Market research is the process of gathering information about your target market and customers to find out if a new product will be successful, to help your team improve an existing product, or to find out how people feel about your brand and make sure your team is communicating your companyâ€™s value well.
Market research can answer many questions about the state of an industry, but itâ€™s not a crystal ball that marketers can use to learn about their customers. Researchers in the market look into many different parts of the market, and it can take them weeks or even months to get a clear picture of how the business world works.
But if you study just one of these areas, you can get a better idea of who your buyers are and how to give them something that no other business can do right now.
You can definitely make good decisions based on your experience in the business and the people you already work with. But donâ€™t forget that market research has more benefits than just these. You should think about two things:
Before you get into how customers in your field decide what to buy, you need to know who they are.
Here, your buyer personas can help you. Buyer personas, which are sometimes called marketing personas, are made-up, generalised versions of your ideal customers.
Use a free tool to create a buyer persona that your whole company can use to market, sell, and serve better.
They help you see who youâ€™re talking to, make your communications more efficient, and shape your strategy. You should make sure that your buyer persona has the following key traits:
The idea is to use your persona as a guide to figure out how to reach and learn more about your real audience members. You may also find that your business fits more than one persona, which is fine. You just need to think about each persona carefully when you plan and optimize your content and campaigns.
Now that you know who your buyer personas are, use this information to find a group to do your market research with. This group should be a good representation of your target customers so you can learn more about their real traits, problems, and buying habits.
The group you choose to reach out to should also include people who have recently bought something or who have chosen not to buy something. Here are some more rules and suggestions that will help you find the right people to take part in your research.
When deciding who to ask for help with your market research, you should start by thinking about people who have the traits of your buyer persona. Also, you should:
Aim for 10 participants per buyer persona.
We recommend focusing on one persona, but if you think itâ€™s important to research more than one persona, make sure to find a different group of people for each one.
You might want to focus on people who have taken an evaluation in the last six months, or up to a year ago if you have a longer sales cycle or a niche market. Youâ€™ll be asking very specific questions, so itâ€™s important that their experience is still fresh.
You want to get people to join your team who have bought your product, bought a competitorâ€™s product, or decided not to buy anything. Even though it will be easiest to find and talk to your customers, talking to people who arenâ€™t customers (yet!) will help you get a more complete picture of your market.
Getting ready is the best way to make sure you get the most out of your conversations. Whether itâ€™s for a focus group, an online survey, or a phone interview, you should always make a discussion guide to make sure you ask all the most important questions and use your time well.
(Please note that this is not a script. The conversations should feel natural and casual, so feel free to go out of order or dig deeper into certain topics as you see fit.
Your discussion guide should be in the form of an outline, with open-ended questions and a time limit for each section.
Wait, all open-ended questions?
Yes, this is a market research golden rule. You should never â€ślead the witnessâ€ť by asking yes or no questions because you could accidentally change their mind by starting with your own theory. When you ask open-ended questions, you also avoid getting one-word answers, which arenâ€™t very helpful.
Here is a general plan for a 30-minute survey for one B2B buyer. You can use these as talking points for a face-to-face interview or as questions on a digital form to send to your target customers as a survey.
Ask the buyer to tell you a little bit about themselves, such as their job title and how long theyâ€™ve been with the company. Then, ask a simple, fun question to get people talking (first concert attended, favourite restaurant in town, last vacation, etc.).
Remember that you want to learn certain things about your buyers. You might be able to get basic information from your contact list, such as a personâ€™s age, location, and job title. However, there are some personal and professional challenges you can only learn about by asking.
Here are some other important questions to ask about your audienceâ€™s background:
Now, talk about the specific purchase or interaction they had with you that made you want to include them in the study. The next three steps of the buyerâ€™s journey will be all about this specific purchase.
Here, you want to know how they first realised they had a problem that needed to be solved, without asking if they knew about your brand yet.
Think back to the first time you realised you needed a [type of product or service, but not the one you bought].
Now, you need to be very clear about how and where the buyer looked for information about possible solutions. Plan to jump in and ask for more information.
What did you do first to learn about possible solutions? How useful did you find this source?
Where did you look to find out more?
If they donâ€™t come up naturally, ask about search engines, websites visited, people consulted, and so on. Use some of the following questions to find out more, if it makes sense:
Where did you find that information?
How did you use vendor websites?
What exact words did you type into Google?
How did it help? What else could be done?
Who gave the most helpful information, and who gave the least? What did that look like?
Tell me about your interactions with each vendorâ€™s salespeople.
Which of the things you talked about above had the most impact on your decision?
What criteria, if any, did you use to compare the options?
Who made the short list of vendors, and what were the pros and cons of each?
Who else helped make the final choice? How did each of these people fit into the story?
What factors led you to decide to buy something in the end?
Here, you want to wrap up and figure out what the buyer could have done better.
Ask them what their ideal way to buy something would be. How would it be different than what they had?
Give them time to ask more questions.
Donâ€™t forget to thank them for their time and get their address so you can send them a note of thanks or a reward.
List your main competitors, but remember that itâ€™s not always as easy as saying â€śCompany X vs. Company Y.â€ť
Sometimes, a part of a company might compete with your main product or service, even though that companyâ€™s brand might focus more on another area.
In one case. Apple is known for its laptops and phones, but its music streaming service, Apple Music, competes with Spotify.
From a content point of view, you might be competing with a blog, YouTube channel, or other similar publication for inbound website traffic, even if their products have nothing to do with yours.
Even though magazines like Health.com and Prevention donâ€™t sell oral care products, a toothpaste company might compete with them on some blog posts about health and hygiene.
Find out which industry or industries youâ€™re in to find competitors whose products or services are similar to yours. Start with broad terms like education, construction, media and entertainment, food service, healthcare, retail, financial services, telecommunications, and agriculture.
The list goes on, but find an industry term that you like and use it to make a list of companies that also belong to this industry. Here are some ways to make your list:
Review the G2 Crowd quadrant for your industry: This is the best way to start secondary market research in some fields. G2 Crowd takes user ratings and social data and puts them together to make â€śquadrantsâ€ť that show which companies are contenders, leaders, niche, and high performers in their industries. G2 Crowd focuses on digital content, IT services, human resources, online shopping, and other business services.
Get a report on the market: Every year, companies like Forrester and Gartner offer free and paid market forecasts about the top vendors in their field. On Forresterâ€™s website, for example, you can choose â€śLatest Researchâ€ť from the menu bar and look through Forresterâ€™s most recent work using a number of search filters. You should save these reports on your computer because they are useful.
Using social media to search: If you know how to use the search bar on social networks right, you can use them as great company directories. For example, on LinkedIn, you can click on the search bar and type in the name of the industry you want to work in. Then, under â€śMore,â€ť click â€śCompaniesâ€ť to see only the businesses whose LinkedIn profiles include this or a similar industry term.
In this kind of secondary market research, search engines are your best friends. To find online publications with which you compete, take the broad industry term you found in the previous section and come up with a few more specific industry terms that your company identifies with.
For example, a catering business might be a â€śfood serviceâ€ť company, but it might also sell â€śevent catering,â€ť â€ścake catering,â€ť â€śbaked goods,â€ť and other things.
Do the following once you have this list:
Google it: Donâ€™t undervalue how important it is to see what websites come up when you search Google for words that describe your business industry. You might find product makers, blogs, magazines, and other things.
Compare the results of your search with your buyer persona: Remember the buyer persona you made in the first part of this article, when you did your primary research? Use it to figure out how likely it is that a publication you found on Google will steal traffic from your site. If the website posts content that seems like it would be interesting to your buyer persona, it could be a competitor and should be added to your list of competitors.
After youâ€™ve done a few similar searches on Google for terms in your industry, look for repeats in the website domains that come up.
Check out the first two or three pages of results for every search you do. These websites are well-known in your industry for the videos, reports, web pages, and blog posts they make, so you should pay close attention to them as you build your own library of videos, reports, web pages, and blog posts.
Feeling like you have too many notes? We suggest that you look for common themes that you can use to tell a story and make a list of things to do.
To make things easier, try making a report with your favourite presentation software, which will make it easy to add quotes, diagrams, or call clips.
Feel free to add your own style, but the following outline should help you write a clear summary:
What your goals were and why you did this study.
Who you talked to, participants. You can divide groups by persona and customer or prospect by using a table.
The Bottom Line:Â What did you learn that was the most interesting? What are your plans for dealing with it?
Awareness:Â Talk about the most common things that make people want to get evaluated. (Quotes can have a lot of power.)
Consideration:Â Give the main themes you found and the specific sources buyers use to do their own research.
Decision:Â Show how a real decision is made by naming the people with the most power and mentioning any product features or information that can make or break a deal.
Action Plan:Â Your research probably showed you a few campaigns you can run to get your brand in front of buyers sooner and/or more effectively. Give a list of your priorities, a time frame, and an explanation of how it will affect your business.