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Why you should learn to love research

August 29th, 2012

tigermel

Many (many) years ago, as I embarked on my career in communications, I was taught a magic formula: RACE. It’s a very simple mnemonic for planning any kind of campaign: Research, Analysis, Communication, Evaluation. I’m sure that there are many others like it, in marketing and other industries.

Note where it starts: Research. The boring bit, the hard work bit, the “don’t even know where to start with this” bit. But, also, the crucial bit.

For smaller businesses, finding the time and resources to do your market research can be a challenge in itself. But it’s still important to avoid the temptation to market on a hunch. Business owners are close to their business, close to their products and services. They have to be. So it’s easy to fall into the trap of “just knowing” what your customers are thinking, or what the opportunities are for your new product or service idea.

I’m afraid that when someone tells me “marketing doesn’t work” or “it’s a waste of money” or “it’s not right for my business”, I can usually be pretty sure that they haven’t done their research before splurging precious budget on a bunch of new brochures or a high volume email campaign.

The good news is, market research doesn’t have to be a chore and it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of interesting, creative ways to gather vital intelligence about the ecosystem your business is operating in. And, in my opinion, any information that you can pull together that helps you to test your hunch and make better decisions before you start your marketing activity is worth the time and effort.

Here’s a few TigerNash Top Tips on how to inject some enthusiasm into your market research:

  1. Draw pictures – thinking about your business in a visual way can give you a whole new perspective. Try mind-mapping the environment you operate in, or the problems that your customers have.
  2. Get online – the internet opens doors to places it was hard to go before. Have a good look at your competitors, especially the ones you think are really good. (And, believe me, every business has competitors – if you think you don’t, ask yourself “what else do my customers spend money on?”)
  3. Recognition – who’s winning awards in your field? How and what for?
  4. Stay fresh – involve everyone in the business (even if there’s only two of you). You never know where insight or a fresh approach to gathering information might come from.
  5. Ask your customers – after all, you want more people like them, right? (More on this in my next post.)

P.S.

When putting this post together, we did some digging into the “Steve Jobs didn’t believe in market research” myth.  It turns out that it’s not that he didn’t believe in market research, it’s that he just didn’t do it. Why? Because he didn’t need to. Apple’s team consists of the world’s best designers, developers, marketers and more, all with a passion for the product. The steps they follow to innovation ensure as near product perfection as possible. And you can be absolutely sure they know their market. For more on this, read this fascinating article by Alain Breillatt.

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