Manufacturers and industrial sector companies can benefit from research that provides objective feedback, market insights, and guidance for decision making. Given the ever changing marketplace, research removes the guesswork and reduces risk, while bringing greater clarity to where your business is, where you can successfully go, and the most efficient way to get there. Four key research areas can serve to create an objective map of where your business exists in the minds of buyers, relative to your competitors.
1. Market Awareness: Is your company on the radar of buyers?
This research question gets at the basic foundation block of the market awareness of your business, products, and services in the minds of buyers. If purchasers do not know about you, they most likely will never buy from you. Quantifying your actual market awareness levels through representative research can help determine appropriate resources to increase your company’s awareness and offerings. Similarly, if your business is a market leader (highest awareness levels), you can be strategic by not overspending on existing branding campaigns, but rather strategically reallocating your marketing dollars for expanding untapped market segments. The key is to have objective data on your company’s market awareness relative to your competitors, so that decisions to spend more or less marketing and advertising dollars are based on sound metrics. Too often expenditures targeted for marketing and advertising are based on intuition and/or a media/advertising representative’s persuasive arguments to spend more, without any data proving effectiveness.
2. Reputation and Brand: What is your company’s reputation? What should you be known for to be more competitive? What, if anything, is unique about your business and distinguishes you from competitors?
Some businesses enjoy a premium in their pricing and continuous demand for their products because their brand is well understood and resonates with buyers’ decision criteria. Understanding the brand attributes (quality, durability, ease-of- use, attractiveness, responsiveness, etc.) that motivate your customers to purchase your products is key to strengthening your brand relationship with current and potential customers. Significant gains can be made on competitors who may not possess similar brand strength in their businesses and products. Conversely, knowing what makes each of your competitors strong can delineate the most effective ways of competing against their offerings.
3. Customer Service: How is your business performing? What do your customers expect? Do you meet, exceed, or fail to meet your customer’s expectations? How does your performance compare to a market leader in a similar category of business?
Customer service data will help you uncover any ‘holes’ in your ship that may be slowly sinking your business. By measuring service data for your business in comparison to your competitors, you will benchmark the performance of your operations from the customer’s experience and perspective. If your performance on customer service dimensions, such as ease of ordering, delivery and resolution of problems, etc., is significantly below competitors, improvements will be necessary to stay competitive. The key is to measure dimensions of customer service that are actionable and that your customers value, so that improvements will translate into higher retention and profitability.
4. New Product or Service Introduction: Does your new product appeal to buyers in the marketplace? Is this new offering consistent with your brand? Are you meeting an unmet customer need, or looking to compete against existing products or services in the marketplace?
When you are designing and evaluating a new product or service, objective research can be a valuable process that tests your assumptions about its appeal and overall potential. Finding out in the planning stages whether your concept produces excitement, passivity or confusion among potential buyers, will save you from making a costly misstep, and potentially damaging your company’s brand. Using research techniques to help guide and validate the new product’s design, as well as strategies for communicating to the marketplace, can result in a significant savings and maximize success. If your product is competing with established products or services in the marketplace, strategic research will help you identify which of your new product’s attributes create the most compelling motivation to switch from existing offerings.
Each of these research questions provides objective insights that will confirm or challenge your assumptions about the marketplace, its buyers and opportunities for growth. Answering research questions such as these brings clarity to business decision makers, prevents potentially costly mistakes, reinforces the company’s brand, and serves as a valuable tool for guiding a company’s strategic decisions and ultimate success.
Stephen A. Ribner is founder and CEO of Fact Finders Inc., a market intelligence and insight research company that has been in business for over 32 years. For more information on research questions and their application for your company, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-242-2000.