Did you know 75% of B2B executives blame “poor messaging” as the key reason new products or solutions fail to achieve sales projections? Quality research is the foundation of successful marketing, and as such should be performed thoroughly and regularly. Changing behaviors, digital transformation, and disruptive trends all combine to create a very robust and dynamic marketplace.

Uncovering growth opportunities within your organization, determining the right market and decision makers to bring your product to and identifying the Voice of the Customer (VOC) are just a few research initiatives that will either advance or hinder your marketing team’s ability to produce profitable campaigns.

To help you know when it’s time to use research to optimize your marketing return, we’ve outlined best practices for these initiatives, the benefits these research tactics deliver and what qualities to look for if you choose to hire an outside firm.

Uncovering Growth Opportunities

Understanding your growth potential will guide you on how to distribute your marketing spend, especially if you’re bringing multiple solutions or products to market. It’s important to note that your greatest growth potential can, and most likely will, vary depending on the vertical and geography that you are serving. If you have multiple solutions or products you are bringing to market, how do you invest in each? While some organizations may budget equally across the board, this is not the most strategic approach. Knowing which solutions sold the best yesterday, which you expect to sell the most tomorrow, and considering the dollar amount they sell for are all contributing factors when deciding how to divvy up your budget.

“The greatest benefit tie to uncovering growth opportunities is its ability to minimize risk.”

It’s important to perform an internal audit to begin to decipher where the greatest growth potential lives. Internally, you should be looking at information like sales figures and shipping data. Externally there is a myriad of intelligence you can collect, like changing demographics and market growth or decline in geographical regions. The greatest benefit tied to uncovering growth opportunities is its ability to minimize risk. By taking the time to research and understand each of your solutions and their potential influence within the market, you will be positioned to budget intelligently and avoid allocating too much or too little of your budget on a particular product or solution.

Identifying the Right Market and Decision Makers

The tried and true approach to identifying the right market for your business is segmenting your audience. Uncovering the individuals and organizations that have a need your product fulfills, at a price point they’re willing to pay, may appear as an elementary ideology in the marketing world. However, aggregating this research is far from a simplistic endeavor. Segmentation is a very complex undertaking and, if performed properly, typically involves using statistical techniques such as cluster analysis, as well as uncovering the natural segments that exist organically within a particular population.

Determining which decision makers to bring your solution to is no less intricate. Priorities of the CIO may not be aligned with the priorities of the CMO, for example. The most beneficial route to perform this research involves mapping the decision-making process within an organization at various points in the purchase cycle.

The purchase cycle for many product categories run a fairly long time, and there are likely various decision makers and influencers that come in and out of the conversation, all at various points within the process. This type of research typically requires reaching out to a number of individuals across many functional areas within a specific organization. To really excel in mapping the decision-making process, you have to know the organization itself.

Each business has its own peculiarities, so understanding the organization’s philosophies around purchasing is essential. Another important factor to note is that it may prove more beneficial to reach out to multiple influencers versus theoretically banging on the decision makers door.

By identifying the right market your organization will have the ability to uncover new target demographics, recognize new trends, estimate the size of the market you can serve and pinpoint potential problems you are now positioned to avoid. Alternatively, the benefit of identifying the right decision makers and influencers will allow your organization to reach out to the key players at the right time with the right message throughout their decision-making process.

Voice of the Customer

The term voice of the customer (VOC) is likely the most misused term in market research. Originally, this term was related to quality function deployment (QFD) research, which seeks to find a customer’s wants and needs, then fulfill those needs through product design.

As of late, VOC has evolved into a more broad definition, specifically used as a term to define your customer’s predilections, expectations and aversions. The idea is to collect how a customer feels about your product, or organization as a whole, by listening and gathering their feedback.

Businesses can listen to their customers through self-generated surveys, social media, call-in help centers, online chat, and any other avenues they may have available.

“To really excel in mapping the decision making process, you have to know the organization itself.”

The expected outcome of VOC research is having a thorough understanding of who your customer is and what their pain points are, as this will guide you on how to tailor your message to suit their needs. Your organization should have a six-month checkpoint to review your messaging, and if you’re in a more volatile market, a three month checkpoint may be better suited. Additionally, by harnessing this deeper understanding you will be enabled to improve customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, as well as improve your current products and services based on substantial customer feedback.

What to Look for when Hiring an Outside Firm
Since these categories of research are rather sophisticated, you should rely on professional researchers. Look for firms who have a base of experience, have encountered the problems you are facing previously and most importantly, have already found solutions to those obstacles. Leading firms will have best practices in place to design a research program to meet your organization’s distinct needs. Additionally, firms who know your specific market and, at a minimum, understand the terminology is crucial.

Each industry has its own vocabulary and uses specific terms; quality research should be based around that context. Hiring an under-informed firm will prove to be a source of frustration as you’ll be compelled to teach them your market and lingo to ensure their success. The firm you choose should also have a plethora of capabilities in the numerous ways this research can be conducted, from focus groups to surveys and interviews via in person, on the phone, or web-based.

How have you used research to maximize your marketing return? Let us know in the comments!