As traditional marketers, we have years of experience understanding our markets, what products and services they need/want, how to communicate best with them, and how they regard our brands, right?
Well, maybe not…
We have often relied on marketing research (primary or secondary), sales team feedback, customer satisfaction surveys, etc. to provide insights into those areas. The issue with most of those forms of feedback is that they tend to provide the answers we want to hear or find necessary to meet our internal business goals (either as an organization or a professional).
Audience research, on the other hand, uncovers specifically how markets use products and services, speak about them, form communities, etc. It’s like watching a pride of lions in their natural habitat. Regardless if it’s a B2B or B2C market, when we take the time to watch people in their natural – or comfortable – habitat,we will see their true behavior and opinions surface. If you haven’t done audience research, it can be quite eye-opening. But more importantly, it can’t be fabricated. As an organization it’s your choice to ignore it (at your peril, potentially) or to embrace what’s really going on in the market.
So how can audience research help traditional marketing efforts?
Product and Service Development: If we build it, they will come… Not always. And more often “not” is the outcome (unless, of course, you are Apple). Many times start-up companies fail or new products or services fail because they are built from the internal premise that people actually want to buy your product or service. And throwing your marketing communications budget at it isn’t going to help move the buying needle. Why not start with your customers and prospects and identify what their needs/wants actually are? If you aren’t a ‘social’ company, audience research is one way to tap into what’s being said online while standing on the sidelines. If you are a social company, why not just simply ask and then collect the data that the audience shares?
Communication: There is large misperception in marketing that people respond specifically to tactics (i.e. ads, direct mail, messaging, emails, etc.). That is not the case. People respond only when they have a brand relationship (see below). When there is a brand relationship, people are open and receptive to receiving your message. Your task is to make sure you send the right message, at the right time, in the right format. Audience research can help you to determine receptivity levels.
Branding: While organizations do control their brand identity and messaging, what they don’t control are the relationships that people form with brands. Are you aware of how people (customers, prospects, clients, employees, stakeholders, shareholders, etc.) see and talk about your brand? Do you know what the sentiment (positive, neutral, negative) levels are for your brand? You might just be surprised! The goal of using audience research is to understand how people perceive your brand(s), to take that feedback internally and to adjust your branding efforts accordingly.
What would you add to the list? How have you used audience research in your marketing efforts?
About Alex Noudelman
Alex Noudelman is a digital marketing expert at iRISEmedia. He received his Honors B.A. from York University and a Masters in Adolescent Education from D’Youville College.