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Customer Research: The Key to Meeting Customer Needs

Learn how to conduct market research that provides insights into your customers' behaviors, preferences, and pain points.

Digital marketing isn’t just ads and social media posts. Your digital marketing efforts will require you to deeply understand the wants, needs, and preferences of your customers. If you don’t understand your target audience, then your marketing and sales activities will probably suffer exponentially.

Every stage of marketing has something to do with customer research and meeting customer needs. For these and many other reasons, customer research should hold key importance in any marketing or sales effort you intend to embark on now and in the future.

While it’s important to know your customer inside and out, you may have to start from the beginning to figure things out.

For example, it’s a good idea to start with an ideal customer or customer persona that fits the goals of your business, but you might find through your marketing efforts and data collection that the people who gravitate to your brand are nothing like what you assumed.

For these and many, many other reasons, customer research is of the utmost importance. But what does customer research mean for a business? It’s far more than just the sum of the words. Here is a deeper look at customer research and how it forms the key to meeting customer needs.

What is customer research?

The term itself tells you what customer research entails. However, to formalize it, you can consider target market research as gathering and analyzing data about your target market or audience with the goal of learning:

  • The needs of your potential customers
  • What your customers prefer
  • Behavior patterns of your customers
  • Common customer problems and pain points

Armed with this information, your business can create effective marketing and sales strategies that target the right people, have a higher level of conversions, and generate far more sales.

No matter the goals of your brand, customer research will help you obtain them faster, more efficiently, and with less required trial and error to do so.

Customer or market research

Customer research and marketing research both help businesses understand their target audience and create effective marketing strategies. You may come across the terms customer research and market research used interchangeably. These are, in fact, two different things.

Customer research (also called target market research) focuses on gathering data about customers' needs, preferences, behavior, and pain points. Marketing research covers a broader area of research and includes customer research under its umbrella.

When researching a market, you will gather data about trends, competition, and various other factors, along with your customer research. That information will also factor into your marketing, sales, and growth strategies.

Benefits of customer research in marketing

Customer research comes along with several benefits, many of them absolutely crucial to your digital marketing or any other type of marketing effort. This is especially true for a new business, product, or service.

  • Identifying target audience. You will come to know precisely who your brand should target as customer research will help you learn the demographics, interests, pain points, and behaviors of those people who your brand can benefit most.
  • Understanding customer behavior. You will learn the habits and patterns of your ideal customer. What they do, where they hang out online, and what kind of activity they engage in.
  • Creating relevant content. Knowing more about your customer will allow you to create marketing materials and content that speaks directly to them.
  • Improving customer experience. Customer research allows for greater personalization, which increases the customer experience.
  • Increasing conversion rates. Of course, all the benefits of target market research create more qualified leads and better conversions.

Every benefit of customer research creates and builds another benefit of customer research. You may not even know who your customers might be at the start, which is what makes this type of research an excellent place to start.

No matter the size of the business, initiative, or group, there are always benefits associated with customer research and continuing target market research.

Why is quantitative research key to building a business strategy?

Customer research forms a cornerstone of all business, marketing, and sales strategies. If you don’t know who to target, then your campaigns won’t work as intended, or won’t work at all.

Each of the previously mentioned benefits of customer research point to exactly why you should look at this research as key to building a business strategy.

Helps businesses understand customer needs

What does your ideal customer need? And, can your brand provide them with that need? These important questions can help you form the blueprint of your entire business or brand strategy. Understanding the needs of your ideal customer will help you deliver to them precisely what they’re looking for.

Knowing customer needs will also help you craft highly effective campaigns that do far more for your brand or business in both the short and long term.

Delivers insights for improving products and services

As you form your business strategy around the insights gained through your own market research, you can improve your products and services to cater to your ideal customer. This also applies to new products or services as well.

For example, you may find you have an underperforming content marketing strategy. Your customer research insights might inform you that the reason the strategy underperforms is that you’re using generic content, or it’s not speaking to anyone specifically.

Now that you know who your customers are, what they want, and how they consume content, you transform that underperforming content into content that actively engages and converts the potential leads your business needs the most.

Assists businesses to make informed decisions

Business strategy forms based on a series of decisions. If your decisions aren’t backed by data and analysis, then it might not work quite as well as you would like. Primary research insights can help to inform business decisions at every level.

Yes, you can use customer research data to create excellent marketing funnels, but you can also use that data to create full business plans, goals, and growth strategies for the entirety of your organization. This is the type of thing that large corporations do routinely.

A small business or even a single person with a marketable skill can use primary market research data to figure out in which direction they should point the overall efforts of their business.

Increases customer satisfaction and loyalty

People love to feel catered to. Consumer research helps you to facilitate that feeling in people by providing them with solutions to problems and giving them content that speaks directly to them. This process will give your brand satisfied and loyal customers.

Keep in mind that customer satisfaction and loyalty also lead to:

  • Repeat business and increased lifetime value
  • Cheerleading and positive word of mouth
  • Increased reputation

Loyal customers become repeat customers, as they tend to return to brands they trust when it’s time to purchase again. They may stick around for a long time, which can lead to more customers with higher customer lifetime values (CLV).

That satisfaction and loyalty will also prompt customers, especially modern-day customers, to write reviews, cheerlead, and spread the good word about your brand or its offerings. Word-of-mouth is actually a viable form of marketing, a powerful one, and one you can passively receive benefits from.

Provides a competitive advantage

Customer research that informs business decisions will help you stay ahead of your competition. You can use consumer research to find more potential leads, but you can also use it to find new opportunities.

For example, your data may point to gaps in the market or underserved segments of people. While your competitors focus on what’s right in front of them, you can start making efforts to capture segments that can often go overlooked. Compare your potential results from these ventures against your competitors and you might see how you can outdistance them in one or more ways.

Enables businesses to establish long-term relationships with customers

As a brand or business, you want customers who will stay with you for the long term. Customer retention starts with a brand understanding their customer. Under most circumstances, people will not stick with a brand they feel doesn’t get them. Identifying needs and offering solutions to problems isn’t something that stays static.

Customer research will help you stay in step with your audience and they, in turn, will stay loyal to your brand. You can only achieve that kind of synergistic relationship through ongoing consumer research.

How to conduct target market research

You can perform customer market research in many ways. At a basic level, practically any effort you take that leads to greater customer insight counts as quantitative research. However, you’ll want to use methods that offer you more quantifiable data that you can use to make actionable decisions.

1. Define the research objectives and target audience

Start with a clear objective and define a target audience. Make a statement that defines why you’re conducting this customer research. What do you hope to accomplish with your research?

As indicated, if you don’t have data of your own to figure out who to target while conducting customer research, you can look to various sources to learn more about the people who may have pain points your brand can soothe.

2. Choose the research method and develop the research questions

With an objective and target audience defined, you can then look at the methods available to you for gathering customer insights.

You can break customer research methods down into several types. Primary research basically means research you conduct directly with your targets. Having a target audience also allows you to choose the type of research method that will serve you and them best. Interviews, surveys, and focus groups represent some types of primary research.

Secondary research comes from third parties. When you dig through the data compiled by and offered by others, you’re conducting secondary research. You should strive to conduct customer research in as many ways as you comfortably can. In this way, you can gain both quantitative and qualitative research data with which to conduct further research and create business strategies.

You may notice that most customer research methods have to do with answering questions. It's important to make your research questions specific and to the point. You want answers you can compare directly between research methods. Craft questions that directly tell you something about the customer.

Some examples include:

  • What solutions did you try before you tried our service?
  • How can we improve our product?
  • What information do you feel our website is missing?
  • What kind of promotion featuring our service would you have the most interest in?

Keep your questions focused and use your stated goal or objective to help you figure out which questions to ask and what information to seek from customers.

3. Collect, analyze, and interpret data

Once you have data, you need to analyze and interpret it to see exactly what it all means for your business marketing or sales strategies. Continue to collect and analyze data so that you can build one or more potential solutions for your brand. Look for patterns and common themes in the data and dig out the key insights you can leverage the most.

4. Use the research findings

You have the data; you have the insights, you’ve crunched numbers, identified trends, and know everything you need to know about your target audience. It’s time for implementation.

How that implementation looks will vary from business to business, but, at this point, you’ll want to look at marketing techniques and sales strategies that will work best with what you now know about your target audience.

Also, use your insights for your brand or business as well. Customer research data doesn’t just reveal things about your customers or potential customers, it can also reveal a lot about your business. If you find areas where you can and should improve, then use your data to work on those areas.

What are some customer research best practices?

Customer research will work differently between businesses, but there are a few things every brand or business can do to make the most of customer research.

Use more than one method to conduct target market research

Gain as much information as you can by running different customer research methods. Not all methods work best for all businesses, so it’s a good idea to try more than one method, regardless.

As you’ll want both quantitative and qualitative research data, it’s always more beneficial to conduct research geared toward one or the other. Then, you can combine the data. In addition, you may not know which methods actually work best for you, so you’ll want to test these methods until you find the ones that offer you the most benefit.

Always define your research goals and objectives

Before beginning your research, have a goal or objective. Defining what you want to achieve will always help you choose the research methods and research questions that will best serve your goal. Keep your customer research focused. Without a goal or objective, you can garner poor data, waste time, and waste valuable resources for very little gain.

Use professional tools and resources whenever possible

Many tools, services, and professionals exist specifically for helping brands to conduct customer research and other types of market research. When possible, you should always use those professional and polished assets.

For example, you’ll find a tremendous number of survey and quiz providers you can use for research, but you’ll quickly discover they’re not all built to scale. Some services will certainly have the tools you absolutely need, and some may even already have insight into the types of questions your business should ask the survey participants.

Look for knowledge and expertise when you’re looking for customer research solutions.

Follow up and repeat

Your customers will grow and change. Your customer research efforts will also need to grow in change. Your target market may age out of your product or service, while the new generation that fits that demographic may have no interest. Consider ongoing customer research as an absolute necessity for your brand.

Choose a service with customer research tools that can scale along with your brand while also staying with the times. When looking into how to do market research, you’ll probably notice just how many services you might need to involve.

Mailchimp offers a wide variety of professional audience management and marketing tools, including customer journey roadmaps and professional surveys. If you want to start or elevate a customer research strategy, then MailChimp can give you the tools and resources to give you the results you need.

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