Three ways of getting to know your market

When it comes to marketing, information is key.

No marketing strategy is complete without extensive prior (and ongoing) market research.

While you might want to simply get stuck in with your new campaign, you can save yourself a lot of hassle and headache further down the line by understanding exactly where your campaign needs to fit within the existing market, where others before you have fallen down and failed, and what customers want to see you do differently. Marketing consultants exist to help do just this, but by conducting your own research and sharing notes, you’re in an even stronger position.

Here are three ways you can get to know your market in order to build a brilliant campaign. While market research is relatively straightforward, it is only the first step towards successfully marketing your products. By ensuring your research is as comprehensive as possible, you’re giving your campaign the best chance of success.

1) Macro-research

This should be the first major step you take to knowing and understanding your market. Hopefully, it’s something you’ve done long before your enterprise is off the ground, but even if you’ve already conducted market research in this way, it’s always worth revisiting.

If you’re working in an established industry, there will no doubt be a wealth of published resources and public information about your market. Following this information closely can give you a greater understanding of your market and the direction it is moving in. Pay particular attention to:

  • Trade press and trade associations, for an understanding of the discourse within your trade – this encompasses issues those in the industry face and a dialogue on the direction the trade is moving in.

  • The Office for National Statistics, for in-depth regional, demographic, and census-based information.

  • National market reports, for forecasts and market analysis.

  • Your local Chamber(s) of Commerce, who can give you information on competitors (and cooperators) in your areas of operation.

2) Examining the ‘competition’

Whether you’re just looking to breathe new life into your enterprise, or starting out on an entirely new venture, there will always be others out there who are doing certain things better—and worse—than you. Paying close attention to what your competitors have done well and poorly in the past is a great way of gaining fast, powerful insights into your market.

Thankfully, competition is never as dog-eat-dog as the textbooks make out. Unless a competitor is offering exactly the same products and services as you (unlikely), there is at least a small amount of wiggle room for mutual collaboration and ‘intel-sharing’. In particular, you can ask about campaigns they’ve conducted in the past which went badly (or well) for them. If they’re unwilling to give you that sort of information, it’s not difficult to conduct your own research into what’s worked for them and what hasn’t.

Similarly, there’s a lot of opportunity to work with other local businesses in gaining an insight into the local economy. Others in the local business community are gearing their products often towards the same people as you are—and can teach you a lot. Find out what’s worked for them and what hasn’t.

Chambers of Commerce often organise weekly, bi-weekly or monthly meetings for local businesses—and this is an excellent place to start.

3) Talk to your customers

Who knows your business best? Well, your existing clients might not know everything about your day-to-day operations, but they are certainly the most knowledgeable when it comes to the quality of your products or services. They are, after all, the ones using your company, and they have the answers when it comes to why your products are popular (or not).

You can gather customer information in a number of ways. Gathering direct feedback from them in the form of a short phone interview or testimonials form gives your clients a good opportunity to share their experiences in a personal, subjective way.

However, it’s also important to gather data on who your customers are, what their needs are, and their motivations / spending habits. Other areas of interest include:

  • How did they hear about your products / services?

  • What, in particular, appeals to them about your services?

  • Their view of its strengths and weaknesses vs that of other firms

Not only will this help you to understand your own USP and why these customers chose you, but it will also help you gain insight into changes they want to see in order to strengthen the service / product they are paying for.