By Carly Ries

marketing_research

Did you know that since marketing research can get expensive it is one of the first things people cut from their marketing budget? If your jaw just hit the floor like mine did, you're not alone. Marketing research is crucial to the marketing process and it doesn't have to be expensive if you do it right and know what process to follow.

Below is a five step marketing research process with helpful tips to get you through each stage:

1. Define the Problem

While all of the steps in this process are valuable, I would argue that this is the most important because this is where you lay the foundation for the rest of your marketing research. Before beginning your marketing research, you need to decide what the problem is you're trying to figure out. In this first phase of the process, you need to establish your research objectives. Developing questions that will help you clearly define your problem is very beneficial during this phase. 

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2. Develop Your Research Plan

Once you know what the problem is you're addressing, it's time to develop and design the research plan. There are many methods you can incorporate into your plan. To keep your costs down, consider the following techniques for conducting your research:

  • Interview prospects and customers. This may be a bit intimidating at first but it'll start to become second nature. In my opinion, you get the best feedback by using this tactic. Nothing gives you the information you're looking for like going straight to the source.
  • Conduct a survey (I use SurveyMonkey and think it works really well).
  • Run testing on your website. You can learn a lot from simple testing and reviewing your analytics such as Google or HubSpot analytics. Simple A/B tests can go a long way depending on the problem you are trying to solve.
  • Research online. The basic takeaway of just going with your standard Google search is to ensure that whatever sources you're using are credible. As we all know, you can't believe everything you read online.

3. Collect Relevant Data and Information

Once you start to collect your data, make sure it's valid and unbiased. Use a mixture of the methods mentioned above to get relevant data from all angles. The ideal type of information to gather would be analytical/scientific as well as emotional data that you couldn't get from looking at a graph. In my experience, personal stories can give you a lot of the insight you're looking for.

4. Analyze Data and Report Findings

Once you've gathered information, it's time to interpret the data. When doing this, it's important to look for trends as opposed to specific pieces of information. As you're analyzing your data, don't try to find patterns based off your previous assumptions prior to collecting the data. It's OK if your hypothesis is wrong. That's why you do the testing and don't go with assumptions. Just make sure you don't twist the results to show that you were right all along if you weren't. It won't lead to any beneficial outcomes.

5. Take Action

Ta-da! Your research is complete. It's time to present your findings and take action. Start developing marketing campaigns. Put your findings to the test and get going! The biggest takeaway here is that although this round of research is complete, it's not over. Your research should never be over. You should always be analyzing your data on a regular basis to see where you can improve. Trends can change over time. Just because you found a pattern doesn't mean it'll stay that way forever. Always be doing your research. The more you know about your buyer personas, industry, and company, the more successful your marketing efforts will be.

Some people include additional steps to the marketing process, but these core 5 steps are all you need to get you started. What have you found beneficial during your marketing research processes?

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Carly Ries

About the author

Carly Ries is a Senior Inbound Marketing Consultant for SmartBug Media. With over 7 years of marketing and account management experience, Carly helps clients develop and implement inbound marketing strategies to grow leads, conversion, and revenue. Read more articles by Carly Ries.