Regardless of your company’s business model, a comprehensive understanding of customer needs is integral for success. Given the constant introduction of competing products and services within every sector imaginable, consumer attitudes and behaviors are constantly in flux. Marketing research companies provide tools to stay on top of the latest consumer trends and unmet needs – enabling you to adjust your business accordingly.
The dangers of peddling a particular product or service without taking the market’s temperature are manifold. Time, money and other company resources can easily be wasted without first determining the needs of your target. Similarly, conducting market research without the assistance of a qualified firm can lead to a different – but equally debilitating – set of pitfalls. These include employing the wrong variables or metrics, failing to maintain objectivity and employing inappropriate research techniques. All can produce irrelevant and costly results tainted by bias. Another danger involves the mismanagement of potentially useful data. Without the proper statistical analysis, context or application, even high quality data can underwhelm your marketing or product development teams by failing to provide real direction. Given today’s economic climate, these are mistakes that most organizations can’t afford to make.
Marketing research firms offer numerous ways to avoid these pitfalls while gathering information about your customers. Some of the most popular and effective research solutions include focus groups, interviews, ethnography, surveys, and secondary research. A few applications of these techniques include:
1) Evaluating trends: through secondary research, expert interviews, and consumer discussions, a research provider can identify salient trends in your industry and help predict consumer need years into the future
2) Identifying optimal price – utilizing an array of different techniques, research can uncover optimal price points
3) POP (Point of Purchase) research – understanding how your customer interacts with your store environment – either brick and mortar or online
4) Innovation and design research – identifying unmet consumer needs and translating them into models for new products or services
5) Identifying your target customer – segmentation research is frequently employed by research firms to split your current and potential customers into prioritized groups based on demographic, attitudinal, and behavioral data.
6) Optimizing communications and marketing – whether it’s a package, and ad, or a marketing piece, messaging research can gauge gauge consumer response to language and imagery associated with a particular product or service.
While a number of market research agencies offer all of these services and more, not all firms are created equal. Several steps go into selecting the right vendor. The first step is to crystallize your company’s specific research objectives. Take the time to determine what departments or product lines in your organization would benefit from market research, and what kind of information you need in order to move your business forward. Second, develop a clearly defined set of criteria for potential vendors to meet. These include specialization, quality of leadership, typical project timeframes, standards of execution, competitive advantages, corporate values, and clientele. Whenever possible, reach out to a firm’s clients – especially those in your sector – for an impartial perspective on their experience with that firm.
Across all sectors, market research is a crucial component of any company’s success. Delivering products and services without an informed understanding of target segments and customer needs can be a recipe for failure. With the assistance of a qualified market research agency, you can transform key learning about the experiences, wants and needs of consumers into tools for mitigating risk, honing your business and beating out your competition for an increased share of market.
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