One of my former colleagues used to say, “analysis, paralysis” as we sat holed up in a conference room overanalyzing data before making each marketing decision. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the “see what sticks” philosophy, which I don’t believe in, either. The perfect balance lies somewhere in between.
But not all companies these days have the appetite or wallet to conduct long, drawn-out research — which frankly, isn’t necessary. However, knowing your market and talking directly to them is always necessary. So where do you start?
A sound research strategy should always begin with an internal audit. This is where you actually talk to your internal audience, the people who sit around you every day at the office, from the executive level brass through the ranks to the worker bees and sales team.
However, it’s not about talking with all of them simultaneously in a conference room, but rather setting aside time for in-depth interviews conducted by a third-party, so anonymity really exists. Time after time, a client says to me, “I already know what my staff and customers think,” and then when you ask to see that data they spit out anecdotal stuff that’s all disjointed.
Attention everyone: This is not research! And while I’m screaming, written testimonials are not research either!
Our clients are always surprised at how much they learn from internal audits. One example is the CEOs who think their entire team understands their strategic business goals and is on the same page when it comes to executing those goals. Well, that’s usually not the case. For one, marketing teams interpret business goals differently than CEOs, and unless executives hold several benchmark meetings before decisions are made, the ship the CEO is steering is not going to sail smoothly.
Of course, keep in mind that the internal staff is not the target audience and that later, you’ll have to talk to your customers, potential customers and lost customers.
But getting the internal audit done first and done right is critical, because you must understand what everyone on your team thinks about the brand, their goals, their target audience and their unique selling points over the competition. If you are asking different departments to execute programs to customers and they all perceive the customer needs and marketing goals differently, then the marketing definitely won’t work.
Jennifer LoBianco is a partner at brand advertising firm 8Fold Integrated Creative Works in Morristown, N.J.