Market vs. Market[ing] research: striking the right balance

When it comes to market research projects, what is the optimal research mix?
Too many companies do market research for market research sake. There must be a clear focus for the research and it must support business objectives. One thing we learned as a market research and product marketing team is striking the optimal balance comes down to three words: clarity, conviction and confidence.

Clarity comes when the research we do consistently points us to the same market problem and the market opportunity to solve it.  Conviction comes when we know we have effectively identified and defined our target buyers making up the buying committee and mapped the buyers’ journey.  Confidence comes when patterns emerge in our customer data that paint a clear picture of our ideal customer profile, and our buyers’ ideal customer experience.

We break our market research projects and priorities down by what we call our research aperture:

  • Clarity – 10000 foot view:  Our vision for this stage is to define the market problem and business needs. Here we look at big macro market trends. In our world it’s stuff like digital transformation, generation shifts in the workforce, the gig economy and associated increases in employee turnover.  We look at how these macro trends impact IT and Security priorities at the C-level and thus technology budgets and spend.
  • Conviction – 1000 foot view:  Our vision for this stage is to identify our ideal target personae and their pains. We focus on identifying the target decision makers, influencers and motivators that make up our buying committee and their challenges. We then map the buyers journey and identify the role each member plays at each stage of the journey and the information they need to move from one stage to the next. What we end up with is a fully baked buyer enablement map that shapes our content strategy.
  • Confidence – 100 foot view: Our vision for this stage is define our ideal customer profile. Here we rely most on voice of customer data. This is the aperture where we map the ideal customer journey from purchase to on-board to education to adoption and usage to advisory and advocacy. We do countless customer interviews and look for data patterns identifying opportunities to optimize the customer experience at every stage of the journey. Optimize the customer journey and we optimize retention, expansion and ultimately build and army of customer advocates.

Here is a general breakdown of the approach:

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When it comes to striking the right balance, it depends on where you are in your go-to-market maturity relative to your aperture (market, buyer, customer).  We found that most of our 10000 foot view macro-level market research activities are baked.  We know our company story and direction – we have clarity.

Today, it’s more about building conviction and confidence and prioritizing the 1000 and below aperture.   The beauty of the 1000 and 100 foot views is that they are highly actionable and have the ability to drive immediate results. We have moved from market research to market[ing] research with two clear objectives and goals:

  • Buyer Insights – The 1000 foot view:  Focus our research on enhancing the product story and optimizing how we enable the buyer to move through their journey. It’s all about engagement. What messages work, what content, in what formats through what vehicles. Are we providing the information they need to continue to engage and move through their buyers journey?  We do this in close partnership and collaboration with our digital demand and field marketing teams.
  • Customer Insights – The 100 foot view:  Focus our research wholly on customer success with the goal to optimize the customer experience and their journey from purchase to advocacy. Very similar to buyer insights, customer insights focus on answering many of the same questions: what messages work, what content, in what formats through what vehicles. Are we providing the information customers need to  move through the customer journey?  We do this research in close partnership and collaboration with our customer marketing and customer experience teams.

In the end, our research mix came down to the level of clarity, confidence and conviction we have in the market problem, the target buyer personae and their pains and our ideal customer profile.  We’ve spent the last 12+ months doing the work and we’ve checked those boxes.  How do we know?  The business objectives and goals for the year tell us we are ready.   So, now it’s time to shift our mix and start focusing on research that helps the sales, marketing, customer experience and product teams deliver results.  That’s where the fun is…research that drives results – go figure.