Contrary to popular belief, I actually know that I don’t know everything. That’s the first step to realizing you need a higher power in marketing. That higher power? Research. Research findings are like the marketing gods handing you a how-to guide for reaching your target audience.
Every time you can work with a client to set aside a budget for research before, during or after a project – you should consider that a marketing win - unless you aren’t doing the right things with your research, like disregarding your findings.
We work with many different clients at VI, and those clients have MANY different targets. To presume that we know everything about our target audiences’ knowledge, beliefs and attitudes on a subject would be a shame.
One of the most informative kinds of research we like to do is a series of qualitative focus groups prior to the start of a campaign. Before we have a name, campaign, brand or logo, it is imperative to understand what the people we want to reach think about the competition, what potential problems we could solve for them, how they liked to be spoken to and communicated with. I will reiterate – no one else knows this or can come up with this based on their own personal feelings – the target must be involved at some point of the process. VI and our clients cannot assume what we think our audiences will respond to.
Another type of research we recommend is message testing within our target groups. If we have a few different ideas for ads, creative look, copy or taglines we mock them up and present them either through focus groups, or if we’d like quantitative data, we will do online surveys. These groups allow us to drill down on what messages really work within our audience. It is safe to assume that the messages typically test better when you’ve done focus groups with the audience before developing the messages.
If possible, it is important to also do post-testing of campaigns. Other than KPI’s, conversions or ROI numbers (which all campaigns don’t have) how do you know if your campaign worked? Doing post-testing to gauge overall campaign awareness and knowledge or beliefs about your message is wise. Post-testing is also a way to measure behavior change, if that is what you are going for.
Also to note, at VI we don’t conduct our own research. We work with qualified vendors in the area to perform our groups and online surveys. We do not want to debase any of the groups or evaluation and using a third-party vendor to lead and evaluate is important. We are involved in every step, but we aren’t in the room with a focus group, or writing summaries of the data once it is captured.
To conclude, my keys to research are:
- Use the data that you are paying for.
- Don’t disregard findings just because you don’t like them.
- You probably aren’t the target.
Realize that you can’t speak for the target audience and listen to them.
Don’t forget to set aside a budget for at least pre- and post-testing of campaigns.