I may be biased, but I am a big proponent of brand research. Research teaches you things about your company that you could not possibly figure out on your own, helps to answer questions you didn’t realize needed to be asked. Research uncovers how the marketplace sees you, explains your client’s needs, and gauges your progress and growth over time, among many, many other things.
Research is the central tenant to creating a strong, strategically supported brand. When you have a better idea of what your target market is thinking, you can create a brand that can support and guide your strategic objectives while appealing to your most important audiences.
Despite the benefits, not all companies conduct regular brand research – or even general customer research. This results in brands that are stagnant or outdated, and companies that simply do not meet the needs of their target market.
The problem is there are a lot of myths out there about whether or not companies can benefit from regular research. Is your company stuck in one of these ruts?
- “We did a survey 10 years ago which told us pretty much everything we want to know.”
- “We already know our customers – we talk to them every day.”
- “We have never done our own research in the past and we’re doing just fine.”
- “My clients are very busy people. They won’t appreciate my asking them to fill out a survey.”
- “We can’t afford our own customer research study.”
It doesn’t matter what industry or country you’re in, everything about business has changed in the last few years alone. Business and society are always changing – let alone the magnitude of change that has occurred over the last few years. Between economic conditions and constant technological changes, your customers are not the same group that they were in the past.
In a perfect world, research should be repeated every 1-2 years to help you gauge success and effectiveness of your brand and determine progress in influencing your market’s perceptions.
It’s true, you probably know your customers better than anyone else. You interact with them on a daily basis. The problem is that your relationship with your customers is probably not the same as your partner’s relationship with his customers, or your employees’ relationships with their customers. Even if you’re sure your customers would tell you if they had an issue, it is very hard to set aside your personal bias and learn where your real strengths and weaknesses are. Research assisted by a third party can help uncover information about your company that you didn’t know to look for.
I know plenty of small to mid-sized business owners who have no intention of growing. They reached a certain size and decided that they did not want the burden of managing a larger company. If, however, your company has aspirations for long-term growth, you cannot do so on gut instinct alone.
You can build a great small business on the instincts of a leader who lives and breathes his product. But once a business reaches a certain size, or brings on different leaders with different ideas, or finds itself in a market that is fundamentally different from where and when the business was started, you cannot grow that business on instinct alone. At some point, you need concrete information to guide your decision-making. Otherwise, you are wasting resources and pulling your business toward a shot in the dark. A larger company – or even a mid-sized company – cannot pick up and move half the business to mobile retail because you saw a news story that told you that’s where the industry is going. It’s frankly irresponsible to the health of your business and the well-being and financial security of your employees.
I only include this because I have heard it used as an excuse before. The assumption is that either that the client is too busy and will not want to fill out a survey, or will be bothered by any “spam” or “solicitation.” The reality is that most clients appreciate the opportunity to give anonymous feedback. It gives them a chance to give you constructive criticism they may not be comfortable giving to you directly, or give you the praise they think you deserve – after all, they keep doing business with you for a reason, right? Research shows your clients that you care about what you think about them and want to serve them to the best of your abilities.
Most of the time, if the client likes you, they will gladly give you their opinion (And if they don’t like you, they will be even happier to provide their feedback, trust me). And even if they are too busy to open the email or answer the call, the worst case scenario is that they won’t respond – they certainly won’t fire you for the effort.
Cost is probably the most common reason businesses don’t perform regular research. A full-scale quantitative research project is not cheap and the cost can be prohibitive to businesses with tight marketing budgets.
On the other hand, there are all types of research that can help you learn about your customers, and at least gauge whether or not your brand is resonating with your clients. You may not be able to afford a deep international dive, but online surveys or phone interviews can be done pretty inexpensively and still give you a general idea of where your company stands.
The Bottom Line: Market research is integral in achieving brand health and lasting growth for any company.
Does your company participate in research? If not, why?
For further insight on the role of research in branding, tune in to a past radio show with two key professionals in the field of research.
Learn more about the author of this blog post, Kristy Gulsvig, by visiting her page at RiechesBaird.