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Thoughts and ideas from SHAKE Marketing Group
How To Gain New Insights to Grow Your Business
A female entrepreneur stands at her desk reviewing marketing research to grow her business.

The Confident Marketer Playbook: Step 3

Think about how much has changed over the last couple of years. Customer buying habits, new competitors and even your own company likely look very different today than even a year ago. Staying on top of everything not only keeps you in tune with your customers and the other departments within your company, but it also gives you a marketing edge. You need customer and competition insights, but how are you going to get them? If it seems too time-consuming to gather new information, you may find yourself asking if it really matters that much. Yes! Gaining new insights into your business landscape matters.

Why Does It Matter?

Confidence comes from knowledge, practice, and experience. As a marketer, this means spending time gathering knowledge. And one of the best ways to do that is research. When I work with clients, I always conduct internal and external interviews. Ninety-nine percent of the time what I hear from the company's internal team is different from what I hear directly from customers. This means that what your company believes are its strengths may actually be weaknesses. What your company believes its customers need is not what the customer says it needs. Your company's value proposition isn't actually attractive or valuable to customers.As a marketing leader in your company, you can change all that by gaining new insights that are up-to-date and accurate.

Grow Your Business By Researching These Four Key Areas

Great marketers stay in touch with customers, but that's not all. They also perform extensive research on their competitors, the industry market, and their own company. Here are four key areas of research to help you gain the insights your company needs to succeed.

Customer Research

Take a look at the last few years, and you'll notice that customer buying preferences and trends have shifted dramatically. The old playbook isn't working. As a result, you have to figure out what has changed and what you can do about it. Do the actual research that will give you deeper insights into your customers. It's your job to stay abreast of what is really going on outside your company and how that affects buying habits. Analyzing old data won't get you very far. You need to get current data that will reflect up-to-date information. Trends in B2B decision-making show that more people within companies are making decisions, which means you are trying to reach buyers from diverse areas of expertise. For example, if you formerly focused your attention on the IT department, you may now need to learn more about Accounting, Public Relations, and so on. Customers want to know that you understand what they are looking for before they engage with you. That's why it's so important to do your research and find out what your buyers need. Let's break it down. Here are some ways you can gain deeper customer understanding in order to grow your business.

How To Do It?

  • Develop a customer-focused mindset. Remember Step 1? The first mindset we talked about was the customer-focused mindset. Get your head and your imagination out of the confines of your own company and start wondering what the rest of the world is doing. Look at your product from a customer point of view. Become curious about your customers, and you will gain amazing insights about things you never even knew existed!
  • Ask insightful questions. When you are interacting with your customers, be prepared to ask the right questions. Dig deep, like a journalist does, and don't be afraid to use a third-party research firm to help you out. In my experience, I've found customers to be more open and candid when they are talking to a neutral third party.
  • Share your data and insights. You gathered the information, and now you need to get the word out to the rest of the company. Think about all the departments that deliver products or interact with customers. Share your insights in an easy-to-understand format, so more people benefit from it.

Customer research does take time, effort, and patience, but it is worth the extra effort. When you gather real data about your customers, you are on the road to building strong, authentic relationships.

Competitor Research

Did you know that 46% of customers can't tell one company's digital experience apart from another? Your customers are comparing you to your competition, which means you need to stand out from the others. If you don't know how your competitors are communicating, you will unknowingly copy them and contribute the sea of sameness.

How do you gather competitor intelligence? Here are a few ways to get the information you need to know to stay ahead in the game.

How To Do It?

  • Determine who your competitors are. This seems fairly obvious, but things change so fast that there may be a competitor out there that you are not aware of. Consider organizations that offer benefits similar to yours, even if they target a different audience. Also, be aware that your biggest competitor is the choice to do nothing. People don't like change, so they don't buy from you or anyone else.
  • Figure out what information you want to gather. You could conduct a formal SWOT analysis, or you could make a list of questions on your own. You may want to know what your competitor does well, what their value proposition is, and what tone of voice they use in their marketing, among other things.
  • Collect information through different sources. Third-party research is a great way to gather insights into your competition and grow your business. Also scour your competitors' websites and social media to learn what they are promoting, how they are promoting it, and what they value enough to post online. Don't undervalue conversations you have at networking events or more formal interviews you have with business colleagues.

The purpose of a competitor analysis is to determine where your company stands in comparison. You may find out what makes your product unique and desirable to your customers, and where you can improve to gain more customers and grow your business.

Market Research

Customer research and competitor research involve a lot of specific data that is pertinent to your company. It's good to take a step back and examine your entire industry. Learn the trends in your industry. What is happening in terms of sales, manufacturing costs, and sales methodology? Gather snapshots of information that are relevant to your own organization.

You will likely want some expert help to gather your market research. Search for analysts that cover your industry. Here are a few that many businesses find useful:

  • IDC is a global market intelligence firm.
  • Gartner is a popular technological research and consulting firm.
  • 451 Research is a global research and advisory firm for technology and service providers, IT leaders, and financial professionals.
  • Google Trends analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search.
  • Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis, and other data-driven social science research.
  • PESTLE analysis is a tool for business analysis of political, economic, social, and technological factors.

Market research tells you more about your business landscape, trends that are currently affecting your business, and other important factors that play into your industry as a whole. A marketing audit can help you in this area and grow your business. (I wrote about the importance of conducting a marketing audit here.)

Company Research

Don't overlook this important step! Examine your own company carefully. Look at which products are most profitable. Determine which customer segments are performing best and why. This could become a matter of geography. Where do you sell the most product? Specific analysis gives you great insight into your company's strengths and weaknesses.

At the same time, examine the bigger picture. Try to better understand your company's goals. What priorities does your CEO or board of directors have?

You can't build a marketing plan without knowing where you have been, where you currently stand, and where you want to go. It's too easy to assume that you know these answers. Take a deep breath, and dig deep into actual facts, so you can pull up insights and perspectives that reflect reality, not someone's assumptions. Researching your own company is vital in order to grow your business.

Gathering Insights to Grow Your Business and Become a More Confident Marketer

Research takes effort, but your effort will produce results! Instead of guessing what your customer wants, or assuming the market is ready for your new product, get real insight that comes from current data. If your analysis is based on current research that you gathered yourself, then you will have every reason to be confident in your marketing approach.

See how your marketing approach stacks up against high-performance marketing indicators. Take the Confident Marketer Scorecard. Answer 35 questions honestly to receive instant feedback that increases your ability to create confident marketing strategies in our digital era.

← Read Step 2: 8 Steps to Reveal Gaps and Opportunities in your Marketing Strategy

→ Read Step 4: Ideate Your Best Customers to Develop Customer Profiles

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