According to a recent informal poll of professional service marketers, we found that they spend time researching industries, but not much time researching their competitors or buyers. The poll was taken during a webinar we presented on smart market research.
Without researching your competitors, you don’t know how to differentiate your value proposition against theirs. Then the decision for buyers comes down to price and basic first impressions. If you don’t research your key buyers, how do you know what they really care about in a professional service relationship? Knowing what they care about helps you guide the purchase decision.
We presented the webinar because market research is one of our specialties. We also did it because a trending topic right now is big data. We aim to shed some light on how to apply the power of data to accounting marketing.
What is Big Data?
Very basically, big data is the collection of large samples of data to try to predict behaviors and preferences. By looking at the data, we can draw conclusions about which products or services may interest someone. To see big data in action, you only need to go online to Amazon or Facebook and wait for the data behind those sites to automatically suggest a product “you might like.”
At the recent AICPA Engage! Summit, we played off of big data by asking visitors at our booth to choose some preferences. If they had to choose only one, would they keep their “wine or phone?” Do they tend to watch “cable TV or Netflix?” Are they best known for “innovation or client focus?”
See the results of our big data sample here.
SMART Market Research
By looking at the patterns of how people choose and buy, you begin to understand how your communication needs to change to land referrals. But you don’t need a giant algorithm machine to figure that out. You can conduct some SMART market research.
Why do you want to — or need to — conduct research? What is your end game?
What information are you missing for decision-making that this research can support?
What vehicle will you use to collect the data you need? Is it a survey? Interviews? An outsourced expert? What questions are you asking and why? What’s your budget?
What is the timeline and logistics of conducting the research? What happens after your collect the data? Who is in charge of overseeing the collection of data in process to make sure it’s thorough and meets goals?
Who has the expertise to review and draw conclusions from the data once it’s collected? Who can translate what it means?
- Tell the World.
In what ways will you leverage this data to take action? Will it be internal action or external action or both? Who is in charge of communicating the conclusions and who will confirm the accuracy of the communication?
Using the SMART acronym for your research, you can then delve into the world of Google analytics and start finding out how people are coming to your website, what they are searching for, which sites drew them in, and what that says about what you should deliver on your website.
For example, you may already have some (or many) key phrases you are using to rank well on Google. But that means nothing if they are the wrong key phrases. You need to really understand how your buyers think when they have a need.
Does a real estate developer really type in “tax services” or does that potential buyer type in, “tenant retention strategies?” Think about it.
Market research will help you determine how your buyers are thinking about their needs and even which articles you should write to answer their questions. Big data is here, and it can help you predict the next big business opportunity. But you have to be SMART about it.