KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE IS CRITICAL
There's a critical part of every social media strategy that includes knowing who your target audience is. Not knowing who you're talking to, how they like to be communicated with, what engages them the most or when / where they're online is like throwing a dart at a target and hoping that it sticks.
We sat down with a Kiwi industry authority in 'knowing your audience' – the very talented and switched on Suzanne Smith from The Industry Group. The Industry Group specialises in market research – so if there's anyone who knows what's going on out there in the marketplace and how consumers are behaving its Suzanne.
What is market research to you?
Market research is all about understanding a business and the questions they have about consumers of their product or service. Once those parameters are understood, we collect valuable information direct from customers, employees or target markets to provide the information and answers needed for that business to grow. The market research industry is constantly changing and always providing new insights, so for me it is an extremely interesting industry to be part of.
TSS: We bet! So it's not just about understanding what's happening now, it's about asking the right questions to get an understanding of how you can get your brand from point a (now) to point b (in the future). Using this kind of information in any social media strategy is gold. It adds clarity and direction to your social media marketing… Something great outcomes can't be achieved without.
What types of things can market research tell us?
Market research can provide a barometer on what is happening in your market and among your customers. It can not only help you understand your customer's attitudes, opinions and behaviour, it can also provide insight into your staff culture, help with new product development and measure the effectiveness of media activities.
TSS: Ah perfect. We are big fans of using social media to create a great internal (staff) culture. Good to know that market research and knowing your audience has internal as well as external benefits.
Has market research in NZ changed in the last decade?
Absolutely, digital media has crept into every aspect of market research. However, it is important that digital research extends rather than replaces traditional market research. For example, digital online qualitative methods can't deliver the human elements gained from face to face research. In the future we may see a move back to traditional research methods. For example, with the high number of emails people receive each day, we may see a return to more mail surveys.
TSS: So, with the increase of digital communication it's all about adding to the mix, not replacing the recipe. The amount of information now available on how Kiwi's use digital media (e.g. social media) can really help shape the way a brand markets itself on social media. Best practice is to ensure a mix of market research methods are used in understanding an audience better, not only data collected from the online space.
What can market research tell us that online analytics and trends can't?
Market research can tell us the 'why' and help determine what is underlying people's opinion. It is easy to misinterpret digital data because there is no context. It is important to take into account not just what people say but the context in which they say it – how they say, when they say it etc.
TSS: Bingo! Context is important to have in ensuring the quality of the data we collect. It helps keep them 'keyboard warriors' at bay. It's one thing to have an answer, but that answer becomes super-charged with information when we can understand it's context. This reinforces the importance of having a mix of data collection methods perfectly.
What are some components of compelling market research?
Compelling market research is all about asking the right questions of the right people at the right time. It happens when people are passionate about research and believe in what they are doing. There are people who have an instinctive feel for it - whether it's qualitative or quantitative they make the data 'sing' so you - the client - really feel like you were there in the room.
TSS: So it's not apples and oranges if you know what we mean. When it comes time to do your market research it's just as much about the way it's collected and the methodology used, as it is about the fact that it's being done. There's a big lesson here team – do your own research on the people helping you with yours. Make sure they know your business goals inside and out, and make sure you're 100% with their approach to collecting the very best information for you!
Is it just big brands that benefit from market research?
No. Any and every business, organisation or club can benefit from market research. It provides valuable insight for any organisation and you don't need to have a massive budget.
TSS: There you go people, consider it a new weapon in your social media marketing arsenal.
What are some signals from market research that a brand shouldn't ignore?
Brands shouldn't ignore signals such as declining attitudes towards the brand, decreases in performance or changes in buyer intentions. Another signal that things aren't right could be having high brand approval, but low attachment to the brand. E.g. when people say they like the brand, but it is not a brand for people like them. Another signal that shouldn't be ignored is when there is a disconnect between KPI's and research results. Lastly, from a social media perspective – don't ignore negative feedback. Brands can be attacked quickly through social threads. Any negative feedback needs to be carefully monitored and addressed straight away.
TSS: Yup, we hear you on that Suzanne. Because social media is so instant, it can really become a minefield for bad brand perception if that's not listened to (and addressed) by the corresponding business. Luckily for our clients, we have that base covered through the best in community management. Readers, pay close attention to those first few points also. Any disconnect in what you think vs. what your audience thinks is a warning signal to address, quick smart.
Can you give us any examples of market research done poorly?
1) Research that is obviously designed to confirm a strategy that has already been decided on.
2) Research that leaves out a key competing brand.
3) Using a non-representative sample to get results such as only sending out a customer satisfaction survey to larger customers who get added rewards.
TSS: Lesson here – don't conduct market research with a pre-determined outcome in mind. Be open to the process, and what your audience has to say. Don't turn a blind eye to anything and be open to the process of looking at every… single… little variable and/or influencing factor. It could save your business in the long-run!
What kind of investment (time and/or money) would you suggest someone puts into conducting market research?
The investment required depends on the size of the decision being made based on the research. Businesses need to determine the cost of making a wrong decision when deciding how much to invest in research. In terms of time, there usually isn't a big time investment needed from the client. They need to spend time briefing the research agency to ensure we have a good understanding of the decisions they need to make based on the research and they need to be available to provide any information required to undertake the market research. Once the research is complete, they need to invest time in reviewing the results and implementing any recommended changes. But they do need to allow enough time in their planning for the research to be done. Often it can be done quite rapidly, but 'quick and dirty' research also exists.
TSS: We completely second this. Whatever your capacity and ability – make good (regular) market research part of your social media strategy, if not your ongoing business strategy.
What's the best advice you could give to someone wanting to conduct market research?
Ensure you know what you want to find out and what you will do with the answers. Consult an experienced market research professional. Be wary of people who claim to do research as an 'aside'. Don't necessarily go for the cheapest quote, choose a professional who understands your business and someone you feel comfortable with. Make sure the person you are dealing with is the person who will actually be doing the research. Lastly, call me!
TSS: Well we couldn't finish this little piece of gold on a better note than that. It's not only about market research, it's about good market research. And it's not about just covering your online bases – it's about taking a completely 'outside-in' approach. Thanks so much for helping our readers out Suzanne, you really know your stuff and we're proud to be working with you!
If you'd like to know more about conducting the best possible market research here's how you can contact Suzanne at The Industry Group email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: 021 276 9162 or visit www.ind.co.nz