Understanding what your customers want and how they perceive your business is important to growth, successful go-to market efforts and maintaining position in a competitive landscape. Market research is often the best way to get market-validated information to inform business strategies.
With the ease of online research and proliferation of inexpensive online survey tools, many companies are now looking at performing their own market research in-house. Clients often ask us when it makes sense to commission research, rather than doing it on their own or using research from existing studies.
We could write a book on the upside of commissioning market research, but whether to do it comes down to your goals—what do you need to know and how are you going to use that information? There are three primary goals that indicate commissioning research with a third party research firm is the right choice:
- You want to make informed market decisions regarding a product launch, branding, or your performance.
There are times in every business when assumptions, internal team consensus or vocal influencers drive marketing or management decisions. While this approach may work sometimes, a wrong hunch or biased speculation can cost your business millions of dollars and months or years of time. Statistically valid data either supports the hunch or debunks it. Just as importantly, market-validated data can also reveal trends and perceptions you never considered. We’ve had customers realize a simple change in message could help them market existing products rather than developing a new product from scratch; or a new position they wanted to pursue was perceived as poorly aligned with their image and brand. These insights saved significant time and financial investment into strategies, products and positioning that would not have garnered successful results.
You can use in-house tools to develop a survey, but when millions of dollars are on the line, you need statistically valid data. And a key component of getting that from your survey comes down to the survey design. Have you taken a survey and wondered why questions are phrased a certain way? Survey design is a skill honed over years of experience. Market research experts know how to write questions that will produce unambiguous data that you can trust.
- You want to garner data and insights that are specific and proprietary to your business, giving you a competitive advantage.
One significant downside of secondary research or large, syndicated studies is that they may not address the information your business needs to make decisions, or get at all the whys in the research results. And your competitors have access to all the same data. Many in-house research tools can help you gather some of this information. However, commissioning research will provide more in-depth and actionable insights that are customized to your unique needs.
- You want objective results and an unbiased perspective.
Market research needs to be objective to be effective. Using a third party research firm will go a long way toward ensuring candor and honesty from your survey audience, whether your existing customers or a cross-section of the market. A third-party firm can also solicit responses from a range of people, ensuring the results are truly objective (and hence of real use to you). And a professional research firm will construct a methodology and survey designed to garner maximum participation and unbiased responses.
As importantly, a market research firm can give you an unbiased analysis of the results. An independent firm is not emotionally attached to the outcome—they won’t unwittingly interpret the results to support your desires. That leads to an unbiased picture of what your customers and prospects think. This objectivity is critical when you are collecting customer satisfaction data, need to assess your brand, or want to profile your competition.
If you wish to use research in your marketing efforts, one of the challenges with performing your own research is asking the marketplace to “take your word for it” that the research and outcomes are unbiased. When it comes to positioning as a thought leader, objectivity goes a long way to validate your stance in the marketplace. Customers and prospects will respect the outcomes of commissioned research more because it comes from an unbiased, independent third party. A reputable research provider will be able to stand behind their methodologies, survey design and statistical analysis.
As you plan key marketing strategies for 2015, consider the impact of custom research to deliver key results:
- Answer specific questions
- Garner deep insights
- Provide a competitive advantage in your market
- Validate your expertise as a thought leader
Learn more about the types of market research you can conduct to support your marketing efforts.