeoffs, etc - all while manipulating the different variables in play. The end output is a simulator that the client can use to see how adjusting a product's price, feature levels, etc. affect customer preference.
Any major research provider will typically use a custom platform for survey design - i.e., they'll have their own programmers who execute the surveys that the researchers design. But platforms like SurveyMonkey and Qualtrics are extremely user-friendly, and can be extremely useful tools for basic analysis. Tactically, in addition to the methodologies discussed above, it's insanely important to get the screener right - to make sure the right people are taking your survey. If you want to ask experienced IT Decision Makers in China about the computers they'll be purchasing for their end users in the next 12 months, you don't want a 17-year-old kid from the US taking your survey. Obviously that's an extreme example, but the point is that the more relevant your survey audience, the better data you get.
How do you see the relationship between marketing and research growing in the future?
I believe there will always be a need for research. We're currently in a time where organizations are starting to realize the impact that big data and analytics can have on their competitive advantages, and customer insights are a huge piece of that puzzle. Educated decisions are good, but educated decisions backed up by correctly interpreted quality data are always better. As more businesses invest in data-driven decision making, analytics become that much more of a necessity, not a luxury. I don't think that will change.
You don't need to hire a big market research firm to get productive survey results, but there is plenty to be learned from the process that analysts like Matt use to prepare and execute their research efforts. Much like starting a company blog or Twitter account, the important thing is to pick a goal and just get started. Here are five easy goals for a survey that you could design today and start getting valuable information:
- Finding out more about your buyer personas and how they connect with your brand
- Understanding more about how consumers talk about your industry
- Discovering insights about your customer's needs and how your product/service is/isn't meeting them
- Researching your competitor's customers to find if they have needs that aren't being met
- Surveying your most loyal customers to understand why they connect so well with your brand
Choosing a goal, finding a target segment of your customers, and creating a survey to send them isn't a massive undertaking, and as Matt noted above, it's becoming more and more integral to your marketing efforts. The right surveys asking the right questions can save your company time, money, and resources by discovering insights that will direct your present and future efforts.
Thanks to Matt Jones and Radius for his thoughts on how marketing benefits from research! Connect with him on Linkedin.