Developing Your Marketing Strategy: Step One - Understanding What You Don’t Know

There are lots of ingredients that go into making a successful marketing campaign and the recipe will differ depending on the goals, the target audience and the available budget.  One thing that never changes no matter what the brief, however, is the simple act of asking the right questions. Whether it’s a full-blown market research programme to inform your commercial strategy or simply a disciplined approach to eliciting and analysing customer feedback, the ability to ask the right questions of the right people is critical to the success of any business. And yet it’s a much under-used discipline. Why? Because often the reason for market research is misunderstood: it doesn’t just help you to understand your marketplace better; it also helps you to understand how your marketplace sees you.

To me this is an extremely valuable building block of a successful marketing campaign. If the purpose of marketing is to influence perceptions, then surely it’s essential to know what current perceptions are so that you can plan, deliver and measure the desired change. And if you’re communicating with your customer base effectively, building feedback mechanisms into that communication is a cost-free way to make customers feel valued while gathering valuable information.

For example, CME’s recent social media workshop used client feedback to design the content of the event and feedback from the event itself will help us understand the most valued elements of the programme so that we can build that knowledge into future workshops.  In the same way, simply asking a new contact where they heard about you and what made them choose you when an enquiry comes through can help you gain valuable insights into which marketing channels are most effective for you and where your points of difference are in the marketplace.

Of course, knowing when to implement a targeted market-research campaign and where it’s sufficient simply to integrate feedback processes into your day-to-day customer communications depends where you are at in the sales and marketing cycle.  As a starting point, however, it’s essential to build any commercial or marketing strategy on tangible market knowledge, which means a well-designed and documented market research campaign.  Once that benchmark has been set and used to align business strategy with sales and marketing activity, customer feedback can be used to measure progress and highlight any changes in market conditions.

So, the next time you’re thinking about investing in marketing activity, instead of basing it on what you know about your marketplace and your target customers, perhaps you should first ask what you don’t know and make finding answering those questions the first task on your ‘to do’ list.