Truth of it is – most people want to crawl under the table and hide from these thick compilations of numbers and analyst jargon. Who has the time, the wherewithal or the secret decoder ring, for that matter, to make it through a 70 page study on the key metrics of digital marketing without throwing themselves into oncoming traffic?
Research is always a buzzkill – in circles outside of, well, researchers that is. The word alone conjures memories of that first ‘research paper’ we were assigned in high school. You could hear all life and any hope of fun for the next week leave the classroom in one collective groan. Some of us detested the idea so much that we put it off until 11pm the night before it was due. I believe there is a sense memory that many of us have carried into our adult lives; being asked to read or do research before embarking what would otherwise be a creative campaign or new site design seems like we have been banished to the Isle of Homework.
Don’t get me wrong–I have always leapt before looking – I hate reading the manual, preferring to ‘do’ rather than prepare to ‘do.’ In my earlier years, I would create and push communications campaigns with very little front end research. I went with my gut not tedious preparation. It has only been in my late-onset adulthood that I have learned the value of gettin’ spreadsheety wit’ it.
You see – I now spend much of my day with reports chock full of numbers and data. Our research department works hand-in-hand with our creatives, account managers and project leads to make sure that we have a solid lay of the digital landscape before scaling the wrong mountain. Research does not fully eliminate the gut-factor, but it does help us to ground our projects in the knowledge of what is happening now as well as where things are trending.
I’m no longer daunted by a dense stack of paper. I start with the problem I am trying to solve or a specific user audience that I am trying to better understand – and I dig in. There is a method in my market research madness. My team and I are always on the scent for the latest studies. We regularly scour for new studies from our trusted friends at Pew, Nielsen, McKinsey and Gartner to name a few. These research leaders compile and release findings that regularly help me and my peers glean meaningful insight to support business cases for clients and prospects alike.
This past year has market execs and small business owners alike buzzed up on big data like the early 2000s were on Starbucks lattes. I avoid using the Big Data catchphrase in mixed company because I truly think that it conjures the image of a large, unwieldy Godzilla of statistical terror. But it is here to stay and we must make our peace with it and allow it to do some heavy lifting by, perhaps, doing away with other predators that threaten our marketing strategies. (Ok, that last metaphor was a bit of a stretch)
The truth of the matter, market research is not boring.
It is social research. It is the study of human behavior. Call me weird, but I find it fascinating to learn about all of the micro-segments and cultures that make up the whole of our unique human tapestry. Market research sheds light on the unique needs, behaviors and, therefore, opportunities so that allow campaign strategist to create unique and relevant content. With the rapid technological advancements, specifically as it applies to how we connect with one another online, we are constantly evolving
how we talk and relate through shared content.
As marketers, it is more crucial every day to truly understand your customers in all of their uniqueness. This allows us to create and share content that is truly meaningful. This is the age of inbound marketing, where brands and businesses are tasked with developing more content than ever before in more communications channels than ever before in our history.
We do this through measured study and practical application of methods that allow us to work smarter, no harder. To sum it up, market research allows us to:
- Understanding human behavior – search behavior, purchase behavior, who influences whom and who holds the purse strings in any given scenario
- Reach your target audience—understanding where they live and breathe online, where they research and how they prefer to book an appointment or procure a service or product
- Clarify the message—knowing how they speak and the words that hold sway or evoke a feeling is the part and parcel to a good campaign
- Set strategy—knowing all of the above allows your marketing and sales teams to align on how to fill that funnel and streamline that sales pipeline