At the same date last year, I spoke to you about the importance of strategic planning in establishing precise, clear, attainable and measurable strategic marketing and sales objectives. In 2013, the same New Year’s resolution applies. I’d like to bring to your attention a fundamental aspect of this exercise: market research.
In business to business (B2B), the buying cycle is more complex and the products are often more technical. Because of this, buyers are educating themselves about the products and are thus gaining control over the buying cycle. This explains the rise in content marketing, an ensemble of tactics that contribute to original content, keyword optimization (SEO) and social media.
Content marketing, like the development of products and services, cannot happen without considerable knowledge of the buying motivations and needs of clients and prospects. Relying on one’s experience is great, but can you afford to make a mistake? How can you confirm your intuitions or, better yet, how can you learn what your clients and prospects need? In fact it’s pretty simple. All you need is a little research.
Conducting research may sometimes seem complex and expensive depending on the context and the objectives. But the return on investment is very high. Research helps accurately define the needs and motivations of buyers and facilitate strategic decisions and tactics. Research basically helps to prevent failures associated with product introduction.
If the concept of market research is new to you, here are two simple ways to obtain results through structured work.
Keywords and web metrics
Free of charge, the statistics of visits to your website contain precious information about keywords and content visited on your website. You can also use search engines to learn about suggestions for expressions associated with your requests. Simultaneously, you can consult the suggested results and the AdWords advertising from your direct and indirect competition.
Speak to your clients
Speaking to your clients outside of a sales context is often surprising for many. It’s also an exercise of humility that demonstrates how open and trusting you can be with your client. Qualitative research is rich in information. Select a few good clients, regular and occasional, small and large, to discuss their challenges and their industry. Ask them how they would go about finding a supplier like you, what information they look for when they are looking for solutions like yours and lastly, why they do business with you. This information is rich professionally and also personally.
Once you have this qualitative data, you’ll be able to begin paths of validation or hypotheses concerning the needs of your clients and prospects. One thing that’s certain is that this will make you want to dig deeper.
Be careful in the way you administer your questionnaire and by whom. Your information should be valid if you want it to have any value.
Make this your resolution. Even better, make 2013 the year of market research to better support your strategic planning.