The Awkward Truth: Market Research & Your Small Business

This is uncomfortable, but it has to be said. Your approach to marketing is a waste of your precious time and money. Take a deep breath; you need to hear this. You are throwing money away on marketing that is giving you zero to mediocre results, so it’s time for the truth. This is THE talk you have been avoiding. It’s the one about market research.

Don’t roll your eyes and start looking for a diversion. I know that when you hear the words “market research” your eyes glaze over and all you hear is, “Blah, blah, competitor analysis, blah blah.”

Well, try this on for size: If you do market research, no marketer will ever be able to sell you something you don’t need again. You won’t get mediocre results from your marketing campaigns. You won’t waste money on stuff that doesn’t work.

Now do I have your attention?

You Want Me To Pay You For A Pile of Paper?

I don’t blame you for avoiding the market research talk. The results of market research are attention-grabbing. The process–not so much. No business owner wants to hear about target markets, competitor research, and SWOT analysis. And they sure as heck don’t see the value in handing over cash in return for a stack of research papers.

“Um, let me see if I got this right. You want me to pay you thousands of dollars for a bunch of charts and a stack of paper?”


Because you aren’t paying for a stack of paper. You are buying a competitive advantage. You are purchasing the ability to communicate more effectively with the right audience for less money.

Even better, I can almost guarantee that your competitors aren’t doing market research. It’s a best-kept secret, and it’s one of the reasons why big businesses are no longer small businesses. They shell out for market research every day through companies like Nielsen and comScore. They know that market research makes their marketing more effective. It’s about time that you, small business owner, learned it too.

What’s In Market Research?

Good market research will include insights into your target markets. I’m not talking about just demographics like they make $50K – $65K a year and have two kids and live in the suburbs with a dog. Who couldn’t figure that out? No, I’m talking about insights that give you a way to talk to your customers in an authentic, compelling way.

Let’s say you have a plumbing business. How would you talk to a woman with two kids who makes $55K a year? And how would you talk a woman with two kids earning $55K a year who feels overwhelmed by home repairs? You would talk to woman #2 more compassionately. You might educate her a little. You might go to lengths to make her decision process easier. See what I mean? That’s what good target market research allows you to do. You can understand who you are messaging more concisely, and then your messaging becomes more effective.

Market research should also include insights into your competitors, so you can find where the opportunities are in your industry. The research should dig into how they are positioning themselves so you can do it better.

Finally, great market research delves deep into your business’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A SWOT analysis gives you the means to formulate a marketing strategy based on where your business sits in the marketplace.

The Difference Market Research Makes

Market research is the difference between spending thousands of dollars year after year on marketing that kind of works or doesn’t work at all and spending money on highly targeted, strategic marketing campaigns that show a solid return on investment. It’s the difference between generating the same amount of leads year after year and finding a whole new, untapped market.

Now, before I start to sound like every other marketer with some tactic to sell you, let me give you the reality of this proposition.

Market Research Is the New Black

Market research isn’t sexy. It’s hard, sometimes tedious work which is probably why most small business owners skip right over it and go straight to the tactics menu. Radio commercials. Social Media. Marketing automation. Now those are fun!

But I guarantee you, if you do a radio commercial without doing your market research first, you will waste your money. You might as well set your marketing budget on fire.

I can hear your protests now. “But the radio company has all the research on their listener demographics.” Yes, and that’s their market research, which they have spent a lot of time and money collecting.It’s not research on your company and your customers and your competitors and your industry. Not even close. Without that insight into your own business, you are wasting your time on any marketing tactic. There, I said.

Reactive Marketing

Admit it. You do marketing on demand. Marketing is something you think of when something else has gone wrong. Your leads have slowed. Your website has crashed. Your sales team is complaining they don’t have sales collateral, so you begin talking to a professional marketer to fix whatever the issue is. It’s called reactionary marketing, (a.k.a., Band-aid approach to marketing.) And heck, it’s gotten you this far. (Here are the top five most common marketing mistakes B2B companies make.)

But is this as far as you want to go in your small business? If the answer is yes, stop reading. No need to continue reading. Keep doing what you’re doing.

If you want to grow your business, you have to stop doing reactive marketing and start doing deliberate, strategic marketing. And you can only do that with market research.

Deliberate, Strategic Marketing

Market research is the foundation of a strategic marketing plan. It is the intelligence that tells you who your customers are, where they hang out, how they communicate, and what’s important to them. Market research gives you a firm grip on how your business is positioned and what you are uniquely positioned to do that none of your competitors can do. It is the groundwork that you have to lay to create a strategy that will propel your business upward.

Without it, you are throwing spaghetti at the wall with all your marketing tactics and hoping something works. You’re probably throwing good money after bad. (“Our social media campaign hasn’t worked yet, so let’s buy more ads.”)

Market research is the plain, unsexy work of drilling down into where you sit in the marketplace and how you compare to others in your field. It’s getting deep into the heart of your customers and prospects. It is the process of looking soberly at your business from all sides and outlining your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It is not for sissies.

If your small business has been lollygagging around in the same revenue numbers for years, it’s time to take your marketing seriously and invest in market research. Join the big leagues and do what large businesses do. (P&G spends hundreds of millions on market research every year.) Commission market research so that you can stop wasting time and money on tactics that sort of work.

Want to know what market research can do for your company? Contact us for a free consultation.

The Top 5 Mistakes B2B Companies Make With Their Marketing

B2B marketers spent $161 billion in 2016 on advertising. It’s too bad that many of those companies spent more than they needed to. Retailer John Wannamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,” Today, with digital tactics we have far more accurate means of measuring. And yet, B2B marketers are still spending too much for mediocre results. Well, you can change that. Here are the top seven mistakes we see B2B companies making in their marketing.

1. They Start with Tactics

Too many B2B companies think about which tactics to employ before they have given any thought to who their target audience is, what their message should be, or what their competitors are doing.

B2B’s are often quick to start an email marketing campaign, a social media page or an SEO initiative before they have nailed down how the buyer makes their purchase decisions. If you haven’t spent time drilling down into who your buyers are and how your competitors are already messaging them, you’re going to choose either the wrong tactics or you will misuse the right tactics. Either way, you’ll waste time and money.

2. They Fail To Understand The Buyer’s Problems

You can have the greatest B2B service or product in the world, but if you can’t relate what you do to your prospects’ business challenges, those prospective buyers aren’t going to engage with you. Your target customer cares about solving their problems, they don’t care how wonderful your business is. They want to know how your offering will impact their job, their career, and their future. Stop talking exclusively about yourself in your marketing. Instead, understand what they are trying to solve, and show them how your product or service will help them.

3. They Target Too Low in the Sales Funnel

If you are always aiming your marketing at the bottom of the sales funnel, where buyers are in the last stages of decision-making, then you’re always at a competitive disadvantage. (And you’re probably spending a fortune on advertising.) Too many B2Bs focus on the last stages of the buyer’s journey. The truth is, if you can market earlier in the decision-making process, you are more likely to engage in a non-competitive sales process, and you won’t be forced to compete on price. By always targeting your marketing for the late-stages in the buyer journey, it becomes more difficult (and more expensive) to differentiate your brand.

4. They Don’t Make Their Website A Resource

A high percentage of decision makers and their influencers conduct their research online before they ever contact a company. One study found that 62% of B2B buyers say that a web search was one of the first three resources they use to learn about a solution. And Google notes that “On average, B2B researchers do 12 searches before engaging on a specific brand’s site.

If your website isn’t an informative, thoughtful, and well-organized resource for the buyer during their research, you are likely not going to make it into the buyer’s conversation with the decision makers in their company. The more complex the solution is that you offer, the more you need to invest in making your site more than just a brochure.

5. They Only Target Executives and the C-Suite

Final approval on purchases may reside in the executive offices. However, there are many other folks involved in the process. Often, it’s the lower-level employees who do the initial research into solutions, so getting your brand in front of these people is key. (This also echoes back to mistake #3.) , “While 64% of the C-suite have final sign off, so do almost a quarter (24%) of the non-C-suite. What’s more, it’s the latter that has the most influence; 81% of non-C-suiters have a say in purchase decisions.”

The good news is you’re in a more measurable marketing era than Wannamaker was. And each of these five mistakes are simple to fix. If you need help getting more out of your B2B marketing efforts, we can help. Contact us to discuss your B2B marketing.