I often come across projects where the first thing they ask is which channels or media they should be using. It is impossible to know the answer to this without first doing the appropriate research.
Marketing research starts at the very conception of the idea of a new business or product. It helps entrepreneurs and business owners figure out whether their idea is doable, necessary, and desirable; as well as whether or not there is significant competition and how they will affect your sales.
However, when it comes to Growth Marketing, you want to dig as strategically and as deeply as possible, because we all know conventional marketing rarely works these days. In order to be taken seriously in today's market, you need to outsmart the competitors, and even other markets, by reaching your audience in a way that no one else is doing it. And even after achieving this, you want to keep ideating new ways because things become old a lot faster every day.
Simply put: Growth-centered research is doing research that will ultimately bring growth to your sales or goal (traffic, CTR, followers, engagement, etc.).
It is simple in essence, but because of its very own nature, it can be very extensive.
Doing a growth-centered research means going well beyond the simple research for something like competitors.
When you do a simple research, you analyze data such as:
... and so on
And this can be very useful data. It gives you a sense of what your customer is used to see. You can even benchmark from here and expect some results.
It is easy to conduct a growth-centered research when you have a product that has been successful or even just surviving for many years. That alone leaves you with a lot of useful data whether you want it or not. Past customer experiences provide many hints on what you are doing right, what you are doing wrong, and what can you do next. Even if you are growing a company on a budget, the very data you own could be more valuable than the data you would get from hiring an outsider because there comes a point where no one knows their client or product better than you do and the feedback you get directly from your customers cannot be obtained anywhere else.
It is a completely different thing when you are starting a project or business. Many times new projects have well-funded budgets that will give you the liberty to hire the right person to do the job, an external consultant, an agency or even a fixed employee. Nevertheless, you need to get your objectives very clear before starting a research process if you don't want this research to be a total waste of time.
My intention for this article is to help you learn how to conduct a meaningful research that will ensure you get a clear path that will give you the results you want for growth.
Start by researching your competitors and their key content: what was the content that made your audience turn and click?
You start to look into engagement because those are the clues that help you understand what is it that people are really interested in. This research will start releasing some interesting clues that will help you move forward with your strategy.
An even further step is to look into influencers. You start collecting data about who is engaging with the content and why. Sometimes it is the wrong audience: people could be interested in the information or content that you're giving but are completely alien to the audience you are interested (or should be interested) in reaching.
By now we know that we should be researching our competitors, to its deepest level, not only what they are doing and what they are communicating, but how their audience is reacting to it and who they are.
Starting there would give you a clue, but this will never mean it is the absolute right path. You could be distracted by an engaging audience who, in the end, is not even affecting your sales, and the ones that are, are not even doing the purchase.
Every business has its own process, a production process, a sales process and a buying process. Through these processes, you need to understand how each part affects the final outcome. Just as a production process could be affected when the right part of, lets say, a car, is not rightly put by the expert in that part of the process, the buying process could be completely affected if the right message is delivered to the wrong person, or the wrong message is delivered to the right person.
A buying process could look something like this:
Through that process, many people can influence the buyer's decision. Each of those influencers is your audience, not just the buyer. So this will get extensive when you think of who influences them and so on.You now need to expand your limits to outsiders and this leads you to dig deeper into each one of those influencers. It could get to the point where you reach a dead end, but it is more likely to be an endless path.
Therefore, you will need to make the difficult decision to stop where you think you have the most relevant information for your campaign or any action you are doing this research for.
If you are astute and lucky enough, you will come across some key factors that affect many within your long influencer chain. That could be the place to start your campaign. If there is a need resonating among many objects of your research, then that is a first clue that your message should communicate how your product solves that need specifically (if it does, of course).
Another key point could be the tone of voice, if, among your audience and influencers, you find the common denominator of a certain tone of voice, such as professional vs casual, or short and concise vs storytelling, then you can start defining what would be the right tone of voice for your brand and communication strategy.
Each research comes out with a completely different combination of outcomes, which in the end, determine your brand identity and marketing strategy.
I don't think I can already make a conclusion about this topic because it is probably going to be an idea that I will have to come back to many times since research in marketing is so deep and detrimental, but for now, my thought is to start your research by focusing on audiences that orbit your decision makers, extend your research world in order to make it as deep and significant as possible before investing on your next campaign. This will surely save you a lot of time, money and effort.