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Research is a great first step

Dustin Slightham
Dustin Slightham
3 min read
Research is a great first step

Below is an article I wrote for Lynchburg Business Magazine on June 30, 2017. In today’s marketing world, using data to inform your decision making process is vital for success. There is so much noise and a very narrow way to get there– don’t make guesses.

Sometimes, clients will ask me why I recommend research at the outset of a marketing project. Although I can think of many clients who have benefitted from our insights, the story below remains one of my favorite illustrators for the importance of research.

In 2015, we were kicking off a project with a brand new client. Our first meeting started with a series of questions around one topic, the target customer. As our client described their target customer, something seemed off. They had been running a retail business for over twenty years, and emphatically described a male buyer as their core customer. “This is who buys,” he said, “And this is who I want to attract.”

Having encountered this situation before, our team knew that conducting research would make any future project, such as a website redesign, more valuable to the client’s business. So, we guided the customer toward adding research as part of their marketing project. We explained that leaders sometimes develop blind spots. However, research can either affirm accurate assumptions about the target market or uncover new information. Ultimately, the client trusted us and pushed their website build three months to allow us time to conduct research.

During a three month span, we developed a report from ten one-on-one customer interviews and 750 in-store customer surveys. In this process, we discovered that the core buyer was not male, as the client assumed. Instead their core customers were young females. As we walked our client through the Customer Profile and the 70 page report documenting our findings, we were unable to read the client’s reaction. He asked no questions. So, we presented a new website design, one that would attract a female buyer. However, the client remained quiet and did not ask us any questions . This left us wondering what the client thought of the research and if they would actually implement our recommendation.

Soon, we found out that the client put our data to the test. After meeting with us, he reviewed his point-of-sale data from the previous year and created a report of his top-buying customers. Being a small business, he knew each of these individuals well. As he thought about these individuals, they all had the similar buying habits and traits. He was surprised to find that our customer profile was right; his top customers were all young females.

After a few weeks, our client requested a sit down meeting.  During the meeting, the client revealed his findings and agreed with that his data matched our research. Although he was initially surprised by our results, he trusted our teams insights and put them to the test. As a result, he approved the new website design. Additionally, the client used his new  Customer Profile to educate his internal operations team and guide them toward this new target customer.

Research Is Important!

1) Research uncovers blind spots and bad assumptions
As a business owner, I have had bad assumptions about my customers. We all do. We make assumptions about our customers and that can become reflected in all areas of our business. From sales and marketing to customer service and operations.

2) Research empowers your operational team

Often times we encourage our clients to discuss the research and Customer Profile with their operational teams, why? Well, in the case above, the in-store staff was able to recognize this target customer immediately, and cater to her every need, resulting in customer loyalty and increased revenue.

3) Research eliminates wasteful spending

I personally hate wasteful spending and try to mitigate this at all costs. Having strong research in hand will allow you to make decisions that stray from “magic-bullets” and tactics that your target customer will not respond to.

4) Research increases sales and profitability

If you know how your target customer thinks, buys, becomes loyal, it creates focus that aligns all areas of your business. “This is who I serve, this is how they think, and this how I get to them.”

The instance outlined above is not unique and this is why we recommend research on the outset of every marketing project. From our analysis, effective research will not only impact your marketing and sales efforts, it will also uncovers new opportunities that can impact other areas of your business.