research

Research PART II: Competitive Analysis: Secret Weapon – The Mystery Shopper

In our last blog we discussed Market Research – Your Roadmap for Success. Today I’m going to delve into competitive analysis and more specifically, using mystery shopping to conduct competitive research. This blog will explain the importance of mystery shopping as a key approach to learning about how your business can be differentiated and why it’s equally important to hire a professional to conduct mystery shopping research.

Do you know your competition? How are they different from you? What are they doing that you’re not? How are they perceived in the marketplace? More than any other marketing approach, I have found that conducting a competitive analysis for our clients has proven time and time again to be so crucial to the success of a marketing strategy. Mystery shopping is a tried and true research method used to conduct competitive research.

What is mystery shopping?

Mystery shopping is a research methodology that uses trained, professional mystery shoppers (not your mother, your aunt or your junior marketing assistant) acting as prospective customers to ascertain particular aspects of your competitors’ businesses. While posing as customers, mystery shoppers perform a series of assigned tasks designed to elicit a particular type of behaviour or information. They observe, measure and report back on their findings.

Types of mystery shopping

Mystery shoppers may employ several techniques to achieve their goals.

  • Visit in person
  • Make phone calls
  • Send emails
  • Create custom ‘customer’ websites

How mystery shopping can benefit your company

In order to fully understand how to compete in the marketplace you must first understand your competitors:

  • What are they offering?
  • What are their prices?
  • What is their value proposition?
  • What is their brand experience like?
  • How is their online experience?
  • How effective is their customer service?

Once you understand your competitors you can make informed business decisions on how to differentiate your company. And you can use mystery shoppers to see how your company fares against the competition using the same set of criteria.

Use a professional agency to conduct mystery shopping research

It’s very important to use a professional agency when conducting mystery shopping research. There is a strategy to competitive research. Based on the information you’re trying to elicit, you pre-assign tasks to the mystery shoppers. They must be professional or they will be detected, wasting whatever time and money you’ve invested in the effort. The information they return needs to be analyzed and a marketing plan created on the basis of those results.

Advertisements

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.

For CEOs of SMBs Facing Marketing and Sales Challenges: Seeing is Believing

https://i0.wp.com/medcitynews.com/wp-content/uploads/bigstock-Jumping-Over-A-Challenge-To-Ac-8850217.jpgThe day after one of the most heightened elections in Canada’s history, where the “underdog” came through to win the election and become our second-youngest Prime Minister, I felt it apropos to draw an analogy to CEOs and sales and marketing.

Canada had a need for change. We were calling out for change as many did in the U.S. before Obama was elected, and when it came time for our elections, the need was answered with a new direction and a different party.

When I recently read a study conducted by the BDC that said that one of the most challenging business functions for business leaders in Canada is Sales and Marketing Strategy, it validated my experience working with CEOs of SMBs: they have a need.

The study breaks down this sales and marketing challenge further into the following areas:

  1. Increasing the number of customer prospects (58%)
  2. Developing and executing a sales and marketing plan (54%)
  3. Converting prospects into customers (52%)

There were other sales and marketing challenges including conducting market research, integrating or improving the use of social media and other digital channels, understanding the competitive market, and developing an online presence.

As a CEO myself, I know that most of us wear multiple hats and are responsible for many of our businesses’ key functions in addition to sales and marketing, including HR, operations and finance. When we know we need help in these areas, we hire accountants, Human Resources consultants, and business advisors. Why would sales and marketing be any different?

It spells out in this study that business leaders prefer to hire an external expert to help them to resolve their sales and marketing challenges, so why is it so difficult for a CEO to have faith and to trust a marketing expert promising them that they can help them with their marketing and sales challenges?

Ultimately, hiring an external provider will come down to a few key factors: their reputation, references, price – but the essential factor is whether as a CEO you feel you can trust this candidate – whether you believe they can deliver on their promises. Once you have that, you have a winner.

As a CEO, have you been approached by an external marketing agency? If you decided not to work with them, why not?

The Mystique of SEO

SEO-mystiqueIt seems like SEO is big business these days – it’s the “buzzword” de jour! With more and more SEO consultants, online SEO experts, SEO packages, SEO promises, and SEO professionals popping up every day, I find myself and many of my clients bombarded with the pointed message: “Your business will die without proper SEO” (I am paraphrasing of course).

With many web companies, online providers and marketing companies all providing SEO, how are you to know which one is offering the right SEO for you? Should you buy that SEO package online or use the consultant from that SEO Company everyone is talking about? I certainly understand all the SEO confusion that exists in the marketplace.

SEO by its shear nature is continuously evolving which is why there seems to be a mystery around what it is exactly. Let’s demystify it: SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, plays an important role in your customer’s research and buying cycle. It attracts potential buyers to your website through critical and relevant keywords and phrases ranked high in search engines where searchers are already looking for information about them. SEO is about being where your customers are, and directing them towards solutions you offer them.

SEO is so important, in fact I would say it is absolutely essential to helping you grow your online business, but like other marketing tactics, SEO needs to be part of your marketing strategy.

A good marketing strategy will provide an indication of which marketing tactics should specifically target your audience. The tactics will complement SEO and in combination, strengthen and reinforce each element to grow your business exponentially. To be clear, SEO alone (i.e. without brand awareness, and a strategy) cannot help you reach your highest marketing potential.

How much you should invest in SEO, what type, and who implements, are great questions for a discussion to have with your trusted marketing agency or advisor. Although they may not be SEO experts, they should be able to help you understand why you need it, what type of investment you might be looking at, and point you in the direction of a professional SEO specialist.

Does your marketing agency provide you with SEO services? What type of successes have you had with your SEO? How long did it take for you to see results? What investment have you made? I look forward to your comments below.

Knowing your Competition

This past week, my team completed a large proposal, which required us to conduct some preliminary research about the competitors to our client and how to “fill the gaps” between what is being done and what has not yet been attempted.

I was reminded how valuable it is to understand your competition in order to highlight your unique selling point, and so I decided to pull this week’s blog from the archives on getting to know your competition. As the old expression goes: “Keep your friends close and your enemy even closer”.

As a small or medium business, knowing what your competition is doing will help you to define your competitive edge, determine your marketing strategy and plan for what types of tactics will be successful for you in increasing your sales and long term growth.

Competition research and assessment doesn’t need to be complicated, but it can be tricky and time consuming, so you might want to consult with a marketing expert to help you. If you have the time and resources, here are a few tips I’d like to share with you on what should be included in any good competitive analysis.

Write The Names Of Your Competition

Write out who your direct competitors are that largely mirror the products/services you offer. You cannot strategize and learn about your competitors if you don’t clearly establish who they are. Consider adding companies that may indirectly compete with yours, but offer products/services that address the needs of the same target audience.  Also, include here where your competitor is located, as geography also plays a role in direct competition.

Perform a SWOT Analysis

No competitive analysis would be complete without a SWOT analysis to analyze the Strengths (S), Weaknesses ( W ), Opportunities (O) and Threats (T) of your company and competitors. “Strengths” facilitate business growth, whereas “weaknesses” are factors that hinder business growth including low quality products or services, poor customer service, etc. “Opportunities” and “threats” are external factors that can hamper your business’s performance, including (1) economic forces; (2) social, cultural, demographic and environmental forces; (3) political, governmental and legal forces; (4) technological forces and (5) competitive forces.  Take the time to look at if the company is expanding or cutting back.

Examine Their Materials

What are the company’s marketing activities?How do they market and advertise their businesses? Look at materials like their quarterly and annual reports, press releases, interviews, website, and SM sites. The annual reports will give you an idea as to their annual sales, and possibly their pricing structure. Check out their SM networks, and see who they are talking to, and what they are talking about.  You should be able to determine what their target audience is and what their competitive advantages and disadvantages are compared to your business. All this valuable information will help you form a clear picture about your competitors’ objectives and strategies.

Research The Market

You will have covered some of this in the SWOT analysis, but make sure you’ve looked at the growth potential of the market. Consider whether you have the technical, marketing, or engineering expertise to capitalize on the market’s opportunities to grow your business.  Is the market concentrated or fragmented?

As a result of your businesses competitive analysis, you can identify competition, what their planned strategies are, and how to capitalize on your business’s distinctive competencies to achieve business growth.

If you invest in marketing without performing a competitive analysis, you run the risk of creating marketing tools, and product/service offerings that are way off the mark. This can cost you valuable time and money.

Another great saying comes to mind: Knowledge is power. Knowing what your competition aren’t focused on can be very powerful by helping you develop a strong marketing strategy, and dynamic branding with targeted activities that will increase your sales and ROI.

Do you have any questions about how to conduct a competitive analysis? Have you ever conducted a SWOT analysis for your business? If so, was it helpful? What has your experience been in gaining the competitive edge? Please share your questions and comments below.