Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Is what a client wants what they need?

Sometimes clients have very definite views of what they want to do, but that may not be what they need to do.

Such a situation prompts the question - is the marketing brief informed by research, or because someone in the marketing team likes the idea. Consider an example. A UK division of a company within the portfolio of a major international business had some money to spend on advertising simply because the organisation allowed a percentage of the budget regardless of need to be spent on display advertising. The brief was to produce an advertising campaign. It soon became apparent that their type of very specialised capital equipment had a very limited market within the UK territory, in fact here were just five buyers of this class of product. They already knew them all personally and while there were several marketing initiatives that could help nurture and retain these key accounts, display advertising wasn't one of them.

Another wrong direction is to buy the not-to-be missed advertising deal where there happens to be a convenient page left to fill at a much discounted rate. Or to sign up for a new exhibition because "all of your competitors are going to be there." Or to invest in the next new thing, whether it it is a yet untested new publication or the latest new place on the Internet.

Few small to medium size B-2-B companies budget for formal market research, but that is no reason not to ignore researching the market. The Internet has considerably simplified what was once known as 'desk research' and made online polls easy, but telephoning just a small sample of the target market while not statistically valid can often flag up a problem worthy of further investigation. Clients often claim to know their market, but ringing a dozen or so of their customers or prospects can quickly uncover often surprising information. For example, unprompted recall of the brand might demonstrate the client is less well known than was assumed. Or the company may have a poor reputation for deliveries, or service - issues that if not addressed will undermine a marketing initiative such as a new product launch.

Market research should be at the core of new product development and marketing campaigns in delivering products with messages that answer the needs of users and provide benefits that are valued and differentiate the product from competitors. So the question of what the company needs as a marketing programme should be informed by research rather than what marketers think is needed.

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