Often a market research strategy sits within the larger context of a business’/organisations’ strategy.
Understanding the direct importance of your market research strategy in relation to your overall business strategy is key to both B2B and B2B success. Market research produces the in depth empirical customer insight required for effective product development, brand alignment, online presence, service enhancement, marketing of course (advertising, promotion, point of purchase, etc.), even HR. It’s a powerful customer empathy tool with which to drive your business forwards. And with that said, I’m going to share my 4-step process to ensure that your market research strategy is, and remains, top notch.
Step 1. Are your market research goals clearly defined?
(Why are you doing it?)
Take a step back and ask yourself, ‘what’s the point?’ Literally, what is the point of the market research your organisation is conducting? Does it have a clear purpose within your organisation? Does it have overarching goals? (These must not be mistaken for the goals of individual stakeholders, as different stakeholders will have different objectives.)
Ensure that your insight goals are designed to aid your organisation’s performance as a whole. Your market research strategy must be designed with the business (not individual) in mind. ‘Nice to have’, and ‘sideways looking’ market research often ends up missing the mark.
Step 2. Are your market research methods up to scratch?
(How are you doing it?)
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to market research methods and formats. Time to experiment with alternative approaches is all too often viewed as a luxury. But the most insightful, relevant results come when current technologies and thinking, those that reflect changing social behaviours and habits, are utilised.
The social media age has created an ‘in the moment’ culture — a traditional 15 minute customer satisfaction survey asking respondents about an experience they had up to 3 months ago just isn’t going cut the mustard anymore.
Don’t be blinded by the bright lights of innovation however. Exciting and sparkly as all this new research tech is, it won’t all be right for your particular objectives. Invest the time, do your ‘research’ and educate your stakeholders. It will pay dividends. It might be that some of your existing methods are still delivering in which case swap out the obsolete only. Re-allocate budgets as opposed to increasing. Work smarter, not harder.
Step 3. Is your market research strategy well balanced?
(Is the required insight being provided?)
Is your market research strategy equally focused on ‘current’ and ‘future’ objectives? Without this balance, potholes will form in the strategic business road. Customer success in the here and now is crucial of course but not blind success, always be ready for what’s around the corner.
For the most part, the consummation or not of exploratory market research programmes largely comes back to stakeholder support… or the lack there of! Stakeholders are often focused on projects that impact them in the short to medium term.
It’s is difficult to measure the ‘tangible value’ of future-based research so it’s harder to achieve the buy-in. Once again, education is key here. Consider the flip-side of not looking to the future, of not identifying those emerging market opportunities? You can be sure one of your competitors will…
4. Is your market research strategy fluid? Does it have check points?
(Can it be done smarter/better?)
Evaluate consistently and allow for change! I cannot emphasize this enough! The commercial landscape shifts so quickly. And for the most part, these shifts are outside of your organisations’ control, i.e. technological development, political upheaval, etc. Without an element of flexibility your market research strategy in its entirety will fast become yesterday’s news.
In-built check points will enable you to proactively evaluate your strategy by part (Steps 1, 2 and 3) and make incremental change. Universal evaluation criteria include but are not limited to:
- Market shifts, i.e. competitor actions
- Social change
- Economic change *
* Market research is often one of the first casualties in times of economic downturn; however it may well be the golden bullet that sees you emerging ahead of the competition. Resist the temptation to be short-sighted. Take the opportunity to evaluate your strategy; ‘trim the fat’, reposition if necessary but don’t abandon.