Market research

Changing your Marketing Strategy – and the Pretty PowerPoint to back it up.

Yes, you could hire an expensive market research consultancy. No one ever got fired for treating their boss to a 100 slide powerpoint on What a Genius Strategy you are currently pursuing. Nothing has to change, keep calm and carry on.

But if you’re ready to do some corporate-style soul searching, the tools to do so are readily available. It’s a good idea to schedule a whole day twice a year to do this research properly but I suggest you take a few minutes each day to keep up as well. So without further ado, here’s the skinny:

1. Listen where your target audience talks

Blogs, forums, social networks – the magic triangle of customer feedback. They are easy to find, just search for phrases like ‘top * blogs about xxx’ or ‘xx forum’ or look for ‘xx directory’.  What is your audience saying about you? About your competitors? About your product category? Make some notes as to the specific aspects of products they discuss (both positively and negatively) and save the links.  Also Google for your company name + review and note what it says.

2. Read industry sites and magazines

If you’ve been in the industry for a while I’m sure you know the publications that everyone in the industry reads. If you don’t, ask some colleagues or your industries’ association.  When you get your hands on these publications, take a look and see who is advertising and what USP’s they are focussing on , who gets quoted in articles and what about, what topics are discussed that are frequently focus pieces and – most importantly – make notes of what direction the industry and your individual competitors are going.

3. Understand the media landscape

What does your audience read? Do you have enough of a marketing budget to brand yourself in the heads of your entire target audience? Or do you just want to be there when they want to buy the service you provide?

You should find out what the strategy of your competitors is (and what messages they focus on). Online, this is easy. Have a look at the doubleclick ad planner tool. It allows you to search by category and keyword often searched by visitors of certain sites, look for sites that have similar visitors etc. Doing this you might find out that people that search for ‘Forex’ are found on fxfisherman, forex-tsd, actionforex etc.

It basically gives you a complete list of all important industry media. Be sure to look for several variations of your main keywords (ie look for FX, Currency and foreign exchange as well as Forex). When visiting those sites, make notes of all the banners and the USP’s they mention. Click on the banners and read the articles to get further info.

 Secondly, have  a look at Google’s ad preview tool. It allows you to see your competitors’ search ads by market, and is a great tool to see what USP’s work and which don’t. After all, a good search marketer keeps on testing, and chances are that the top advertisers have done plenty of testing and refining of their messaging.

4. Get your competitors to market to you

Go to the sites of all your competitors. Sign up for their newsletter and see how they market to you. Write down all the good stuff.

5. Talk to your sales people

What objections to your product are most common? What counter arguments do your salespeople use? Advertising is salesmanship in print (to steal a famous line) so your salespeople are usually a treasure trove of marketing related information about your company, your competitors and your target market. Ask them what their perfect customer would be. Ask them what changes they would do to the product (if there were no limitations) to ensure they make the sale to that customer.

6. Get competitors over for a job interview

Ok, this one is not for everyone, but I know several companies that employ this tactic for competitive research and a fresh look to their business model. You might end up hiring the person as well. Be sure to be frank about your intentions, and mention you are not necessarily looking for someone right away, if that’s the case.

7. Look at your numbers – understand them

Can you quantify your sales funnel? At what point do people drop off? Have your sales people call them and ask why. Take a look at your client base. Which 20% are bringing 80% of the profits? Find out what they have in common both on paper and in one-to-one interviews. Where did these people hear of you? What made them become a client of your company? Plenty to learn.

8. Brainstorming about cows that are different

The most successful companies (some would say the only successful companies) are the ones that are remarkable – at least at first. Those are the ones that shake up industries and shift paradigms. Now, we live in the real world, with real limits to how much a company can reinvent itself. But even if you don’t change in such a radical manner, thinking about it in this way allows you to see what direction you could possibly go.

Now, with all of the notes you made on unique selling points, media, competitors and clients, you must now have a good idea of what it would take to really shake the industry up. What competitors are already very different? Is there a position you could take that hits your ideal client and is markedly different than competitors? What would it take to get there? If you do, you might become a  Purple Cow’, as Seth Godin calls it.

9. Test a few new strategies

Don’t change everything over night. Even though you have a gut feeling this will work and half the office is cheerleading you, try to test a few combinations. I hear you think ‘how?’ across the intraweb.

Well, an easy way is to build a few landingpages with the new positions front and center, and sending PPC traffic there (not branded with your company name). When people sign up, send them to a page that explains that your product is not currently available and apologize for the inconvenience. Ask if they would be interested in answering a few questions and find out what made them interested. Take a look at the conversion rates  for each landingpage and collect their feedback. Then pick one or two strategies and discuss them with your ideal clients.

10. Make a pretty PowerPoint

Once all done, it’s time to make that fancy PowerPoint. It will make your boss happy. That’s all for now folks. Kick some competitor ass.

(drop me a line if you have any additional tactics!)

About Me

Thoughts on Direct and Online Marketing in the Financial Industry. By Bart Burggraaf. Bart is MD/Partner at MGL, a London based Financial Services Marketing Agency. The posts on this blog are the personal opinions of Bart Burggraaf and not the official view point of MGL or any of it's clients.