Market research and marketing research are not the same, yet many marketers use the terms interchangeably. Both are important components in marketing efforts and sound similar, but they are inherently different.
The distinction between these types of research is when each occurs. Business owners and marketing leaders conduct market research during the earliest phases of product or business model development. Marketing research, on the other hand, happens later.
To differentiate between them, think about the question you’re asking. The former asks, “Is there a place in the market for a suggested solution?” The latter asks, “How do we reach that place and its associated audience with our marketing efforts?” In other words, marketing research is undertaken only if market research has revealed that there is, in fact, a demand for your product or service.
Let’s take a look at these two efforts and explore how and when to best leverage each one.
Market research: Understanding your audience
In marketing departments and advertising agencies across the country, you’ll hear people mistakenly conflate terms like qualitative research and quantitative research despite significant semantic differences. Market research and marketing research get similarly mixed up, but distinguishing between them will help clarify marketing processes.
Market research is about identifying who your audience is (and whether that audience even exists). If you discover a segment of people who could benefit from your product or service, you’ll need to determine whether it’s large enough to make your business viable. People may love the idea behind your business or the conceptual blueprint for your product, but if enough people aren’t willing to pay, it might not be worth launching.
On the other hand, if there is a large addressable market, you’ll need to collect as much relevant demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data as you can. What are their most common pain points? How much money do they typically earn? Where do they live and work?
During this stage, you’ll also gather information about the industry as a whole. By evaluating your competitors and understanding the business environment, you can gauge the potential success of your product or service. Ask, “Is there a need in the market?”
Without an affirmative answer, you’re likely to fail. Imagine, for instance, that you’re opening a burger restaurant in a location where there isn’t one for miles. Sounds like a slam dunk, right? Except maybe the reason there isn’t competition is that the people in the area — your target market — just don’t want burgers.
With market research, you can create business concepts with strong foundations and increase your chances of success. However, a business opening or a product launch doesn’t signify the
end of the market research phase. Industries and markets are ever-evolving, so ongoing research will help you navigate these changes; frequent research can lead to profitability gains of almost 9 percentage points. In short, the more you know about your market, the greater your chances of success.
Marketing research: Reaching your audience
When it’s time to conduct marketing research, you should already know who your audience is because you’ll be focusing on the best ways to reach them. Understanding how you’ll engage with audiences impacts everything, which is why marketing research must be completed before you spend a cent on marketing.
You can be sure that iconic campaigns such as Nike’s “Just Do It” wouldn’t exist today without an exhaustive marketing research process. The slogan — a statement of intent — resonates deeply with the brand’s target audience of athletes and runners. This is goal for all marketing campaigns: Find the message that will resonate with the audience.
Many organisations use customer avatars or personas to guide the marketing research process, while others use historical empirical data, diving into what worked and what didn’t in past campaigns targeting similar audiences. Thanks to incredible advancements in marketing technology, you can obtain an abundance of transformative insights during this process to help you understand how to communicate with those you’re trying to reach. These insights will guide you as you develop messaging that will reach your target audience.
Testing a variety of messages with certain segments is the key to uncovering which resonate the best. Trying to reach an audience with a singular marketing message — especially one without any data backing it up — is risky. Instead, you should develop at least two or three messaging angles and test them on a level playing field. For example, you could run three slightly different Facebook ads targeting the same audience and see which performs best.
Message testing can be effective for one channel, but if you plan to run a campaign through multiple channels, you need to use data to back up your plans. You can collect this via channel testing: running a similar message aimed at similar audiences through two or more channels and then using metrics like clicks and conversions to identify the most effective channel for your specific strategy.
Regardless of which marketing stage you’re in, it’s critical that your key decisions are guided by data derived from diligent research. Without data, your strategy will be based on only assumptions and opinions (which isn’t very strategic). Do your research, test your hypotheses, and use the data you collect to make your marketing more effective.
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