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.

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