By Aimee Woodall
Imagine taking a trip to a foreign land; one where you don’t know anyone, can’t speak the language, and haven’t a clue how to get around. You wander the streets just making random turns, hoping to find your hotel or some sort of sign that you are going in the right direction. That kind of travel is disorienting and frustrating. It’s also exactly how most people approach marketing.
I’m all for adventure but being totally rudderless doesn’t sound appealing to me. When I’m visiting a new place, I like to do my research. The same is true for how I approach my business. Rather than rocketing through the air toward the unknown, I like to go in with some knowledge of a destination and develop a plan of action in advance.
Research is the foundation on which your marketing plan is built yet many people don’t see the value in investing in such a worthy endeavor. Instead of taking the time to look into their business, their market, and their goals, they pack their bags and set off for uncharted territories. That’s a mistake. No matter how well you think you know your business and your industry, skipping the “let’s draw a map” step sets you up for a scramble.
Here are 5 reasons you should research before you aim for a destination:
- Find out where you’ve been.
The most natural place to start is with, well, where you’re starting. The first step in research is to assess what you’ve done in the past and what did or did not work. It’s also important to look at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. In other words, perform a SWOT analysis. I know that some people think that approach is outdated but it works. Once you understand your current standing, you’re primed to draw a map to your ideal future.
- Decide on where you’re going.
No one jumps in their car and declares, “I’m going north!” They usually have a destination in mind like Chicago or Toronto. Researching attainable goals and objectives for your organization is the linchpin that holds your entire marketing plan together. It’s what keeps you and your team from wandering aimlessly and wasting time on things that are less important. One great way to understand your goals is to empower your internal stakeholders. Interview the people who work for you, who sit on your board, or who have patronized your business for a long time. They are likely to have insights that you never thought of.
- Get the lay of the land.
Market research is just a fancy way of saying, “What’s the outside world think of this?” Investigating what exists in your industry and what people want, need, and care about is the best way to see if your goals are on the right track. If your goal is for everyone to have a beeper in their pocket and it’s 2015, you might need to adjust your focus unless you’re in the 1990s party rental business.
- Plan your route.
You know where you’ve been, you know where you want to go, and you have a good idea about the terrain ahead. Now what? Now, it’s time to plan. Using your newly minted goals, this is the point in which you start coming up with action steps based on your research.
- Determine how you’ll measure the journey.
There’s no use counting miles if kilometers are the standard measurement. Find out exactly how you’ll measure the success of your plan by looking into what the most important metrics are for your goal. If you want to increase awareness of your brand, look at impressions on social media and visitors on your website instead of sales numbers. If you’re looking to increase sales, look at conversions from advertising. Once you know what you’re measuring, it’s easier to set up systems to track this data from the get-go thereby saving you a lot of backtracking in the future.
As T.S. Eliot said, “The journey not the arrival matters.” Take the time in advance to do research before you start your marketing journey and your rewards will be far greater than if you stumbled forward happenstance.
Aimee Woodall is the owner of the Black Sheep Agency, a Houston-based strategic brand shop specializing in cause-driven marketing, public relations, social media, and community outreach. You can contact Amy by phone at 832-971-7725, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website at www.theblacksheepagency.com.