Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Marketing Researchers On a Budget: Be a Problem Solver to Convey the Value of Research to Your Clients

Frame up research recommendations within the context of your client's business and needs, and you’ll be providing significant value to the relationship. As part of my coursework at Northwestern's Medill IMC I spend a lot of time trying to better understand the role research and strategic planning play in the integrated marketing communications process, and I've outlined some of my thinking below.

If your clients aren’t investing in marketing research, then you have an opportunity to shine. Begin by identifying the actual pain points obstacles your client is experiencing. If you're struggling with this, here's some advice. Put yourself in your client's shoes, and imagine what keeps them up at night. There's your problem. Now spend some time developing a strategy using research designed to either overcome that obstacle or to provide the business intelligence and insights needed to do so. This recent article from USA Today is a good place to start for some ideas, as it provides several real-world examples of smart companies using established or emerging marketing research to drive valuable results. Learn more about the author, Scott Martin here.

You may be thinking that your clients don't have a dedicated research budget and you struggle with the idea of trying to show them the value in allocating resources. You're not alone. Every company in the world deals with finite resources, big and small. Yes, research can be very expensive, but there are some surprising affordable approaches you can take to offer smart marketing research strategies that won't break the bank. Offer up a cost effective, smart research strategy that is grounded in strong fundamentals and many clients will thank you for respecting their budgets and working intelligently on their behalf. Here's a great introduction from Entrepreneur Magazine on the budget-sensitive strategies some smart businesses are using to stay ahead of the competition. It's written by the always-smart Susan Gunelius.

Rather than provide an exhaustive list of research best practices and checklists, consider the following steps to get started and planning.

  1. Start with an actionable question with financial or other measurable implications.
  2. Find the most efficient way to honestly answer the question while making sure you fully understand any cost trade-offs you are making.
  3. In plain English, deliver your research recommendations along with what actionable and measurable questions you plan to address.

A great place to begin is to sit down with one of your clients who is not investing in marketing research and ask them what business worries are keeping them awake at night. Then build a smart, budget-sensitive research program to provide them with actionable recommendations at solving their problem. Do it well and not only will you earn some new business, but you'll likely earn quite a bit of customer loyalty as well.

Matt Marcus is a strategic marketing professional with significant experience across consumer and business segments. He specializes in strategic consulting, consumer/market research and planning. Matt is a pursuing a master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University’s Medill School. Connect with him on Twitter (@mattmarcus178) and LinkedIn.

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