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As marketing and business practices are constantly evolving and consumers’ needs change, it’s important for your team to regularly conduct marketing research. With marketing research, your team can learn more about your target audiences and which marketing strategies and plans are expected to be the most successful for your brand. In this guide, you will learn how to conduct marketing research in just five steps.

What Are the Steps in the Research Process?

The steps in the research process include identifying a situation, making a plan, gathering information, evaluating data, and then finally putting all of this work into action. The research process is helpful for businesses when creating their marketing efforts. Marketing research tells businesses what consumers want and helps them identify new marketing strategies to use.

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How to Conduct Marketing Research

The marketing research process tends to take a lot of time and effort, but it is worth all the work when your marketing team can create more effective marketing strategies. Once you learn each step of the research process, your team should be faster and more efficient at finding useful results.

Here are steps to follow when conducting market research:

1. Identify the Situation

The first step of the marketing research process is the most important part. During this first step, you need to identify what situation, opportunity, or problem you are going to research. Define the purpose of your market research and the scope of what you are looking at. By knowing what you are trying to learn through this process, you will have a better idea of what data you need to collect.

When figuring out what you want to learn, come up with the research questions you want to answer. They can help you stay focused during the entirety of your marketing research. Many market research questions will be about buyer demographics or marketing strategies. Here are some example questions:

  • What is the best marketing strategy for targeting Millennials?
  • Why aren’t men interested in our product?
  • What demographics use our services the most?
  • Are we putting enough time and money into our social media strategies?
  • Who is our ideal customer?
  • What is our most cost-effective form of advertising?

After creating your questions, determine what information you’ll need to find over the course of your research. Also, think about any potential causes of a problem you need to solve. Likewise, think of the potential effects of any marketing strategies you want to implement. This preliminary planning can make the rest of your research process go smoothly.

2. Create a Marketing Research Plan

Now that you have a clear idea of what you want to study and what information you need, it’s time to create your marketing research plan. In this step of the research process, determine which methods you can use to answer your research questions. Think about where you can find relevant information and what strategies you should use to gather additional data.

When creating your marketing research plan, look at what other companies have done to find results. Look at different case studies to see what strategies they used and what data they collected. By seeing what worked for companies similar to yours, you can save a lot of time and effort.

These are some common methods marketing research teams use to help them find important information, including:

Surveys

Surveys are a great way to find out key demographic data and insights into your consumers’ attitudes. When creating surveys, use a logical format so survey takers understand what you are asking. Group questions that are similar together, and use things such as page titles and instructions to guide people through your survey.

Make your surveys brief, so more people answer all of your questions. If your survey takes more than a few minutes to complete, people may be less likely to answer all of the questions. Ask simple questions and avoid having too many fill-in-the-blank questions. Many people prefer to answer multiple-choice questions instead since they require less effort.

When asking questions, start with more lighthearted ones to ease people into the survey. Then, if you need to ask more sensitive questions, include them toward the end of the survey. Also, make sure all of your questions are relevant to the survey. Have multiple people test out the survey to ensure survey takers are interpreting your questions as you intended. Also, avoid yes/no questions. Instead, ask questions where people can give more nuanced answers.

Interviews

Many marketing research teams use interviews to gather qualitative data about their prospects or customers. An interview could be one-on-one or include multiple people in a focus group. To determine who your team will interview, you may need to do some prior demographic research. Learn who’s feedback would be most useful in the research process.

Use your research questions to help you create questions to ask the people you’re interviewing. It may also be useful to explain the purpose of this interview, so people have a better idea of what information they should provide.

A/B Tests

A/B tests are quite useful for learning user behavior. You can use A/B tests on emails, landing pages, or websites to learn which strategies lead to the best responses and actions. For example, one common A/B test is having different messaging on each version of the test. Then, you can learn what copy leads to more user interactions. You can also learn what branding captures more people’s attention. After you learn which strategies get the most impressions (or whatever other criteria you use), you can implement those strategies for more successful marketing campaigns.

3. Gather Data and Information

Now that you have your plan in place, it’s time to start implementing it to gather your information. During this process, gather both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data consists of numbers and hard data. This kind of data helps marketing teams answer questions about how much, how often, or how many. Qualitative data is non-numerical and is descriptive and observational. You can find qualitative data through focus groups or interviews. It can help you learn more about people’s feelings or attitudes toward something.

While gathering your data and information, you may find that you need to implement additional strategies to get even more data. Having to adjust your plan is a normal part of the research process as you may run into challenges or insights you did not foresee. Throughout the process, check-in with your team to make sure you are getting the information you need.

Also, when seeking data, make sure your team remains unbiased. It’s easy to look for information that supports your opinion, but this will undermine the validity of your research. Instead, keep an open mind during your research, so you can find data that will actually be useful for your team. While asking questions, have a mix of closed-ended and open-ended ones to avoid influencing participants’ answers.

4. Evaluate Data and Share Findings

Once you gather all the information and data you need, it’s time to analyze and evaluate it all. Look for patterns and trends within your data. Avoid trying to find specific patterns based on your predictions. Instead, look at all of your data and see what you find.

Writing a summary of your marketing research plan and the processes you used can be helpful. In this summary, also include your results and conclusions. Discuss things that you would have done differently in the future. Then, you can refer to this summary for future projects and save valuable time and resources. Your summary should also include your plan of action based on your findings.

Outline the next steps you will take. For instance, if you were trying to figure out which social media platforms your target audience uses the most and you find it is Instagram, your team should now create a plan for marketing on Instagram.

5. Implement a Plan Based on Research

Now that you understand your findings, it’s time to implement your plan based on them. Begin to create a campaign or use marketing strategies based on your results. Throughout the course of your plan, keep track of the results. You may find that your information and data weren’t good predictors of the actual outcome. For example, if your research told you that more Facebook ad spending would lead to more website views and it isn’t, you may need to make adjustments to your plan.

Effective marketing strategies are constantly changing, so your marketing research process is never completely finished. Your team should continue to follow the research process to stay innovative and reach more people. Continue to evaluate your results to learn what things you could improve. If your marketing plan is working well, make note of your growth and success.

Tips for the Marketing Research Process

Here are some useful tips to keep in mind throughout the marketing research process:

  • Find qualitative and quantifiable data. Though studying quantitative data such as the number of purchases customers make or social media impressions are useful, it’s also important to have more descriptive information to study. For instance, along with the buying data, learn why customers are making these purchasing decisions. You can do this through open-answer surveys and interviews.
  • Record interviews and focus groups. Though your team should take notes when talking to customers, you should also ask if you can record the session. This way you can listen to any parts you missed and can hear the tone of people’s responses.
  • Stay open-minded. During your research, be open to unexpected findings and new opportunities. You may find a more effective marketing strategy to use that you would have never thought of initially. Think of the marketing research process as a chance to expand your knowledge and gain insight.
  • Use multiple methods. One study method is unlikely to help you gather all the information you need. Use different strategies to collect data to have more well-rounded results.
  • Try to get large sample groups. The bigger and more varied your sample group is, the more meaningful your data will be. Reach out to as many people as possible when doing studies. However, some of your sample groups may consist of people of similar demographics if your team wants to learn more about a particular target audience.
  • Remember research takes time. When studying patterns and trends, it’s important to do so over a long period of time so you can see how different variables affect them. For example, by Christmas time, you may find your sales increase. It’s important to continue to collect data outside of these busier seasons.
  • Use visuals to understand data. Rather than looking at an excel sheet of numbers and other data, organize your information into visuals such as charts and graphics. Visuals can help you see patterns and trends within your findings. They also make it easier for other employees to understand your marketing research.
  • Share your results with everyone. Though your results might be most useful for the marketing team, they also could help your company’s other departments understand more about your customers or reasoning for your marketing plan. Compile all your data and findings into a PowerPoint and share it with every employee or present it at your next company meeting.

Now that you understand the marketing research process, your team can get started on gathering useful information that can help you shape your marketing strategies. By consistently doing marketing research, you can learn key insights about your customers and market trends. These insights can help your marketing plans can be more effective for your brand.

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