Improve Your Marketing With Simple Research

Blog Feature W Edits

8 Simple Ways to Conduct Marketing Research

One of the things I loved most when I first started watching Mad Men was the amount of time the characters spent discussing marketing research. They were constantly asking, “When will the research be done?” or “We need to do research before we start working on ideas for that campaign!” It was the basis that backed up the agency’s recommendations and was the springboard to those original, memorable (and effective) advertising campaigns.

Clients back then felt research was a non-negotiable step, a sort of Holy Grail of the marketing process that wasn’t to be compromised because of budget or timelines.

Fast forwarding to today, I’m one of the lucky marketing professionals who works for an agency who still sees the value of research as the starting point for making effective strategic recommendations and clients who still recognize this approach as the Holy Grail.

Research is king when it comes to making marketing decisions. It will not only alter how you market (i.e. tactics, messaging, positioning, pricing, distribution) and what you market (i.e. product breadth, depth and specs), it can help you achieve extraordinary results.

It’s an activity that should not just be reserved for launching new products or brands. It should be an ongoing part of your routine to continually learn about your target audience and the competitive environment you’re marketing in so you can be proactive or respond accordingly. Even a slight modification to your marketing (when necessary) can help keep you ahead of the game.

How can research help?

It can help:

  • increase sales within existing markets
  • develop new markets
  • target new segments
  • convert prospects to customers
  • diversify distribution channels
  • increase consumer satisfaction
  • increase brand differentiation
  • increase brand awareness and strengthening market position
  • launch a new brand or reveal the need to refresh your brand
  • launch a new product within an existing line or create a brand extension
  • product changes or evolving your current line
  • the list goes on...
How Research Can Help

What are simple ways to conduct marketing research?

Doing research is easier than you may think. In fact, you’re probably already doing several of the methods listed below without even thinking about it. However, are you doing something productive with any valuable intel you’re collecting?

Using, interpreting and applying this information to your marketing plan can really make a difference in accomplishing your goals. Here are eight simple ways to conduct research to benefit your marketing efforts:


Whether you’re walking a show or participating in it, trade or consumer shows are an ideal way to gain insight into your market and keep a pulse on the industry. Hearing comments, complaints, or fresh ideas firsthand is invaluable information, not to mention you can see exactly what your competitors are doing. It’s amazing what you can learn when you just listen.

Take advantage of the opportunity for face-to-face conversations where you’ll be able to ask specific questions regarding topics you want to research, and most importantly learn about issues or trends you may not have been aware of. Being able to get ahead of the curve and take proactive measures to get there ahead of your competitors will ultimately serve your bottom line well.

Online Reputation Audit

How is your brand reputation online? If you don’t know, here are a few audit steps that can quickly give you the answer:

  1. Leverage Google Auto-complete – When you type in your company or brand name, what does Google auto-complete provide as suggestions for your search? For example, if it suggests, “your brand name + complaints” you can take action to investigate. 
  2. Use Google Blog Search– This specialized Google search will allow you to see if your brand is mentioned in the blogosphere by influential bloggers.
  3. Search on popular or industry-specific forums

You can learn more about this approach here.

Secret Shopper

Why not go undercover (or hire someone) to experience exactly what your customer does! How are your retail dealers selling your product? Are the sales messages they’re communicating consistent with how you want the product marketed? If different messages are being used, it could be causing confusion for your customer, eroding your brand position, and affecting sales. You can also gauge whether your product, its packaging, and any in-store POP is effectively differentiating your brand at store level.

This approach also works well for visiting your competitors at tradeshows. It’s the perfect opportunity to hear how they pitch their product over yours, ask questions, and walk away with their marketing material you can dissect and analyze later.

Secret Shoppers

Professional or Consumer Reviews

This is a valuable way to obtain unbiased feedback from your customer because they can speak freely. Review their comments carefully and analyze the types of terms they use to describe their brand experience. Are they consistent with the brand promise you are trying to market? Do their comments include terms that are consistent with the brand promise you are trying to deliver?

It’s also an interesting way to see brand loyalty among your user group. I was recently reading the online reviews of a client and there was a negative posting from a customer about the professional service provided. It was quickly followed by another customer who posted a rebuttal stating that there must have been some mistake because the provider had always delivered excellent service. It certainly leveled out the playing field and kept things in perspective for others who read it. 

Competitive Review

Competitors' Websites:

You can find out a lot from a competitor’s website. It’s all right there for the taking! Compare your top three competitors' websites to your own: 

  • Are they saying the same thing you are?
  • What tactics are they using to create a good user experience? Is their site mobile-friendly?
  • What resources are they offering their visitors? How does it compare to how you help your customer?
  • Do they use videos or social media more effectively than you? 
  • Are they doing a better job at marketing the unique product or service benefits that would make a customer choose them over you?
  • Is there a clear differentiation between their product/service and yours?
Competitive Review – Competitors Website

Online Mentions:

  1. Setting up Google Alerts is a FREE, easy way to keep tabs on specific issues, trends or competitors without having to constantly troll the internet. Simply sign-up for an alert and you will receive email notifications whenever new content is posted to news, blogs, video, discussions or books that match the criteria you registered for.
  2. Social Mention is a FREE online search of brand mentions on blogs, videos, images, questions, and bookmarking sites.

In-store Merchandising:

Do a store visit to see if your packaging is visually engaging and creating appeal through strong merchandising. Does your competitor’s product look better? If you were the customer, which one would draw you in for a closer look? 

If your packaging is damaged or dirty because of shipping and not allowing you to put your best foot forward on the sales floor, you may need to change how you deliver it to your retailer. 

Also, you may find your dealer is not a strong merchandiser. This is the perfect opportunity for you to develop a merchandising plan (with instructions and photos) to help them by taking the guess work out of it (i.e. three rows of six boxes stacked, with two rows of four boxes stacked in front, two products out on display with pricing signage in an acrylic holder). It also creates merchandising consistency across your distribution channel. 


Collect competitors’ collateral (i.e. brochures, print ads, postcards etc…) and compare their marketing messages, photography, and approach to advertising versus yours. Is there anything they’re doing better than you?

Anonymous Client Survey

If you want to know what your customers think about you, just ask. It can be as easy as emailing a short, simple, anonymous survey with three questions, along with an 'Other Comments' box and you’ll have valuable feedback in no time! Remember, the negative comments are opportunities to improve and if no one tells you about them, you can’t fix them.

Dealer or Sales Meetings

The next time your sales team is together, join them for a meeting. Listen to the types of challenges they have when prospecting, learn what customers are saying or what dealers are finding challenging when selling your product. 

Your Company's Website

If you have a Search function embedded on your company’s website, access the site’s logs to see if it tracks what visitors have been searching for on your site. It might identify a reoccurring term that you should include in your content to improve search engine optimization or even lead to a new product or service idea you may want to investigate further.

Dealer Or Sales Meetings

Google Analytics is another way to gain insight into the results of your marketing efforts and any ROI. It will help you understand how successful a campaign was (if a certain page was tagged or URL used) or whether traffic in general spiked during your promotional activities. In addition to measuring ROI, the analytics will also help you identify heavy traffic pages that you may want to focus on for ‘beefing up’ the content.

Never Stop Improving

The success of your management decisions within the 4Ps of marketing will only be as good as the information you’re basing them on, as well as how, when, and if, you choose to implement your findings by adjusting your marketing. Remember, everything you learn may not warrant action, but it’s still valuable information in your constant quest for improvement.

And finally, if you’re a client who works with an agency partner for your marketing, be sure to share your intel with them. Knowledge is power and when everyone is working with the same information, each member of the team can apply it to their specific role or discipline to craft more effective marketing strategies, messages and visual designs that will drive extraordinary results.

Ready to discuss a project?

Tell us about your project:

Not sure where to start? Check out these suggestions.