No serious marketer relies solely on anecdotal information accumulated through personal experiences or on the stories relayed by field sales personnel.
Whereas such soft data may be indicative of the
opinions of specific customers or market challenges, it is neither broad-based nor statistically reliable. It is fraught with prejudice and tainted by the recent experiences of a select few (who have their own prejudices), making it dangerous data to generalize across an entire market.
An objective and accurate study of the market, the competitive situation and customer need and want states is conducted annually in a complete Fusion Marketing
The complexity of achieving this goal cannot be accomplished by any single technique. To provide the input that will guide Fusion Marketers in the development of the right direction requires an intensive analysis of competitive offerings. In addition, the exploration of a wide range of alternatives, the ability to measure the viability of a number of different problem-solving alternatives and the learning of as much as possible about how the customer behaves in purchasing situations serves to make the Fusion Marketing Plan most effective. A determination of how customers react to differing stimuli and, in general, how they go about the decision-making process as it relates to the selection of products within your category is also required.
Performing a Competitive Analysis
An analysis of the competitive situation as it relates to a brand includes a review not only of direct competition, but of the arena which you operate, as well (for example, potato chips not only compete with other brands of potato chips, but with all salty snack foods.)
An effective competitive analysis begins with a review of competitive advertisements and sales promotion materials. A competitor’s research and strategy can often be uncovered by a thorough analysis of what it is saying in its advertising and promotional literature.
The customer seldom knows as much about a company’s products as the marketing organization itself. Most of what they know has been learned from advertising, packaging, promotional materials. The promise and personality delivered in competitive advertising generally are the basis from which buyers form their opinions. For that reason, it is important to know “who” the competition is and what need and want states they satisfy in each market niche.
A competitive analysis should also include facts about pricing, market share, distribution methods, promotional strategies, incentives to sales intermediaries, and more. Some of that information can be obtained from your sales people (including pricing, distribution methods, incentives to intermediaries), and others will be revealed in the qualitative and/or quantitative phase of marketing research (the effects of promotional strategies, determination of market share,
Although Partners & Levit believes marketing research should occupy a portion of any serious marketer’s thinking, there are places to turn for generalized industry trending and statistics.
For example, trade associations and trade magazines often sponsor
research within their industries. This is particularly true in industries that are highly regulated or embroiled in change.
Some cautions are necessary regarding syndicated association or magazine surveys, though. Often, prominent corporations offer a grant to fund the research. These corporations often have motives for sponsoring such research, which may impact the study’s design.
sponsor research to expand their involvement in an industry. But, the sponsoring media may have hidden agendas, as well: To sell more pages of advertising. This may cause the results to skew heavily toward the case for advertising in general, and for advertising in the sponsoring magazine, specifically.
Primary Marketing Research
The overall goal of marketing research is to develop a marketing direction that will maximize the company’s competitive position in the marketplace.
Ideally, the best way to achieve research objectives is via a two-phased approach, initially incorporating qualitative research (focus groups, executive interviews, mall intercept interviews, etc.) which are used to help develop hypotheses, raise
key issues, etc.; and a subsequent quantitative phase of research (mail surveys, Internet surveys, telephone surveys, etc.) The qualitative phase is typically followed by a quantitative phase in which the various hypotheses developed are proven. This cycle of research, in addition to enabling the marketer to measure the level of awareness and market share the brand enjoys, will also help measure other issues important for marketing success.
Stage 1: Qualitative Research
As a first step in exploring customer attitudes and decision-making dynamics concerning the product category general and your brand’s in particular, Partners & Levit typically recommends utilizing qualitative research for three reasons.
1. The in-depth nature of this
technique provides an understanding of the range of target audience attitudes and brand selection considerations that
might come to bear in response to your brand’s and its competitors’ products. Thus, in a cost and time-efficient manner, you can gain valuable insight as to the linkage between the various components that create interest in and attitudes
towards various market alternatives and explore the basis for expectation versus fulfillment in the selection of a product.
Further, a key feature of this methodology is the fact that it is interactive—i.e., it allow both you and your advertising agency to observe the groups and provide input, raise questions and test hypotheses as the groups are taking place, etc.
2. Qualitative research is extremely flexible. We can explore a wide range of issues, and in a sequence that is relevant to our customer(s), we might expect
to gain insight as to the possible impact of various marketing activities on customer(s) acceptance levels (i.e., pricing, customer service, promotions, advertising).
Employing qualitative research enables us to develop hypotheses about customer needs, wants, motivations, and expectations that can be framed in customer language (which surfaces during the groups), refined in a manner to reflect nuances of motivation, need, etc., and allow additional issues (which we may not have initially thought of prior to the groups) to surface and be explored. The practical result of doing this prior to developing a questionnaire for quantitative research is that it will ensure that the questionnaire is an optimally relevant, on-target, and an efficient research tool. (Once the questionnaire has been developed, approved, and is in the field, it is then too late to make modifications/alterations. As such, the ideal approach is to generate the information which would have bearing on the content of the questionnaire prior to developing it—thus the importance of doing an initial stage of qualitative research to help develop and frame the questionnaire.)
3. It is useful, prior to development of a questionnaire for a broader-based test, to have a clearer understanding of customers who make decisions regarding products such as yours. Through the qualitative exploration, we can identify and learn how to distinguish those users who are most likely to be predisposed to your product. We are also able to isolate the key variables against which we can expect the customer to evaluate
fulfillment, as input for quantitative questionnaire development.
Stage 2: Quantitative Research
After completion of the focus groups, questionnaire development should commence. Areas the questionnaire may cover include:
Company or brand personality profile;
A variety of customer need states which serve to motivate (or deter) the ultimate selection—explore a variety of other motivational, expectational, and psychodynamic issues which help characterize your customer (as well as help explain the character of the selection decision, and the underlying factors which lead to the selection). In addition, it is also beneficial to focus on what your brand could do to help make the selection process easier, more efficient, etc. for the customer;
Psychographic orientations of your category’s customers— specifically, how do they perceive themselves, describe themselves, what type of "lifestyle" do they relate to, etc. (This type of information is invaluable for developing advertising, proposals, collateral materials, selling strategies, etc.);
The selection process itself—specifically, what generated initial interest in the brand they
currently purchase; the degree to which the customer shopped among competitive brands; your brand’s imagery (both strengths and weaknesses) vis-à-vis competitive brands; and the ultimate factor which induced the customer to select your product over a competitive one.
The issues detailed above represent the key areas that the questionnaire can cover. A quantitative study can also investigate the following areas:
Awareness of your brand
First brand mentioned
Other unaided awareness
Awareness of competitive brands
Attitudes towards your brand
Attitudes towards competitive brands
Evaluation of your brand on a series of relevant dimensions
Quality of product/service
Fulfillment of need and want states
Evaluation of competitive brands on the same dimensions
Purchase habits as they relate to your product category; i.e. when purchased, selection criteria, etc.
Where does the brand fit into the purchase-making decision?
Who influences the decision-making process?
Is the decision made mostly by yourself?
With the aid and approval of your spouse?
With the aid of a salesperson?
With the aid and approval of a friend or mentor?
Research is Intelligence
Marketing research has taken a bad rap since the New Coke debacle. Certainly only insiders of The Coca-Cola Company and their advertising agencies know the complete story, but it is more likely that a strong willed executive at The Coca-Cola Company pushed the idea through than it is that groups of marketing professionals misread the research.
Any marketer’s chances for success are substantially increased by fielding objective, statistically stable courses of marketing research.
Just as the scholar that asks bold, challenging questions of the professor, the successful marketer must constantly ask challenging questions of his or her customers, sales people, prospects—and, yes, even consultants.
It is the skilled interpretation of market intelligence that leads to and effective and efficient Fusion Marketing plan.
Well designed marketing research is an investment in your brand’s growth. For more information [click here] now!