By Rohit Chattopadhyay
It can be intimidating for sure. The marketing research process is not everyone’s cup of tea. You got to design your data collection instrument, collect the data, clean it up, code the data, analyze it and then make sense of the answers. Before you start the process, more importantly, you need to be sure about why you need to conduct marketing research — what are those answers that you are looking for?
I congratulate you if you are among the select few business owners who know this stuff like the back of your hand. If not, please do not worry. I am here to show you how to use marketing research as a business owner. In this post, I will outline a few steps that you can take immediately to implement marketing research within your overall business process.
Step 1: Identify the Unknown
You probably know better than anyone else that running a business is a lot of work. There are tons of tasks to supervise, implement, plan and ideate daily. Within this mess (yes, isn’t that what it is), there are parts that need to be polished to strengthen your business. Often these are sections of your business that you don’t know so well. Being unknown, research can help you. For example, if you are a veterinarian running an animal hospital, you might be unsure about how the attitudes and needs of cat owners differ from dog owners.
Marketing research techniques can be used to identify this unknown. Once you have learned to differentiate cat owners from dog owners, you can tailor your customer service and marketing strategy accordingly. You can, thus, train your nurses about how to deal with each group differently. You can highlight certain aspects of your animal hospital’s services to each group, to maximize appeal. Cat owners may not be as interested in day boarding services, for example, as dog owners. Your marketing messages can also be framed differently when they are dog as compared to cat related, since you will be aware of how the anxieties and demands of these groups differ from each other.
Step 2: Designate a Marketing Researcher
You don’t need to hire a marketing researcher to conduct research within your company, although you could. All you need is someone organized and not afraid to analyze data using Microsoft Excel or any other similar software. This person should also be fluent in your local language and able to organize and conduct qualitative research sessions (such as interviews and focus groups).
I understand that it might be difficult to find a person who can crunch numbers as well as conduct qualitative research. In that case, use a second person as the interviewer and focus group moderator. This could be anyone who speaks well and has a knack for listening.
One of the advantages of hiring a trained marketing researcher is that it will reduce your involvement in the marketing research process. It is likely, moreover, that this person will be able to creatively use marketing research techniques to solve your business problems. An in-house data cruncher or interviewer is less likely to do so, since they would not have had the marketing research experience or knowledge.
Step 3: Create Research Manuals
For every marketing research methodology that you want to implement, create a short manual. This will contain an overview of the method, instructions on how to write questions, collect data and analyze the data. In addition, the manual should identify typical situations when a certain method can be used. This can either be to only collect information (such as sales figures) or to solve a larger business problem (related to customer loyalty, for example).
My post titled, ‘How to conduct a semiotic analysis’ (for the online magazine, Life as a Human), is one kind of manual, but it lacks the detail that I recommend as it was written as an article for a website. Ideally, a research manual should be detailed enough such that anyone working for your business is able to read the manual, design the research, implement it and gather the necessary answers. For certain analytical techniques, like the statistical methods typically used in survey research, however, you might need to insert links to external web sites or books, since these techniques can be too complicated to explain in a manual.
Step 4: Construct a Research Culture
You might be one of a rare breed of business owners who know the lay of the land so well that you do not need marketing research. Fair enough. However, if you want to benefit from research, fill the gaps created by missing knowledge and strengthen your business further, it is time you started speaking the language of research.
So instead of simply looking at how many retweets you got, do a deep dive into your social media strategy by downloading the analytics and identifying patterns. Do you get more retweets on a certain day or a time of the day? If you do, why might this be?
Speak the research language during team meetings as well. This will help you come up with the important questions that can be thereafter answered using an appropriate research study. Buy books on marketing research techniques and those that can help you and your team develop a market research lens to look at common business problems. Organize internal workshops to discuss the research manuals that have been prepared by your designated marketing researcher.
As you build a research culture within your organization, you will develop a habit of using marketing research to answer important business problems. If your marketing research projects can indeed strengthen your business, it will likely be easy to convince team members to learn from research. The success of marketing research, in other words, will itself be a testimonial that it should be used within the organization.
If marketing research is not as successful as you hoped, it might be a matter of time before you see the results. So, do not loose hope. Keep designing marketing research studies and trying to gather those elusive insights.