Do you really know what your customers think? Are you familiar with their priorities and their motivating triggers? Do you know who (or what) the competition looks like? Or what channels your customers are perusing?
As marketers, we like to believe that we understand our customers better than anyone else. And while our best intentions go a long way, the truth is – we will never know our customers better than they know themselves.
So, how do we hand over the mic and get insights directly from the source?
Research brings immense value to building and growing organizations.
Research is not just some academic project, but an incredibly marketing reliable tool that helps us understand our clients better and therefore run more successful campaigns.
Research gives our customers a voice – we get to hear directly from them what drives them to make decisions, what they consider, what they want, what they desire, and where they get frustrated.
Here are 10 high-level reasons why research is a worthy investment in your marketing.
Table of Contents:
1. Research Solves The Marketer’s Dilemma
What is The Marketer’s Dilemma?
The Marketer’s Dilemma explains that, regardless of your best attempts to understand and empathize with your key personas, there will always remain a gap between yourself and the customer you are trying to serve.
Even if you fit the general demographic or personality bill of your intended customer, you’re not in their shoes, day in and day out, worried about their bosses, their customers, their incentives, their home life, their families, and their long-term goals.
There’s always a gap, because you are not them. The goal of a marketer is to make that gap as small as possible.
The Best Marketers Are Cultural Anthropologists
The best marketers are like cultural anthropologists, systematically studying the people they aim to reach in order to understand how various factors – like economics, politics, ideologies, and social influences – impact who they are and the decisions that they make.
Fueled by curiosity and constantly seeking deeper understanding, they care about their customers. What makes them tick? What do they really care about? What channels do they use? What products do they want? Why do they want them?
Research hands the microphone over to your customers. Rather than scrounging through cryptic analytics and website behavior, research can help you hear directly from the source.
This pursuit of true understanding narrows the gap between you and your customers, and helps you speak directly to their needs, values, and desires in a way that connects to them and allows them to feel seen and heard.
And when that happens, they tend to keep coming back.
2. Research Is a Valuable Way to Listen
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey’s 5th habit is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Another way to put this: listen.
Far too often, we half-heartedly engage in a conversation while bouncing on the edge of our seats as we anticipate our turn to share input, demonstrate brilliance, or set the other person straight.
We are too interested in speaking to truly hear.
Understanding your audience is crucial in owning the right perceptions and setting yourself apart in a competitive market.
Through research – i.e., asking questions, actively listening, and seeking understanding – you can demonstrate genuine empathy and offer a solution that meets your customer’s true needs.
Without validated audience and stakeholder insights, your decisions are based on subjectivity – hunches, impartial data, and assumptions.
Allowing time to process information, to decipher what the research tells you about your persona, and how to market to this individual helps you make informed creative and organizational decisions that represent the voice of your audience – and that will ultimately boost the success of your marketing.
3. Research Challenges Assumptions
We cannot do great marketing work without strong, visionary leaders. Managerial hunches go a long way, however, great marketing leaders are also not your customer.
Managerial hunches can fill in part of the puzzle, but inviting your target audience to share what they care about brings pieces into play that your team would never have access to otherwise.
The purpose of research is not necessarily to validate or invalidate the experience or hunches of an industry veteran who is running a company.
Research provides an unbiased, third party approach to identify what’s actually going on.
This substantiated data may back your hunch or – more commonly – you’ll find that your hunches are just part of a larger picture of insights that can steer effective decision-making.
4. Research Allows You to Unpack Deep Motivations
If you were to sit down with your ideal customer persona and ask them why they would buy your product, you will likely find that they are lost for words.
Or, at the very least, struggling to convey their motives and decision-making processes.
People simply don’t always understand know how to clearly articulate what drives their decisions, and asking them point-blank questions about their motivations doesn’t get marketers very far.
We have to be creative about how to get people to describe their actions.
Inviting people to tell stories is far more helpful than asking them pointed questions.
Prompts like, Tell me more about a time when… or Describe a recent experience with… tend to help people really unpack what they think about a particular experience or product.
Research experts are masters at using qualitative and quantitative methodology to unpack underlying motives and measure those across large groups of people.
The result? You know why your target audiences makes decisions, and the key things you can do to help them pick you over someone else.
5. Research Fills in the Gaps of Marketing Data
If you’re like most marketers, identifying specific motivations or behaviors purely through the actions customers take is difficult.
There are many different pathways to a purchase – not to mention conversations, thoughts, interactions, and experiences that happen offline.
Digital marketing analytics tools can help you piece together what digital steps someone takes to make a purchase. But they can’t always tell you why they took those steps.
The data provides intel on what’s there – on the page, in the campaign, in the social media post, etc. Research helps fill in the gaps of what’s not there.
Through these combined insights, you can uncover the types of incentives or motivations that will help your customers choose you.
And from those incentives and motivations, you can make marketing decisions that help guide more of your target audience to take action.
6. Research Helps You Drive Organizational Change
Unknown variables make decisions difficult, and making calls based on hunches, guesses, or assumptions can be detrimental to the long-term success of your organization.
That’s where marketing research saves the day – it’s not an academic project, but a means to make informed decisions by drawing out priorities for messaging and investments in your marketing.
Most market research companies will share a 200-page report with you that’s full of cryptic observations in a language that requires a PhD to decode.
Magneti’s researchers (and any researchers doing quality, validated research for the objective of marketing insights) will boil this lengthy report down to an executive summary of actionable insights:
Here are 3 or 5 or 10 things you should do tomorrow.
Marketing research can give you the data to make choices with confidence, confirming your decisions with a third-party voice, and providing the clout you need to persuade stakeholders and employees when pushing for major change.
7. Research Uncovers the Things They Won’t Tell You
Maybe you talk to your customers and coworkers all the time. And that’s great. But often incomplete.
Think about a terrible boss asking for feedback on how he is doing at his job vs. you at a bar, talking to your friends (who will likely never meet your boss) about how he’s doing at his job.
We don’t typically share the whole story with our boss because we’re worried we’ll get fired, or ruin the relationship, or create oceans of awkwardness near the break room (or on your next team Zoom call).
We’re the friend at the bar. Our research is anonymous, so you’ll never know which customer, employee, or executive said what they said – giving them permission to be fully honest.
In other words, people tell researchers stuff they won’t tell you and ultimately paint a broader picture of their experience.
8. Research Helps You Save Money, Time, and Your Reputation
When you make decisions without validated audience insights, you risk spending thousands of dollars on the wrong thing.
David – Magneti’s Research Director/Guru – was helping a software company that was planning to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a new product feature.
One of the managers at the company had a spidey sense about the feature and insisted that they double check: do our customers really want this?
They spent around $20K to get market feedback and discovered that their customers didn’t care about this particular feature. At all.
They spent $20K of their budget in order to not spend $150K on a feature that would have flopped. Money well spent.
Research offers the confidence you need to validate your hunches with actual data to build a strategy with the right pieces.
Think of all of the thousands of dollars you could spend on a marketing campaign for the wrong product or to the wrong audience or with the wrong messaging.
Research can save you time and money (and heartache) by pointing you in the right direction.
Better to know now that your customers aren’t interested in that new feature than to drop tons of effort and dollars in a hope-filled attempt.
9. Research Provides Value, Regardless of the Results
We rarely hear, “Research was a waste of budget.” It provides value every time.
It will either validate your assumptions and give you the confidence and evidence you need to push forward, or it provides you with the insight needed to shift your strategy to something that will drive success.
And when you invest in recurring, reliable research – continuously considering your customer’s shifting motivations and behaviors in a constantly-changing market – you position yourself as an industry leader, consistently bringing validated insights to your target market.
10. Research Gives You Actionable Ways to Improve
An academic researcher can tell you what might be happening, but research without recommendations is shallow: you invested in all of this research, got all of these numbers, and frankly don’t know what to do with them.
Interpretation and recommendations reveal so much more value.
Our researchers offer a unique hybrid of both research and marketing.
Meaning, we’ll give you all the data and tell you how to mold your marketing strategy accordingly, including your brand, messaging, website, organizational vision, and so on.
Most research organizations know how to apply the methodology, but don’t always nail the recommendations.
Having experienced marketers in the room, weighing in on the insights you want to gather, then interpreting the results alongside research experts – makes all the difference.
It helps guarantee that your research investment will turn into actionable insights that drive results for your bottom line.
Marketing Without Research
Without research, you risk making decisions based on hunches, assumptions, and subjective opinions – not a validated path towards confidently recruiting stakeholders, investing dollars, or targeting the right audience.
Research not only provides assurance – that you are moving in the right direction, that your money will be well-spent, that you see the market clearly – it also gives the most important player a seat at the table: your audience.
Give Your Audience a Voice
By giving your audience a voice, through applied research, you take the seat of the listener and by applying these insights accordingly, you also take the seat of an industry thought leader.
What does that mean? No more wasted budget on the wrong strategy, the wrong messaging, the wrong channels, or the wrong audiences.