Using Free Market Research In Advertising

As our guide to market research page states, there are several important uses for market research data. One of the most important is – in a nutshell – to find out more about your customers and target market. You can use this insight to action improvements or dictate strategy. This usage of data may not be a revelation to you, and even if it is, a quick search on Google will reveal a wealth of information on this area: how to target your interview, what questions to ask, how to ask them, and so forth.

So for our first post, I’m going to focus on another important use: using data in advertising. Small business and start-ups usually don’t think of using data in their marketing campaigns. That’s not surprising: many see market research as an expensive add-on that takes money away from an often meagre advertising budget.

If you’re working in a start-up or small business, carrying out market research to bolster an advertising campaign can seem like an expensive luxury that doesn’t add anything to the message, regardless of how you are trying to get that message across: radio, website banners, newspapers, leaflets, downloadable infographics, etc. Free market research obviously overcomes the ‘expensive’ part, but how can market research add value to your campaign?

It’s actually very simple. In your advertising, it’s likely that you’ve made a claim about a product or a service that you are selling: you’re the best at what you do, you’re knowledgeable about your industry, you’re the most approachable… Great if you’ve got a track record, as you can ask previous clients to write a short recommendation for you, but what if your business is just getting going? That’s where data comes in.

Let’s start with the first example “you’re the best at what you do”. Quite a bold claim if you’ve not yet had any clients! But think about this: how will your customers be judging you? Depending upon your industry it’s going to vary – a wedding dress fitter might be judged upon their ability to customise dresses to their client’s exact wishes and giving their clients a stress-free experience. On the other hand an accountant’s clients might want to know that the accountant is accredited and fully up-to-date on tax law.

Chances are that you know what your potential clients will be looking for when considering whether to purchase from you – it may even be so obvious to you that you’ve never actually defined it to yourself. But why not use free market research to back up your claims and make people believe you when you say that you are the best?

Instead of “we will customise your wedding dress and provide a stress free experience”, what about: “89% of people think that it’s important wedding dress fitters are able to customise dresses to their client’s exact wishes, and 78% of you think that brides should feel pampered when having a fitting for their wedding dress – and that’s where WE come in!”.

It shows prospective clients that you know about them, and that you care about them. Data legitimises your opinions – even when those opinions are about yourself. Does it matter if most of the respondents to the survey were not brides? Of course not: just because you’re not a bride, it doesn’t mean your opinion about how brides should be treated doesn’t count.

Let’s take another example, this time from the accountant start-up, “you’re knowledgeable about your industry”. Now you could advertise your knowledge by announcing your accountancy exam scores to all who will listen, but it probably won’t mean much to anyone, and who is to say whether scores from an exam you took five years ago bears any relevance today? But there are other ways to show off your knowledge using data. Why not conduct some free market research to see how many people are aware of the latest, or impending, tax return regulations?

“Only 9% of people are aware that the way you file your tax returns changes next year. I’m here for the other 91%”. So now people who see this advertising and who reside in the 91% mentioned previously are uncomfortably aware that their knowledge is lacking – but at least they know that someone is on their side (you!). It doesn’t matter that most people won’t file their own tax returns and so do not necessarily need this knowledge. The stat still makes the message clear to those who do.

Finally, let’s take a look at “you’re the most approachable” as a claim for a hairdressing salon (and this is a good example of how to have a bit of fun with free market research). Rather than simply stating how friendly you are in your advertising, maybe you should try proving it with a stat that makes people smile.

“31% of you always appreciate being offered a coffee in a hairdresser, even though you always turn it down”. Here you’ve given people a little glimpse into other people’s lives (if they are not coffee drinkers) or into their own lives (if they are). Either way, you’ve made a connection.

That's just a few examples of how you can use free market research to make your advertising more attactive to potential customers, but hopefully it's inspired you to think about how you can adapt these principles to your own business. In the next post, I’ll be writing about how to use data in blogs – and how using data will mean that you will ALWAYS have something to write about.

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