Market research: the silver bullet of marketing

As budgets dwindle, could market research be the answer for marketers looking for a cost-effective, year-long campaign? alan. Head of Financial Services Mike Kershaw discusses.

All marketers want to generate revenue for their brand. They desire to develop the right content strategy that captures attention, educates prospects and converts opportunities.

But external pressures demand that marketers be more creative than ever before.

A recent survey by alan. that surveyed 600 leading marketers highlights the impact of Covid-19 on the marketing department. More than ever, marketers are under pressure to do more with less while being asked to quantify ROI. 

53% of marketing departments have suffered budget cuts, while 43% are suffering from a reduction in headcount. Nearly 7 in 10 are now being forced to prove ROI. 

Clearly, the research indicated that marketers are stressed. What’s worse, they feel under-resourced, unappreciated and misunderstood.

Planning season for marketers traditionally kicks off in September, after the summer break, as organisations turn their attention to ideas for the year ahead. 2020/21 has been different.

Even now (March 2021) the majority of marketers still face uncertainty over budgets which is delaying strategic decisions.

What’s more, it seems that one wrong spend could have significant consequences to their department in the future. The good news is that some marketers are up for the challenge. 

One in three CMOs we spoke with want to use Covid-19 as a catalyst to take more risks and be bolder with their creative. History tells us that these marketers will likely be the ones that succeed.

In my recent conversations with senior marketers, one buzzword has come up again and again.. There’s a seemingly desperate need to put 2021 plans through the lens of an “always on” approach. A term I feel that is commonly misunderstood and misinterpreted by a lot of marketers.  

The concept of always on has been widely talked about in marketing. However the ways in which brands integrate always on into their content strategies differ enormously. 

But there lies the key. Integrate. 

Too many marketers obsessively debate and compare the benefits of an always on vs a campaign approach. What they don’t consider is that, often, the solution lies in a middle ground.

How do marketers integrate key elements from both to suit their own brand’s unique objectives, goals and budgets?

Let’s first review what we don’t want. Or at least cover the common objections for both:

  • Campaigns often cause engagement spikes, which inevitably lead to drop-offs. During this engagement downtime, customers might be influenced by a competitor whose campaign has just begun. With so many ways for customers to engage with a brand online, campaigns can often get lost in the “noise”.

  • Always-on, a seemingly logical combattent to cutting through the “noise”. Runs the risk of sacrificing brand, vision and strategic direction for frequency and topicality.

There are of course numerous success stories for both approaches. However, in my own experience, marketers often perceive always on as a more cost-effective strategy. 

For a truly always on approach that’s certainly not the case. It’s incredibly resource-intensive. 

What’s more, marketers often use always on as a way to describe what they think is a more tactical and cost-efficient mindset. I.e. “how can we ensure that our content programme doesn’t just rely on a single ‘big bang’ publication, but that it repurposes, recycles and repackages content from the core asset to extend the impact of our investment?” and “how can we ‘fill in the gaps’ until the next big bang?”.

If only there was a “silver budget”. One that allows for marketers to merge the two strategies to enhance nurture ability, get maximum value for investment and still support an approach that allows for the release of a steady drumbeat of content.

There may not be a silver budget… but there is a silver bullet. It’s called market research.

Why market research?

Market research is more important than ever in the age of Covid-19. Brands and marketers can no longer take for granted assumptions made in the pre Covid-19 era. They must rapidly develop new observations about the world to benefit their customers, their new needs and their new attitudes.

This evidence-based approach is integral to marketing decision making that is under constant scrutiny. 

Simply, there’s no better way to gather valuable insight and make evidence-informed marketing decisions than by speaking directly to your customers.

Research should be the backbone of your content strategy. This was true before Covid but even more so now following the sheer extent and pace of change we have witnessed.

Conducting original research has it’s benefits though. It helps:

  • Establish your brand as an industry thought leader

  • Provide your customers with unique insights and solutions to problems that they didn’t know they had

  • Change the purchasing decisions your customers make 

  • Generate content you can use sustainably throughout the year.

Once this insight is in your arsenal, you can use it as a key pillar for your content strategy all year round. Not only will this help you get the greatest return possible for your investment, but it’s also one of the best ways to build a comprehensive editorial programme with a consistent message and thread.

You can repurpose the findings into alternative formats to serve the whole marketing funnel. This will give you a variety of touchpoints to engage customers who are looking for information on your topics. It will also help you create collateral to support your sales teams, fuel conversations with clients and allow you to gather opinions and perspectives from customers and influencers in the market. Which in turn will fuel more ideas for additional content creation. 

The list goes on...

Want to find out more about how research can underpin your 2021 strategy? Call us on 020 3877 3800 or email contact@alan-agency.com to speak to one of our consultants at alan.

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