In 2015, I was kicking off a project with a brand-new client. The first meeting started with a series of questions about one topic—the target customer. As the client described their target customer, something seemed off. They had been running a retail business for over 20 years and emphatically described a male buyer as their core customer. “This is who buys,” he said. “And this is who I want to attract.”
Having encountered this situation before, our team knew that conducting research would make any future project, such as a website redesign, more valuable to the client’s business. So, we guided the customer toward adding research as part of their marketing project. We explained that leaders sometimes develop blind spots; research can either affirm accurate assumptions about the target market or uncover new information. Ultimately, the client trusted us and pushed their website design back three months so we could conduct research.
During the three-month span, we developed a report from 10 one-on-one customer interviews and 750 in-store customer surveys. In this process, we discovered the core buyer was not male, as the client assumed. Instead, their core customers were young females. As we walked our client through the customer profile and the 70-page report documenting our findings, we were unable to read his reaction. He asked no questions. So, we presented a new website design, one that would attract a female buyer. However, the client remained quiet and left us wondering what he thought of the research.
Soon, we found out the client put our data to the test. After meeting with us, he reviewed his point-of-sale data from the previous year and created a report of his top-buying customers. Being a small business, he knew each of these individuals well. As he thought about these individuals, they all had the similar buying habits and traits. He was surprised to find that our customer profile was right; his top customers were all young females.
After a few weeks, our client requested a meeting. During the meeting, he revealed his findings, showing how his data matched our research. Although he was initially surprised by our results, he trusted our team’s insights and put them to the test. As a result, he approved the new website design. Additionally, the client used his new customer profile to educate his internal operations team and guide them toward this new target customer.
The moral of this story is simple. Research is important.
1) Research uncovers blind spots and bad assumptions.
As a business owner, I have had bad assumptions about my customers. We all do. We make assumptions about our customers that can become reflected in all areas of our business—from sales and marketing to customer service and operations.
2) Research empowers your operational team. Oftentimes we encourage our clients to discuss the research and customer profile with their operational teams. Why? Well, in the story above, the in-store staff was able to recognize this target customer immediately and cater to her every need, resulting in customer loyalty and increased revenue.
3) Research eliminates wasteful spending. I personally hate wasteful spending and try to mitigate it at all costs. Having strong research in hand will allow you to make decisions that stray from “magic-bullets” and tactics that your target customer will not respond to.
4) Research increases sales and profitability. If you know how your target customer thinks and buys, this creates a focus that aligns all areas of your business: “This is who I serve, this is how they think, and this how I get to them.”
The instance outlined above is not unique and is why we recommend research on the outset of every marketing project. Effective research will not only impact your marketing and sales efforts, but it will also uncover new opportunities that can impact other areas of your business.