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    Marketing: Know your customers

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    AA11-Aug-Sep-2005-hancock_large3Have you ever wondered why customers might say one thing and then behave in a totally different manner?

    One of the most challenging tasks for marketers today is to predict a customer’s attitude and behaviour towards their product or service. Marketing research should provide an insight into customers’ attitudes and behaviours. Smart businesses know that marketing research is critical to the development of business and marketing plans. It can help you to better understand your customers, know your competition and test the market response to your specific product or service.

    According to the World Association of Opinion and Market Research Professionals, the marketing research industry is worth $16.5 billion globally. But marketing research is not the exclusive domain of large companies with their own marketing research departments and big budgets. Smaller companies also undertake very effective marketing research.

    CONDUCT MARKET RESEARCH

    The first step in marketing research is to determine what you want to achieve. Do you want to test a new advertisement? Would you like to measure customer satisfaction? Would you like to better understand how customers use your product? Would you like to test the positioning and pricing of your product?

    Once you have defined the goal of your marketing research, you need to determine how you will collect the data. Researchers usually begin with secondary data methods — research that already exists somewhere. Secondary research can be relatively low cost and sometimes a problem can be solved using only this type of research. Consider some of the secondary research sources available to you — some of my favourites include the Australian Bureau of Statistics, local industry or trade associations, the Yellow Pages and the media.

    PRIMARY RESEARCH

    Marketing research also involves primary research — gathering new data for a specific purpose. Some approaches for primary research include:

    • Observational research — try observing your customers without them noticing; look for things that affect their behaviour. How do they test a product? What attracts them to purchase? You can also learn a lot by visiting your competitors.
    • Focus groups — bring six to 10 people together to discuss your product or service. If you’re using a market research firm, they will pay participants a small sum for attending and a moderator will guide the discussion.
    • Individual interviews — talk to someone one-on-one about your marketing challenge. This will allow you to gain a greater depth of understanding and to expand on information gained from observation or surveys.
    • Surveys — prepare a short survey to question customers on their knowledge, beliefs, preferences and satisfaction. Consider conducting the survey on your website and offering incentives for people to participate.
    • Experiments — conduct scientifically valid research to test your marketing methods. Unfortunately this type of research can be quite costly.


    USE EXTERNAL PROVIDERS

    If you have the budget, use a professional market researcher to conduct your research. The best way to select a market researcher is to do some research yourself! Can any of your colleagues, contacts or suppliers refer you to a market research agency? If not, you can contact the Australian Market and Social Research Society. Once you’ve identified a potential supplier, look at their experience, people and clients. Request a proposal for your project that includes the firm’s understanding of your requirements, its methodology and a quotation for the implementation.

    MAKE A COMMITMENT TO ONGOING RESEARCH

    Spending time to do your marketing research helps to minimise risk and maximise your chances of success. Use marketing research on an ongoing basis to stay up-to-date with opinions and attitudes of your customers, monitor the competition and to benchmark and track your progress.

    Renee Hancock is a marketing and communications specialist, whose experience spans finance, government, education, not-for-profit, telecommunications and law. She has consulted for two of Australia’s most prestigious public relations agencies. She now works in-house for a leading financial services organisation.

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