This is the fourth in our series of marketing articles, if you missed the first, second and third ones you can find them here: Marketing Series: An Introduction to Marketing, Marketing Series: Customer Orientated Marketing and Marketing Series: Determining what your customers https://it-ebs.co.uk/news/marketing-series-determining-customers-want/want.
So we have some ideas of what we can sell and who might be buying. Now we need to test these assumptions before committing ourselves to purchasing stock, opening stores or employing staff. Market research always involves some sort of educated guess work, but there are some things we can do to clarify the situation by verifying certain facts. This sort of objective analysis improves decision making and helps shape our overall marketing strategy.
There are two types of research:
Descriptive: This takes an historical overview taking a look at how things are now, understands how we got there and to seeks to explain deviations from expected norms.
Predictive: This looks at future market conditions and may sound a bit like crystal ball gazing, but in understanding previous trends, we can anticipate what is to come. With this information we can run “what if” scenarios to see what may happen and also understand the risks of such actions and put in to place strategies to mitigate those risks.
The information can be sourced from a variety of places:
Internal Data: Many organisations have data in house but either doesn’t know how to retrieve it, or even which questions to ask. These include:
- Your accounting records should be able to inform you of which areas of the business produce the most turnover, the most profitable customers and most popular products. Even though this will only provide historical information it will indicate patterns from year on year enough to help form realistic projections into the future. CRM systems will provide detailed analysis of each segment of your customer base but we will dedicate a whole section to that later in the series.
- Ask staff members in different departments for their thoughts and experiences. Although this consultative approach may be very fashionable by making staff feel “they are a part of the process”, but it can become long winded and produce contradictory answers. At the end of the day management have the responsibility to make decisions and lead the organisation. Sometimes the consultative approach can encourage inertia by discussion rather than actually doing anything.
- If possible include the customer in marketing initiatives. Sharing opinions through such exercises as questionnaires can be a useful gauge of public opinion. Questions that are the most revealing are:
- What was the latest product you purchased?
- What made you decide on this particular product?
- What made this stand out from other competing brands?
- Who else influenced your decision?
To encourage customers to respond they should be enticed with incentives such as discounts or special offers.
Having potential costumers participate in testing new products, or ideas on how things could be improved encourages them to buy from you later. (This has been proven time and again by the proponents of “Pop Idol” to the detriment of the rest of the recording industry.)
External Factors: What can’t be sourced from within the organisation may be found on the outside. Most mainstream industries are continually reviewed and analysed by various institutions.
- Mintel Reports give an overview of current trends in specific areas.
- The Financial Times runs special reports in various areas within the UK and international economy. Their daily newspaper also provides up to date information.
- There are specialist business consultants who can be approached or others who work in the industry who would be willing to share their insights.
When all this information is gathered together we can then revisit our original plan to see whether our ideas still hold merit, and adapt them accordingly. We should now be able to see cause and effect within the marketing mix. We can see when the public have responded to particular marketing campaigns when turnover has risen or when the price has been too high when units sold have dropped. Some locations will have performed better than others and which products have underperformed. With this information we have developed our own interactive “Marketing Mix” model for you to populate to see what results you achieve with the information you have available.