I have found that some small businesses are reluctant to spend time and money on market research in favour of ‘gut feel’ and a bit of ‘trial & error’. Is there anything wrong with this approach?
Being a strategist I love market research in all its forms and feel most comfortable basing decisions on sound evidence with just a sprinkling of assumptions. Saying that, I deal in the real world of small businesses and will frequently argue the case for taking a more pragmatic approach to gaining market insight. Why spend £x on market research when you can spend the money on a marketing campaign that could bring in business as well as providing valuable insight? In my view there is nothing wrong in undertaking a marketing campaign when you aren’t in possession of all the facts just as long as you have thought through the risks involved.
It is important to go into such campaigns with a very clear set of objectives and to evaluate the response carefully and with an open mind. I recently undertook a promotional campaign for a client with the dual objectives of winning new business and testing a number of assumptions about customer behaviour. Worst case would have been that we tested our assumptions for a fraction of the cost of a market research project; in fact the campaign paid for itself by bringing in new business as well as providing us with much-needed market research.
I certainly would not advocate this approach when the stakes are high but, by keeping the risks to a minimum, a trial campaign can make more sense that a full-blown research project.
Cartoon image courtesy of www.tomfishburne.com
I’ve already read lots of ‘top tips’ for businesses in 2012 and most advocate the usual array of cost cutting, invoice chasing and ‘free’ marketing ideas. I have also noticed a greater emphasis on planning and even the odd mention of upstream marketing (which is essentially all the research and background work that comes before the creative bits).
As a marketer who specialises in the planning phase and loves all the strategic stuff this is music to my ears.
But is it really worth spending time and effort on writing a marketing plan when you know your own business inside out? Here are just three of the key reasons why I write a marketing plan each year:
- If it’s important, write it down – I find that simply going through the process and discipline of putting pen to paper (or more likely fingers to keyboard) really helps to clarify my thoughts
- Gives focus – actively thinking about what you want to achieve and how you are going to reach your targets helps give focus to your marketing activity. Having a comprehensive plan of activities saves you time and money throughout the year
- Business review – having a clear plan to refer to makes it easier to review your progress, celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes.
It’s tempting not to write a formal marketing plan especially if, like me, you work largely independently or marketing is just one of your many responsibilities. It is well worth investing the time though and is one of the best pieces of advice I have read for a happier and healthier business in 2012.