I’m fairly stunned when otherwise savvy business individuals who want to improve their online marketing, turn to me for advice about their latest internet marketing tools and branding strategies, yet let me know unabashedly upon inquiry that they’ve done zero market research. Rather, the vital process of choosing their marketing strategy and design elements is based on what they themselves like.
One experience in particular still leaves me laughing. A few years ago a client was tackling the college market (18-24 year olds) and invited me to lead his online marketing efforts. Even before I stepped into his office I began formulating his online campaign. As college students are the single most connected demographic group, I recognized the need for a strong online presence with a very aggressive social media marketing campaign on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other social media sites.
During our very first round of meetings, in order to connect to our young consumer base, the question of “what’s considered cool” by this demographic became the hot topic at our round table discussion. As half-a-dozen forty year olds and a couple of thirty year olds sat around the boardroom laughing and brainstorming about all the crazy but cool things they did in college using terms like “nerd”, “dweeb” and “rockin”, I knew we had better kick-start our marketing strategy – and fast – because as much as we thought that we were still “with it”, we were truly estranged by at least a decade to Generation Y and even more so to Generation Z and did not understand what motivated them. Even worse than not understanding our target demographic, was the fact that if we had proceeded with what we thought was our cool, hip and with-it lingo, we would have created a clearly erroneous marketing strategy.
Many small companies hesitate to invest in market research due to financial limitations – a simple market report can cost several hundreds dollars and still not provide strategic market research information. I’m always happy to allay concerns as there are several ways to gain the necessary information to make intelligent decisions about your online marketing campaign that don’t require a big expenditure.
The first step in the process is asking the questions. Even though the actual market analysis questions themselves are obvious, you would be surprised at how often companies need to be reminded to go through the process of asking the questions – and more importantly, listening to the answers! The marketing strategies that are implemented must be attuned to your market demographics and their habits – not what you think are their habits.
The first step in the process is to define your demographic.
10 Essential Market Research Questions:
- What is their level of education?
- What are their annual earnings?
- Where do they live?
- Do they have children?
- Where is their browsing location? What time of day are they most frequently online?
- What sites do they visit (competitive sites/social media sites/news sites)?
- What’s important to them?
- How much money are they spending online? What are they buying?
Only after knowing who your target market is, and having them clearly defined, can you now begin the next step of creatively marketing to them – based on their terms. In the next post, “5 Free Internet Marketing Tools” we will explore some internet marketing tools to help you do this.