Research and Measurement

Market Research – Your Roadmap for Success

What exactly is market research? Why is this powerful tool important for your business? Market research provides valuable insights on what people will buy, why they’ll buy it, and how to incite them to buy. It’s also used to answer the age-old question, why do your customers choose YOU? In this blog, I’ll highlight why market research is so critical to your business, as well as provide you with key reasons why you’ll need to hire a professional marketing agency for unbiased research.

Why conduct market research?

Market research sets your company up for success by providing the information that you need to make informed business decisions. Experience alone is not enough; arm yourself with research and facts to understand your market and your customers. Market research can help you:

  • Understand your customers and their preferences
  • Identify potential issues you may not be aware of
  • Understand how your customers define your brand
  • Identify ways they value the services/products you provide
  • Learn how your customers compare you with your competitors
  • Test new products/services and/or new markets
  • Gauge the success of a new advertising campaign
  • Identify performance, pricing and/or promotion opportunities
  • Monitor the competition in your market
  • Keep up with the changing marketplace and economy
  • Mitigate risk in your business decisions

Market research methods

When conducting market research, there are basically two types of methodologies:

  1. Qualitative researchis information that comes from conducting deep “quality” research through the use of discussion guides, and is typically gathered via phone interviews, face-to-face interviews, or focus groups. Questions are typically developed by use of a discussion guide outlining issues or concerns you’d like your customers to weigh in on. The answers can help you understand why they chose your company to work with, what they value in your service/product, what they think of your brand, and how they respond to your marketing/advertising. This type of research is best used when you want to understand the needs of your customer so you can better target your marketing and messaging to their needs and values.
  2. Quantitative research is usually numeric, and done through a survey. It is far less detailed and there is no discussion with actual customers. It involves sending out a survey to customers and gathering statistical information, which can then be extrapolated to give you averages and percentages, e.g. 9 out of 10 customers are satisfied with your level of customer service. This type of research is best used for measuring customer feedback on an ad or a new service, or the launch of a new offering.

What unbiased research means

Almost every business owner I know says that they know their customers, that they speak to them on a regular basis and if there was a problem, their customers would tell them. Sorry to say, but this is rarely the case. Just like we don’t tell the server that the food was really bad, our customers may very well give us a truthful answer, but more likely they will give us a version of the truth. When a third party speaks with your customers, they feel this is their opportunity to really share the “truth” without hurting any feelings. If you are asking your customers directly then this is 100% biased research and is considered invalid because you have a vested interest in them being satisfied customers. Unbiased research doesn’t allow opinions, nor preconceived notions or preferences to affect the research. It is conducted with an entirely open mind and not biased in any way towards a desired outcome.

Market research benefits to your business

We’ve been conducting market research for almost two decades and I know how it can positively impact a business by providing actionable insights that can act as a catalyst for organizational growth. These insights will equip you for better decision-making and provide you with a greater understanding of customers, and competitors. Market research can help you to maximize the potential of your current business activities and create a roadmap for targeted marketing strategies and future growth. Every business, large or small, can benefit from having market research in their arsenal. 

Use a professional agency to conduct market research for your company

Market research is not a DYI project. It’s very time consuming and requires trained and skilled resources to perform, analyze and deliver results without any research bias. Set your business up for success and hire a professional marketing agency with proven processes, resources and analytics to maximize the potential of your market research.

CreativeWorks Marketing will work with you as a trusted partner in achieving your business goals. As a first step, we’ll establish clearly defined goals for market research in addition to determining what you need to know and why. We’ll perform, analyze and deliver results of the highest quality and keep the data confidential. Contact us today and let’s discuss how market research can benefit your company.

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Analyze This! Why Your Google Analytics Matter

If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn about my clients, it’s that they expect results. Many of my clients place a lot of value on measurement, and I am often asked, “How were our leads this quarter compared to last? Are we seeing value from the amount we put into new content on our site?” I find it interesting that a lot of business owners and marketers are unclear of the value they can receive from their Google Analytics reports.

At CreativeWorks Marketing, we dedicate the last week of each month to compiling and analyzing Google Analytics data. Google Analytics is a free tool in which you are able to monitor the traffic to your website in terms of audience demographics, behaviour, referrals and more. Like any good tool, you get out of it what you put into it. A simple Google Analytics report is only valuable when analyzed to help you understand what it means to your business.

The analyzed data is central to your business as it allows you to understand what is and isn’t working on your site so you can implement strategic, not just tactical, initiatives. While many web companies offer Google Analytics reports as part of their services, few of them supply much other than the raw data itself. Being able to read and fully understand what is being told through the data is imperative to your marketing success.

I have worked with multiple clients over the years that receive monthly analytics reports from their “web person” and disregard the information due to a lack of understanding. By ignoring the information provided in each analytics report, you might be missing key information about your business. Variances in online behaviour are important to determine problems and identify trends.

Google Analytics go above and beyond recording how many people have visited your site, it can also help to identify “unusual” behaviour. For example, when one of our clients was the victim of a website scam, we were able to identify new visitors to the site that came from suspicious sources. Finding out this information and alerting our client was imperative to the security of our client’s site, and without Google Analytics we wouldn’t have been able to act as fast as we did.

Analytics are a key part of the marketing process, and website analytics are only one form of such data. If your business is on digital platforms, you need to make sure you have clear analytics reports that also include relevant data on your social media efforts, and ideally include summaries and recommendations for adjustments and changes for improvements.

If you are investing your time and money into a robust website, it’s important that you have an understanding of how your audience is using it. Ask your marketing agency to provide a detailed analysis of your digital assets and explain what changes, if any need to be made. The goal of truly understanding website behaviour is using analytics to its fullest potential.

Knowing Your Customers: A Market Research Case Study

 Several organizations I have worked with over the years claim to know their clients inside and out, but is that really the case?

Many of them often tell me they know how their clients perceive them because they explicitly ask for their opinion. However, I would argue that much like we rarely tell the waiter/waitress that we don’t like our meals, our clients are unlikely to tell us the truth unless there is a real issue. However, if third-party sources ask the same question to your clients, your clients are more likely to tell the truth. This fact alone is why unbiased market research is a crucial step in any marketing strategy.

In this blog, I’d like to share with you a case study that perfectly illustrates the importance of market research and how it helped them better define who they are to their customers.

Overview

Our client, a mid-sized educational toy distributor in Toronto, wanted to conduct research to identify their customers, the views they have of their brand, and the values they tie to the brand and its products. Specifically, they wanted to determine if there was a difference in buying behaviours between the company’s two key markets, establish any product leakage, and validate their brand recognition in the marketplace.

 Conducting the Research

Based on the client’s goals for this research project, we determined both qualitative and quantitative research was needed in order to receive the answers we were looking for.

First, we started by conducting preliminary qualitative research. Qualitative Research is the process of talking to someone through open-ended questions about a particular subject to gain insights into their thoughts and opinions. This can be done through a conversation, phone call, or focus group.

To complete this research, we conducted eight discussion guide-driven phone calls with a targeted cross-section of buyers within our client’s target audience.

With the results of the pre-field research, we crafted a highly customized survey that allowed for each audience to only see questions specifically directed at them. We further segmented the questionnaire by programming it based on the role of the individual by type of organization and then by responsibility. This type of research, called Quantitative Research, allows us to track data with closed-ended questions and more numerical information.

Findings

After analyzing the gathered information, we were able to provide our client with an in-depth analysis of their customers. The key findings indicated that their customers with the most purchasing power in their target audience reported the least amount of brand exposure. It also clearly identified that their brand was very well known in one of their key target markets and less known in the other, and lastly, their catalogue is highly utilized and highly regarded. 

Next Steps

Once the deeper analysis was complete and revealed more about their customers’ buying behaviours, preferences for price vs. product quality, and delivery times, our client was able to develop a marketing strategy for 2017 that was truly in line with their customers’ needs and wants.

Market research is a crucial step in your marketing strategy. It provides you with insights you would not be able to get by just asking your customers yourself. Market research helps you get to know your customers better, and what is more valuable than that?

Spring Cleaning – Taking Stock Of Your Social Platforms

 

imgresSpring is a great time to take stock of your marketing efforts and with the social network world changing and evolving so quickly, this might be an ideal time to take stock of the channels you are currently on as well as consider some of the emerging channels being used by businesses today.

As marketers, we need to stay on the cutting edge of social offerings as this medium continues to influence buyers online.  Be mindful of the fact that some of the original platforms have changed since they were launched, and just because Facebook reached your clients 3 years ago, does not necessarily mean it reaches them today. I’ve outlined some top level information about the key platforms to help you evaluate whether these platforms still align with your marketing activities and better focus your social media efforts. 

Facebook

Originally developed in a college dorm room, Facebook was thought to be a social network for young adults to reconnect and keep up with friends by posting statuses, pictures and general life updates.

Currently, 87% of adults aged 18-29 use Facebook, while the next highest age range is 30-49 year olds, with 73%. The percentage of adult users decreases as their age increases. More and more businesses are using Facebook to promote their brand and have a presence on this site. The ability to provide reviews and feedback is crucial for businesses as it acts as an outlet for customer interaction. Some new Facebook features include live video and instant news articles. Facebook is still trying to improve with updated services.

Although Facebook originated from a personal sharing outlet, it has now evolved into a site for businesses and individuals. There are advertising opportunities, and even a source for breaking news.   

LinkedIn

Established as a business-focused social networking site whose main purpose is to allow professionals to network, LinkedIn has grown to be much more than that.

With the majority of users being between the age of 30-49, it serves as a professional social networking website, and is now the number one site for business development. The second largest group of users is 50-64 year olds. The target for LinkedIn is clearly a much older age range than Facebook. There are LinkedIn Groups, LI Pulse, (which is a daily news feed powered by the professional world) and it also has advertising and strong recruitment capabilities.

There are lead generation tools, advertising opportunities, and various other fee-for-service business opportunities worth investigating for your business development activities.

Twitter 

Today it was announced that posting pictures on twitter would no longer count as 25 characters like it did previously. This shows how social media platforms are constantly changing, as pictures have increasingly become more common on Twitter. Twitter is known as a micro-blogging platform. The majority of users are adults 18-29, with the second largest group being in the 30-49 age range.

As a more conversational and timely platform, Twitter requires a serious commitment to tweet at least twice a day, ideally more.  Businesses can get lost in Twitterverse or have very limited engagement without this type of commitment.  Remember to have social media protocol here because if a potential client tweets at you, you need to ensure you have the ability to respond instantly.

Instagram

Originally a personal image sharing platform, Instagram is evolving to cater more to business- driven objectives with Instagram ads and other features.  With over 150 million users, 90% of these users are under the age of 35, but the 30-49 demographic is starting to catch up. If your audience skews younger, and your product/service can best be displayed visually, then this might be the platform for your business.

Instagram, like Twitter, is an instantaneous feed that’s updated often, so you’ll need to be active on a regular and planned basis for your content to be noticed.

While the above social media platforms are considered the most popular, Snapchat and Pinterest are also frequently used social media platforms and continue to grow.

Evidently, each platform has a specific audience and purpose it serves. As it seems most platforms are gearing to suit business purposes, I advise you to consider all the platforms out there and make sure you know which one is right for your business.

Be mindful of evolving channels, changing demographics, and your customer needs, because as each social media channel evolves, so too must your marketing efforts.

Is Your Brand Honest?

Men_HandshakeWe’ve all become aware of the recent media incident involving an employee of Hydro One acting inappropriately, resulting in his swift dismissal due to their code of conduct policies. Although it has raised several social issues, it has also given many of us pause to rethink the importance of brand honesty.

Strong brands are built on a business’s values and beliefs, and as a business owner in the marketing industry, I know how challenging it can be to stand behind those values and beliefs, particularly when faced with an issue in the public eye.

While it’s clear a brand exceeds far beyond just a logo, and integrates into the lifestyle of your consumers when they interact with the brand, we need to be mindful of and be committed to upholding our brand values even when it may not be the most popular thing to do. The public’s perception of Hydro One now as opposed to a couple of weeks ago lays bare just how important brand values can be and the role they can play with your audience.

McDonald’s relies on the public’s opinion and/or perception of them to sell their products. They are often in the media with bad press related to the quality of their food, which may be influencing a public shift to healthier fast food alternatives elsewhere.

To combat this perception, McDonald’s created the “Our Food Your Questions” campaign, which introduced a series of videos to address some of their customer concerns. The campaign features hundreds of video questions from actual “real people”, which are then answered from third-party suppliers to McDonald’s. Questions like “Is your McChicken actually made from chicken?” and “Is your burger 100% beef?” are posed, and are then answered by chicken and beef farmers respectively.

Although it appears that these videos are honest and unbiased, I am not convinced that they have changed customer perception of their food quality. I find myself wanting to believe but still questioning the sincerity of these farmers and testing labs.

Changing the perception of a brand is no easy task. Acting swiftly and with conviction as in the case of Hydro One sends a powerful message not only to their employees (i.e behaviour outside the workplace is just as important as in the workplace), but also to us as consumers. Regardless of how you feel about their decision, there is no denying their brand honesty – to stay true to their values and beliefs.

How do you think consumers perceive your brand? What challenges are there in changing the way people perceive a brand? I look forward to discussing this further!

Marketing Trend Predictions for 2015

2015 TrendsNearing the end of 2014, we sat down to make a few marketing trend predictions as to what brands should be on the lookout for in 2015. Here are our predictions:

Shareable Social Content

Be informed about what your audiences like and where they spend time. In 2015 brands will have to delve into customization and personalization for social channels, because the most shareable content (thus the most beneficial for your business!) is content with social value.

Original Content Marketing

Using content to market is an old strategy that has always been around. However, the topic of content marketing seemed to attract an abundance of attention in 2014, with regards to efficacy and about how hard it can be to produce quality content in large qualities. Marketers have been challenged to create more original content for more channels (websites, social, blog, newsletters and more) that is also valuable and educational.

Inbound Marketing

Similar to content marketing, inbound marketing relies on earning people’s interest instead of buying it. Creating quality content will attract people to your company and/or product. By aligning your published content with your customers’ interests, you will naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert and close over time. Publish the right content in the right place at the right time, and your brand will become relevant and valuable to your customers.

It’s a Smartphone World

Simply put, more people are spending time on mobile. Millennials especially – their phones never leave their side (it’s rare). Information and images should be optimized for mobile viewing. It may even be a good idea to start with mobile and plan to scale up content for desktops and laptops!

Use Video to Cement Relationships

Yes, video production if done professionally is expensive and time-consuming, but it really is worth it. Good content is conversational and creates a “human” aspect to a brand. Not only will brands have to explore more creative ways to produce content, they will also have to understand how to be trustworthy and authentic. Their chosen content, matched with a human touch, will help build the trusting relationships that help consumers keep brands at the forefront of their minds.

Advanced Analytics

In 2015 we should expect to see companies adopting data-driven strategies that go beyond accessing “big data” to actually integrating that data into everyday marketing decisions, campaign strategy, and product development. Brands will dig deep to uncover those actionable insights they can leverage to generate growth, sales, and identify prospects.

Do our predictions make sense to your business? Which trends would you like to implement in 2015? What are your predictions for 2015? Share your predictions with us in the comment section.

Your Social Media – When is it a Waste of Time?

social_media_ROIWhether you’re a small or big business, being on social media is a good idea. The visibility and connectivity accessible through social media has convinced most business owners that it’s worth their while. But what isn’t so clear is how to measure what’s working and what’s not, and when to drop a platform that’s just waste of time and energy.

While its possible to track ROI and conversions, it can be tough to accurately measure the effectiveness of a social media campaign. You might find that some social media efforts that drive visitors to your content can be measured in other ways. For example, if your social strategy isn’t so content-heavy, and if you are promoting products or events, then your business would fit a more traditional measure for ROI and conversions. The only way to know if what you’re doing is enough is to have a gauge on your ROI.

In order to get there, you have to align your objectives to your measurement. For each network (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) you’ll need to have an objective before you can decide on how successful the network is. You’ll need to decide what measurement would be the most valuable to you. Maybe you’re a blogger and your goals are e-mail sign-ups and blog followers, or, maybe you are a retailer looking to increase sales and traffic to your website – either way you must consider your key metric. I can guarantee that if you have had no objectives for your social media, then you will be extremely disappointed with the results.

Capturing the data is the easy part – measuring interactions (likes, clicks, shares, followers) and analyzing traffic, reach, and leads, can help gauge what your business is getting out of its social media investment, but you’ll need to measure these outcomes against your objectives.

Like all marketing tools, each social media network provides some general trends and demographic information to help guide your decision as to which platform your unique business should focus on, but ultimately, you need to understand your brand and your audience before you can choose the right platform, set objectives and measure if it is successful.

If you leverage the right tools and tactics necessary to better understand your audience, then you are more likely to put out messaging and content that is most likely to increase loyalty, drive sales, and help you reach company goals.

Measuring social media ROI can be extremely frustrating and difficult. I’d love to know how you measure your social media ROI, and what metrics you measure. Share your comments and thoughts with me in the comment section!