A Happy Account Manager
I n a constantly evolving market, where demands change and customer behaviour is influenced by so many external factors, a business has no chance if it’s not finely tuned in with its target audience. It could be that what you do is not serving a purpose anymore and you need to change direction or make major improvements. What is it that they say? ‘When one door closes, another one opens’, isn’t it?
A savvy business person will know that if one target segment is saturated, or if the product or service they offer no longer fits the market’s needs, it’s time to go back to basics and tap into the best knowledge available about your business: the knowledge given to you by your target audience. It’s time to ask questions but, most of all, time to listen to the answers.
Here are my 8 tips for getting your business back on track using the wonderful tool of market research.
It may be that when you started your business, you had a very clear idea of who your brand was targeted at. But hey, things change, the world changes, people change tastes, behaviours and preferences. This means your offer needs to evolve too. Or it may mean that your target audience is no longer the one you had in the beginning. Having a deep understanding of who you are targeting your offer at will give you the best chances of them engaging with your brand and making them loyal brand followers. Market research will help you get to know them inside and out and understand their needs, wants and buying habits.
If you look at successful brands, what is the similarity that you notice about them? Yes, they are always changing. A bread brand may introduce new flavours or cater for different dietary needs, a clothing brand may stop producing a determined piece because people no longer buy it or alter it to people’s wishes, an insurance provider may go through a complete overhaul of their customer service approach to better serve its customers, a marketing strategy may completely change to make sure it’s communicating to the relevant audience in the best way. And now you ask… how do they know what to change and when? Yes, again you guessed: through market research.
Remember that nothing is set in stone. Change is a constant, in life and in business. Your offer can be adapted according to the target audience’s needs at any time, your product can be tweaked, your communications can be made more poignant to target a specific group of people, but sometimes you need to completely re-invent your brand, your product, your service. When that is the case, which is the best way to go? Well, you won’t know if you don’t ask. Once you have a target audience in mind, get a group of them together and ask, ask, ask, test, test, test and ask again. They will give you the best clues as to which direction to take.
Market research is a fantastic tool to understand your competition. Yes, those other brands that keep pinching your customers or making more profit than you. If you are very aware of the direction they are taking, then you’ll have a much better understanding of your own direction. Should you tackle them head on and offer the same stuff they are offering? Or should you be different? Could you create perks that only your brand offers, so that you can attract and benefit from a more loyal group of customers? Observing and researching your competition may take you down a different, and more profitable, path.
People can get confused with market research and wonder how big or small an exercise it needs to be. Of course, this will depend on the objectives to be achieved. Market research can be desk-based, where analysis of larger market data can be done, or it can mean hitting the high street to speak to the end-user first hand (just a couple of examples). There are no set rules, but some techniques will be more effective than others when the desired outcome is known. For example, if you want to know if first time home buyers like to purchase brand new furniture when they first move in, an analysis of larger market data is more advisable. If your intent is to discover how customers behave in your shop and what they like to see as point of sale, then it’s best to go and speak to them in that environment. If you want to know if people will like a new product you are intending to launch, though, the best alternative may be to conduct a focus group to get people’s opinions and be able to show them a sample and ask questions there and then. Picking the right type of market research is crucial to achieve your required outcome.
It can be hard to take brutally honest feedback from your audience and, believe me, if you ask them to be honest, they will not hold back. It may seem that people are just criticising and not offering any solutions, but more often than not, brands are not even aware of what poses a problem to their audience. So listening carefully and not being too sensitive when taking criticism is really important so that you can listen to what people are saying without those rose-tinted glasses that make your think you’re doing no wrong. Only being honest and not too hard on yourself will make changing direction easier.
The most important step after conducting your research is to go away and have a good old think about everything. What is it that the research has shown that you can improve on, tweak, make better? It may be that there are many positive points too, that may just need to be highlighted more in your marketing strategy. It may be that you need to re-think your offer entirely or perhaps put some steps in place to engage with customers more. Market research is just the beginning and it will give you the direction to take, but then you need to create the path for the journey going forward.
It’s impossible to keep growing your brand if you don’t keep in touch with your target audience. Regular market research will make sure you are always in tune with your audience, constantly asking them questions and listening to what they say. What they tell you is golden information to always have your business ahead of others. So don’t stop at the first exercise. Do it regularly, ask more, ask differently and ask different people. Never assume. And you’ll be on your way to having a great brand and lifting your business to new heights.
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