Semrush Hero Banner

The Market Research Process: An Insider’s Guide

The Market Research Process: An Insider's Guide

Market research should be your primary concern whether you are commencing a new venture, introducing a new commodity, or simply attempting to outdo competitors.

Reflect on it – how can you succeed without understanding the people who make up your target market, their needs, their wants and what influences them to buy? It is like hitting the bull’s eye with a blindfold on.

When you take time to delve deeper into researching your particular industry, there are so many things that come into view that will shape each part of your business strategy. These findings can guide everything from product creation through marketing activities and even pricing, and they aid in making rational decisions based on facts related to clients’ desires.

Also, we must not underestimate the need to be ahead of others. This is because, currently, in businesses where everyone is fighting tooth and nail against each other for survival, one thing every company does without fail is conduct competitor analysis more than anything else!

The 6 Key Steps of the Market Research Process

Market Research And Branding

Conducting efficient market exploration isn’t only about aimlessly collecting information. It’s a structured method that can unearth a wealth of helpful data if done correctly. Below are the six necessary steps:

1. Specify Your Analysis Objectives

Take one step back before you plunge into the research, and be aware of what you want to achieve. Are you seeking to know more about your target market? Testing out a new product idea for viability? Or are you trying to measure demand for an existing offer?

Having well-defined, precise goals will save time in the study and ensure that collected facts are relevant and applicable.

2. Determine Your Target Market

You won’t be able to investigate what you don’t know anything about, right? That’s why it is vital to delineate who makes up your target market, even before beginning any kind of research activity.

Consider factors such as:

  1. Demographics (age, sex, location, income level, etc.)
  2. Psychographics (values, interests, lifestyles)
  3. Behavioural Patterns and Purchase Influencers

The more specific an image of your ideal client base you can paint, the more valuable findings from this investigation will be for you.

👉 Read More:  Building a Brand Identity: A Comprehensive Guide

3. Select Data Gathering Techniques

Market research cannot follow a cookie-cutter approach because different situations require different methods depending on objectives, budgetary constraints and desired information type.

Here are some popular approaches:

  • Surveys/questionnaires (online, phone, mail, etc.)
  • Focus groups & in-depth interviews
  • Observation & ethnographic studies
  • Competitive analysis & benchmarking studies
  • Secondary research (analysing existing sources)

Do not hesitate to mix various techniques to get comprehensive insights.

4. Gather and Interpret Findings

This is where things start happening – roll up your sleeves and collect that precious data!

Irrespective of which methods have been chosen, there are several essential things to take into account at this stage:

  • Strive for diversity in sample selection to avoid biased results.
  • Adhere to ethical practices during studies (no coercion, no deception, no invasion of privacy)
  • Keep records well-organised and documented.
  • Look for patterns, trends or points of interest within the collected information.

Also, remember that analysis is an ongoing activity – you may have to change your tack or probe deeper into some areas as more facts come through.

5. Elaborate On Discoveries Made And Report Them

Once all those juicy numbers have been gathered, sifted and crunched – it’s time to wrap them up with a bow!

Here is where findings should be blended, meaningful conclusions drawn from them and recommendations put forth logically.

Do not just tell stories using raw stats; weave narratives around such data, which bring things alive while remaining practically useful.

Charts, graphs, diagrams, etc., can be powerful tools for illustrating complex concepts visually, thereby ensuring that findings resonate well with intended audiences.

6. Follow Up And Monitor Performance

The research cycle does not terminate upon submission of the final report. Now comes the implementation phase based on insights gained!

Whether tweaking existing products/services, changing marketing tactics or launching new lines altogether – always set benchmarks against which progress can be measured and then monitor these very closely.

Did your campaigns achieve the desired outcomes? What works best so far, and what could do with improvements? Continuous monitoring plus regular fine-tuning remains the most effective strategy, if only because people’s needs never stop changing over time.

Why Primary Research is a Game-Changer

You can get some good information from the internet and existing reports provided that you look carefully (secondary research). However, primary research must not be underrated if you seek an upper hand over competitors and some distinctive understanding.

Primary research involves collecting firsthand or fresh information from the original point: the customers already using your services or products and those who could be using them soon. It should be noted that this data must be specific to your business needs.

This will allow you to conduct surveys, focus groups or even observational studies, among others, where necessary. By doing so, one avoids using outdated or too general secondary sources, thereby getting unadulterated views about what individuals want and why they do things straight from the horse’s mouth.

With this, you can;

  • Spot unsatisfied market demands as well as areas of interest
  • Come up with goods/services that perfectly fit client requirements.
  • Have a better knowledge of how people make purchase decisions and what drives them towards making such choices.
  • Discover new markets before competitors do
  • Cement customer relations, which lead to loyalty
👉 Read More:  Brand Positioning: How to Make Your Brand Stand Out

The Power of Online Surveys and Communities

Ikea Customer Research Insights Customer Satisfaction Survey Chatbot Smartinsights

Regarding fast, cost-effective primary research, online surveys and customer communities are where it's at.

Long gone are the days of undertaking labour-intensive (and frankly, boring) door-to-door surveys or staging a dozen focus groups. With online tools, you can rapidly collect insights from a wide range of respondents at a fraction of the cost.

Need feedback on a new product concept from stay-at-home moms in Manchester? No problem! Want to gauge interest in a niche service from outdoor enthusiasts in Scotland? Easy peasy.

Online surveys allow you to reach your target segments quickly, no matter how niche or geographically scattered. You'll capture more accurate, unbiased responses with skip logic, randomisation, and other advanced features.

But why stop at just one-off surveys? Creating an online customer community opens up a direct line of communication for ongoing insights. These branded platforms foster engagement and allow you to:

  • Collaborate with customers throughout the development process
  • Test ideas and get real-time feedback
  • Build stronger brand loyalty and advocacy
  • Identify influential customers to work with more closely
  • Save tons of time and money compared to traditional methods

It's market research game-changing stuff. No wonder big-name brands like Lego, Starbucks and GoPro are tapping into the power of customer communities.

Bringing Data to Life: The Role of Qualitative Research

Numbers and statistics are just part of understanding your customers. That’s why a good market research strategy includes some qualitative research.

What is qualitative research? It is information that doesn’t use numbers but describes thoughts, motivations, beliefs or actions to know why people do what they do about products/services being studied.

Qualitative methods can produce those “a-ha!” moments and other findings that numbers often miss. For example, a series of personal interviews could be conducted where participants were asked about their emotional journey while buying a product similar to yours. What were the pain points or frustrations led them to look for solutions? How did they find different alternatives? Which factors influenced the final choice?

This type of inquiry elicits responses filled with situational context, narrative anecdotes, and individualising qualities that exceed mere demographic details in usefulness.

Alternatively, one might follow website visitors around, watch people open packages from deliveries made by company X at home/work/etc., and observe users interacting with software Y outside the lab setting – these glimpses into real lives & usage scenarios offer marketers invaluable insights unmatched elsewhere.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to this: Qualitative data adds colour (vividness), shade (subtlety) & lightness (illumination) – making them more accessible to the eye than quantitative ones too.

Top Tips for Crafting an Effective Survey

Market Research Survey

Okay, you're sold on the awesomeness of online surveys. But how do you create an effective one that captures high-quality insights? Here are some pro tips to keep in mind:

Keep It Focused and Skimmable

Despite what you might think, cramming hundreds of questions into a survey is a surefire way to get crummy data (or have people abandon it altogether). The best surveys are lean, focused and easily skimmable.

Stick to your key objectives and only ask what's essential to minimise respondent fatigue. Use clear section headers, ample white space and a logical question flow to keep things nice and breezy.

👉 Read More:  Say No to Spec Work! The Dark Side of Design

Mix It Up With Different Question Types

Who wants just blankly to stare at multiple-choice questions for 20 minutes straight? Not this kid! Variety is the spice of life when it comes to surveys.

In addition to the standard multiple choice and rating scale questions, try sprinkling in some open-ended text boxes to capture more qualitative feedback. Ranking questions are handy for determining priorities, while matrix/grid questions simultaneously enable efficient evaluation of multiple factors.

Visual elements like image choice or click testing can enrich the experience and yield exciting insights into consumer preferences and decision-making.

Avoid Ambiguity and Leading Questions

Small things like awkward phrasing or biased language can completely skew your results and render the data useless. That's why it's crucial to craft questions that are:

  • Crystal clear and free of jargon
  • Not leading the respondent toward any particular answer
  • Focused on one concept at a time (no confusing double-barreled questions!)

It also never hurts to pretest your survey with a sample audience to identify any areas of confusion before launching it in the wild.

Make It a Rewarding Experience

You might get a handful of passionate advocates who are happy to dish out their thoughts for free. But in most cases, you'll need to incentivise people to ensure a solid completion rate.

Popular rewards include:

  • Money (cash, gift cards, etc.)
  • Product samples or discounts
  • Entries into prize draws/giveaways
  • Donating to a charity in their name

Just communicate the incentive details and payout timing upfront to manage expectations.

Leverage Smart Logic and Randomisation

Basic surveys are so 2010. Thanks to smart piping logic and randomisation features, today's online surveys can adapt in real time based on how respondents answered previous questions.

This drastically cuts down on irrelevant questions (and boredom!) by only showing people the sections that pertain to their specific circumstances or demographics. You can even randomise the order in which questions/answers appear to minimise response bias.

With all these intelligent capabilities, there's no longer an excuse for a bland, one-size-fits-all experience. It's a win-win situation: respondents stay engaged while you capture higher-quality data tailored to each individual.

Getting Personal with Customer Interviews

How To Impress Interviewers As A Designer

Online surveys are one of many tools market researchers have in their arsenal. Personal interviews should be used when you need a deeper understanding of your customers.

These conversations offer directness and intensity that are often impossible to recreate with survey impersonality. Additionally, they enable us to detect minute gestures and imply what rigid multiple-choice queries mean.

However, customer interviews take more time and effort than online surveys; their insights make up for this. You will learn about your client’s wants, needs, incentives and criteria for choosing – everything expressed in their own words without any filtering.

To do the interview properly:

  • Identify goals clearly and mark main areas for exploration;
  • Recruit individuals representing target groups;
  • Create a safe space where people can share without fearing judgment or punishment;
  • Ask follow-up questions whenever something interesting comes up;
  • Search for common threads or underlying causes across different answers.

Once you establish such close relationships with those receiving service from you and understand them more emotionally than anyone else, designing products becomes easy because all marketing messages become self-evident, while improving overall customer experience can never be achieved without this knowledge.

👉 Read More:  Wordmark Logos: Crafting Memorable Brand Identities

The Art of Mastering Focus Groups

There's a reason companies like Apple, Nike and Samsung religiously rely on focus groups to vet new concepts and test messaging: when moderated correctly, they are pure market research magic.

What's the secret sauce that makes focus groups so powerful? It all comes down to the dynamic nature of the group setting itself. By bringing together a diverse cross-section of your target audience, you'll witness real-time interactions, honest debates and unfiltered perspectives that individually-focused methods like interviews simply can't match.

With a skilled moderator at the helm, the synergy of the group triggers new chains of thoughts and reveals unexpected insights that participants likely wouldn't arrive at on their own. It's the ultimate lean-back form of idea generation and creative problem-solving.

Observational tools like one-way mirrors, digital recording and live streaming can provide researchers with a full, unobstructed view of facial expressions, body language and group dynamics without compromising the authenticity of responses.

Of course, assembling and executing the perfect focus group can be challenging. It requires meticulous planning around areas like:

  • Recruiting representative and articulate participants
  • Crafting stimuli and developing a practical discussion guide
  • Facilitating an open, comfortable environment for sharing
  • Managing dominant personalities and groupthink
  • Expertly probing, reading between the lines and synthesising insights

When done right, though, the wealth of juicy data, breakthrough ideas and emotional connections you'll gain is invaluable. It's no wonder focus groups remain a staple of the market research world.

Why You Need to Be a Competitive Analysis Ninja

What Is A Swot Analysis

Are you focused like a laser on understanding your customers and target market? Great…but you’re only seeing half the picture.

To gain a complete 360-degree view of the competitive landscape – and find strategic opportunities for standing out from the crowd – you need to be a total ninja at analysing your competition.

What products and services are they offering? How do they position them? What channels do they use to attract and convert customers? What strengths or weaknesses do they have relative to our business?

These critical questions demand answers through rigorous research into who else is fighting for your audience’s attention. Because let’s face it: markets don’t exist in vacuums. Every purchase decision involves choosing between available alternatives.

So, where should you start snooping around? A mix of primary research (such as testing competitors’ products yourself) and secondary sources (like scanning their marketing materials, press releases, customer reviews, etc.) often works best.

Collect as much intelligence as possible, cataloguing specific features, strengths/weaknesses, messaging tactics, etc. Digital ad spy tools such as SEMRush or SpyFu can also cough up additional data about what keywords people are buying against each other online.

Then, once you understand what each player brings to the table, figure out how they stack up against us and look for “white space” in between. Is there an underserved niche, unmet need or just plain old lousy execution that we could capitalise on?

Ultimately, gain an unbeatable advantage by knowing everything about every competitor AND having broader knowledge about the entire marketplace within which everyone operates. Craft a value proposition that is so perfect it’d be illegal if anyone else could use it.

👉 Read More:  10 Personal Branding Trends: Crafting an Online Presence

Hot Tips for Amazing B2B Market Research

✨ Seek out savvy industry bloggers, thought leaders and LinkedIn influencers to tap into evolving trends, challenges and conversations happening in the space

✨ Attend significant conferences and events to rub elbows with your prospects, understand their burning questions, and gather competitive intelligence

✨ Leverage in-depth case studies spotlighting how existing customers overcame specific pain points or achieved key results using your products/services

✨ Use social media listening tools to monitor what people are saying about your brand, your competitors, and significant issues in the industry

✨ Pay close attention to changes in regulations, policies and compliance requirements that could impact purchasing decisions

The bottom line? B2B purchasing is a complex, high-consideration process. To stand out in that environment, you need granular, multi-dimensional research that speaks to the diverse needs of each stakeholder group involved.

How to Build a Rockin' Customer Advisory Board

What if you could assemble a focus group of highly engaged customers and get their brutally honest feedback on the regular…for free? That's what you get with a customer advisory board.

These exclusive panels of handpicked customers provide a direct line to your target market and a veritable treasure trove of insights you simply can't get anywhere else. From product roadmaps to marketing campaigns and everything in between, a CAB allows you to:

  • Pressure test new ideas before investing tons of time and money
  • Identify real-world challenges to inform your strategic priorities
  • Gain more profound empathy for how your offerings fit into customers' lives
  • Learn from true advocates on what's working well vs. what needs improving
  • Strengthen relationships and foster a tighter-knit community of brand loyalists

The key is carefully vetting and selecting the right mix of passionate, articulate customers who understand the value of helping shape your vision and direction. You want representatives from across your customer base (new vs tenured users), different industries/use cases, levels of adoption, etc.

With the proper incentives and a spirit of reciprocity, these customer advisors will happily play an active role in your company's evolution, not just by providing feedback when tasked but by surfacing issues, suggestions and other invaluable colours on their own accord.

Trust me, having a living, breathing focus group of customer advocates in your corner is a game-changer for driving customer-centric innovation and sustainable growth.

Incredible Cutting-Edge Methods to Try ASAP

Interactive Advertising Augmented Reality

While tactics like surveys and interviews have existed since the dawn of market research, that doesn't mean the industry has been stuck in a rut. Far from it!

The field continues to evolve rapidly with innovative new technologies and data streams to gain customer insights. Here are just a few cutting-edge methods savvy brands are tapping into:

Biometrics and Neuromarketing

What if you could observe how different stimuli light up someone's brain and elicit physiological responses in real-time? Tools that measure brain activity, eye tracking, galvanic skin response, and more allow you to uncover non-conscious thoughts and proper emotional drivers that people may not be fully aware of.

Virtual Reality and Simulations

From virtually rendering product concepts to simulating real-world shopping experiences, VR enables unparalleled flexibility to immerse participants and capture feedback in hyper-realistic scenarios.

👉 Read More:  How to Start A Small Business: A Guide To Success

Social Data Intelligence

With the proliferation of social media and online communities, rich streams of unsolicited data around consumer attitudes, purchase influences, and brand perceptions are ripe for intelligent social listening and analysis.

Location and Behavioural Data

Wearables, mobile tracking and the Internet of Things provide potent opportunities to understand the context behind customer actions, movements and behavioural patterns like never before.

Gimmicky fads or the future of insights mining? You be the judge! At the very least, combining progressive methods like these alongside more traditional research tactics will only strengthen your competitive intelligence engine.

Final Thoughts on Market Research

Phew, we covered a ton of ground! From why market research should be a non-negotiable for any business to all the intricate steps and methods for executing it effectively.

The common thread is this: making uninformed decisions based purely on assumptions and gut instinct is a recipe for disaster in today's uber-competitive climate.

To truly understand your customers inside and out, stay abreast of emerging trends and develop solutions that cut through the noise, you've got to put in the hard work of systematically gathering and analysing meaningful data.

And the market research process provides the framework for doing that. It instils a culture of curiosity, customer obsession and continual learning within your organisation—where you're never just stabbing in the dark or resting on your laurels.

So, keep researching, experimenting, and levelling up your insights game. The future growth and success of your business depends on it!

FAQs on Market Research

What’s the right amount of money to set aside for market research?

Unfortunately, it’s hard to say because many factors can affect the cost of a study — such as what needs to be learned, how many people need to understand it, and whether or not they’re being hired from an outside company. They said that most professionals would suggest allocating 5-10% of your total marketing budget towards research activities.

How do I find participants for my study?

The answer is simple: initially, figure out who you want and get them. This is done using customer databases, market panels, social media communities and survey platforms to find people who fit your target audience. This may be more difficult for some groups, but incentives or referral programs can always help attract those hard-to-reach individuals.

How often should I conduct market research?

At least once a year, you know where your business stands compared to everything else. However, taking surveys throughout different parts of the year will give companies insight into current trends and their consumer’s needs.

Where can I find the best data sources?

When looking for data, remember one thing: if it didn’t come directly from customers/prospects, then it probably isn’t accurate. This means third-party reports made by established research firms or other industry-related sources could help give context, but don’t trust anything outdated/unattributed found online.

What should I do with all this information overload?

Invest heavily into tools like robust data analysis capabilities alongside visualisations so that patterns begin appearing across multiple sources rather than cherry-picking isolated points that confirm preexisting beliefs; also welcome any discovery challenging conventional wisdom!

👉 Read More:  15 Common Mistakes in Web Design and How to Avoid Them

How should insights be acted upon?

Start by ranking ideas (based on highest potential/interest), then create plans around these areas before adding processes, ensuring voice-of-customer feedback remains constant throughout development – kill two birds with one stone. Also, don’t be afraid to pivot if necessary.

How do I get my boss to care about market research?

Use examples! Share success stories where insights led to measurable growth at your company or within a competitive space. Demonstrate how valuable these investments are for mitigating risk during critical decision-making processes tied directly into product development life cycles; however, be honest about resourcing implications.

Those are the basics, but if you need anything else, just let me know. I’m here 24/7/365.

Photo of author

Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

Need help Building your Brand?

Let’s talk about your logo, branding or web development project today! Get in touch for a free quote.

Leave a Comment

Trusted by Businesses Worldwide to Create Impactful and Memorable Brands

At Inkbot Design, we understand the importance of brand identity in today's competitive marketplace. With our team of experienced designers and marketing professionals, we are dedicated to creating custom solutions that elevate your brand and leave a lasting impression on your target audience.