A little over a decade ago, I fulfilled a personal dream by getting my pilot’s license. I remember my instructor telling me that sometimes pilots get so focused on all the instruments that they forget to look out the window.
Often, I see the same behavior when working with companies who are struggling to grow their brands. Caught up in sales numbers, profitability targets, KPIs, and productivity goals, companies often forget to look out the window to see what’s happening in the world around them. Product or service innovation may be driven by executive preference, a feeling in the gut, or worse yet, whoever has the loudest voice in the design process. Sometimes marketing strategies may be misaligned with budgeted resources or communications may not be delivered in a way that resonates with the target audience (e.g. trying to reach millennials through network TV). Is it surprising then that about 80% of the 30,000 new products launched every year fail?
When was the last time you looked out the window? How well do you know your consumer? How well do you know the market in which you’re competing? Market research and consumer insights provide the foundation that companies need to avoid flying blind. Insights inform decisions. Insights fuel innovation. Insights guide strategy.
A good landing begins with a good approach
Early in my flight training, after dozens of attempts to perform a good, smooth landing, my instructor shared another piece of sage advice. A successful landing begins with setting yourself up on the right path – correct altitude and attitude – long before the wheels hit the numbers on the runway. And the same is true for market research and consumer insights. You need the right approach to successfully execute research that will provide the information that you need.
Most marketers have a general understanding of the differences between qualitative and quantitative research. We’ve all seen TV and movies poke fun at focus groups, and I’m sure that you’ve been contacted to take a survey at some point. But ultimately, the approach that you take should be driven by where you want to land. These research techniques need to be matched to the business questions at hand:
- What are you trying to learn?
- What is driving the need for consumer insights?
- How will the information be used?
- Do you need numbers or stories?
Beyond the techniques and methods that you can use, other fundamental choices will need to be navigated:
- With whom will you speak? Why are they the right target?
- What is the depth or detail of information that you need?
- What are the topics to cover?
- How can you get the best information possible?
When you approach the problem with a clear view of your objectives, your landing will be smoother.
Fly the plane
Think about how your business runs. Do you have a strategic roadmap to guide innovation and growth? Do you know where you’ll be in 5 years? How about next year? With all the changes that businesses are facing today, and the rapid pace of change occurring in the marketplace, it’s easy to become reactive. But that’s also why it’s more important than ever to understand your consumer and your market, so that you’re not simply reacting to changes in the environment, but charting a course to get where you want to go.
Being reactive can feel like crisis mode – dropping everything to solve problems that arise (e.g. a negative review, an urgent customer request) – rather than planned intentional communications. There’s an expression taught to pilots in the event of trouble: You’re either flying the plane or fixing the problem. When you’re focused on solving problems, you’re simply reacting. When you’re flying the plane, you’re proactively focused on getting where you want to go.
Market research and consumer insights can help you be proactive by informing strategic planning and decision making. When times are good, and your brand is well-positioned in the market, consumer insights can fuel innovation and product development for continued growth. When times are not so good, and your brand is fighting to stay relevant, consumer insights can guide positioning and messaging to help your brand stand out. In either case, insights help you understand who to talk to, and what to say that will encourage consumers to choose your brand. In essence, consumer insights help you fly the plane to your desired destination.
Need a co-pilot?
Many syndicated resources are available online or through subscription services, available from companies like Nielsen, NPD, and TrendHunter. Some information can be freely obtained online, or there may be a fee for published reports. If you need more customized help to grow your brand through a deeper understanding of your consumers, please reach out and we can weave your story of success!