Companies, large and small, should conduct market research before launching a product or marketing campaign. However, it is often a mixed bag: Some companies create solely based on customer desires while other innovators feel they know better than the consumer and proceed without customer feedback.
But in observation, large companies that have launched major marketing campaigns without research failed miserably. For example, campaigns like Victoria Secret’s “Bright Young Things” (Source: Lutz, 2013) and Motrin’s “Motrin Moms” (Source: Kerpen, 2011) are a couple of note.
One might ask, “Why would multinational companies launch major marketing campaigns without the proper research?” More importantly, “If a large company chose not to conduct market research, how would a small business or startup be able to afford the right kind of research?”
Before addressing the research that should come before an ad, it’s important to understand a little bit about advertising theory.
Much of current day advertising is based on the transmission model of mass communication; this model describes transmission of mass communications from advertisers to the masses. The model entails a message from the sender that is encoded into an advertising message, which is placed into a medium (e.g., print, video, radio) and then the message is decoded by the recipient (consumer)… (Source: Hackley, 2012 pages 36-38).
In my opinion, consumers often receive a very different message than the message that was intended. This is why companies, sole proprietors, startups and multinationals alike, should conduct market research.
Let me illustrate from personal experience.
I recently took part in a marketing seminar for colleges and universities. During the discussion another member discussed hiring a marketing company for $75,000 to conduct marketing research so he could propose a new product (i.e., a degree program). However, many of the other representatives, from smaller colleges, in the room were not able to afford costly research.
In fact, if I hired a company to conduct research before proposing new degree programs I would be awarded with a brown box to clean out my office. Although businesses need to make data-driven decisions, many are simply unable to afford outsourcing to expert market research companies.
In spite of not being able to afford a $75,000 marketing research budget we’ve launched four new degree programs in the course of eighteen months. Three of the four programs are doing well. We invested very little in promotions for the new programs.
They were based solely on perceived opportunities in our market, with strengths that we had to offer; we would than pitch our ideas to industry leaders to gauge their reaction. We went with the method of “firing bullets [rather] than cannon balls”. (Source: Collins & Hansen, 2011).
Research: Bullets Instead of Cannon Balls
Marketing is essential whether a company utilizes word of mouth (WOM) or fully integrated marketing campaigns that included print, social media, pay-per click, magazine ads and so on. We know that forgoing marketing and advertising is out of the question. But how do you know what and how to market without formal research?
Here are four DIY marketing research tips for self-employed and bootstrapped entrepreneurs.
- Leverage social media – Companies that have an active social media presence also have an active and participating audience that could share accurate feedback about new products, service modifications, marketing ideas and campaigns (Source: Kerpen, 2011).
- Talk to customers – Any successful business should have several trusted customers who are just as much customers as they are partners. Meet with your strategic partners, pitch your new idea, take notes on their feedback, and ask for their advice.
- Fire bullets instead of cannon balls – This method entails trying multiple new ideas by placing a minimal amount of resources into each effort so that failed attempts don’t strain the business. With success you later fire “cannon balls” which would be the same idea with more resources. (Source: Collins & Hansen, 2011).
- Know yourself, customers, location, and industry – By staying current in these four areas you will be able to see trends, lack of service in certain areas and gaps in delivery versus customer expectations.
Collins , J., & Hansen, M. T. (2011). Great by Choice. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers; Hackley, C. (2012). Advertising and Promotion: An Intigrated Marketing Communications Approach . London: Sage Publications Ltd.; Kerpen, D. (2011). Likable Social Media: How to delight customers, create an irrestiable brand, and be generally amazing on facebook (and other social networks). New York, NY: McGraw Hill; Lutz, A. (2013, March 28). Victoria’s Secret Says That Parents Are Protesting A Teen Line That Doesn’t Exist. Business Insider .
This article has been edited and condensed.
Jason Crowther is currently the Dean of Enrollment for Grace College of Divinity. He has a background of starting several small businesses and is the process of acquiring his MBA in entrepreneurship from Regent University. Connect with @gcdivinity on Twitter.
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