Marketers frequently use market research to inform and track brand and product strategy, because it provides timely, relevant insights into the market, the competition and your target audiences. But fewer marketers are also taking advantage of research as the basis for timely and highly-relevant thought leadership content or advocacy that supports ongoing campaign efforts for the full sales lifecycle – and this is a huge opportunity.
We’ve collectively seen the benefit of both these strategies, that, when used together can elevate the quality and effectiveness of all of your marketing and PR activities.
While the goal of traditional market research is to inform brand, product and marketing strategy, both types of programs serve to retain current customers while attracting new prospects and move them through the stages of the brand funnel: awareness, consideration, use/adoption, commitment/loyalty, and brand extension or advocacy. Research is also frequently used to inform brand credibility strategies including reputation management, sales strategy, opinion management and online presence.
Market Research for Brand and Product Strategy
Many companies that sell through commercial and retail channels need targeted product and communication development strategies. Initially, they may need to consider which audiences or channels represent the best opportunity for growing the business. Down the road they may seek to identify optimal strategies to develop new products and marketing strategies to target and communicate with each audience individually.
A good strategy often begins with a foundational competitive landscape and brand health study to establish a baseline understanding of the category and brand position within the category. It often establishes the brand position in the product lifecycle, how it compares to competitive brands, and what systemic and competitive barriers may exist to moving prospects down the funnel. This type of study often includes:
- Establishing the size of the category opportunity
- Uncovering category motivations and barriers
- Determining brand position within the competitive set
- Analyzing brand funnel conversion points to understand opportunities to move consumers through the funnel
A segmentation analysis is often used to identify high-opportunity audiences and create targeted marketing strategies. A strategic segmentation will provide insight into:
- High opportunity audiences
- Targeting strategies: Message targeting, marketing mix targeting, and drivers of appeal, trust and loyalty
After identifying the target audience, where to reach them, and key themes that motivate them to engage with the brand, it is important to test potential messages and strategies to identify which resonate best and elicit the desired responses. This testing is often iterative (and can be both qualitative and quantitative) to determine the optimal message delivery format and content and can include:
- Concept refinement/optimization
- Positioning strategy sessions and testing
- Message and execution tests
Once a strategy is established it is important to track the impact. Pre/post analysis is important to understand how your strategy is impacting key drivers.
- Continuous brand tracking is often leveraged here to help identify the impact of specific strategic efforts.
- However, depending upon the number of initiatives implemented and the frequency of marketing activities point in time pre/post testing may suffice.
Using these fundamental strategic building blocks will help provide market insight and guide a more targeted and effective brand and marketing strategy.
Using market research for thought leadership in marketing and PR
Research-based thought leadership creates a great news making opportunity that any organization can leverage throughout the entire sales cycle. This is particularly valuable in the absence of a strong brand, new product or news announcement.
Most successful research-based PR campaigns look at forecasting and trend finding. Partners and media want forward-looking directional trends that they can capitalize on.
A company that sells through retail, for example, will have the most success looking ahead to seasonal forecasts that track with how their partners review data. When mapping out the critical trends and forecasts to measure, it is essential to find the data “white space” that the company can own and become recognized for bringing to market.
The PR campaign can then wrap thought leadership around the data in the form of articles, speaking engagements, presentations and social media.
Another successful PR and marketing strategy combines market research with internal sales or product use data. This can be especially powerful when companies execute this strategy repeatedly over time.
Partners and media tend to put high trust into these types of reports because they combine solid quantitative data about what people say they will do, with behavioral data that demonstrates what they did. These hard numbers are concrete proof that the market research is on target.
Market research is also especially important for advocacy or issues campaigns to uncover messaging that resonates. At a certain point, most issues-based campaigns will find the message plateaus with recipients – you will stall on donations, sign-ups or registrations.
But market research can dig deeper with certain demographics and psychographics to see what messaging can change minds or cause action with smaller slivers of the population. Without this, PR and marketing will reach a natural plateau, ignoring potentially important groups of advocates.
Whether you need to get a good baseline understanding of your brand awareness, perceptions and competitive position, or are ready to implement ongoing campaigns, don’t miss the opportunity to incorporate high-quality research into your brand, marketing and PR strategies.
Stephanie Friedman is a vice president and account manager at Murphy Research
Jennifer Tramontana is founder and president of The Fletcher Group, creator of PR and content marketing that makes your brand soar.