As a marketer, one of the most important strategies to employ when making a change to your website, your product, or how you communicate with your customers is gathering and analyzing the appropriate data to guide your business decisions. Proper research can give you insight into your customers, your competitors, and your products, and it can help you make the most of your marketing dollars.
There are a plethora of research tools available to you. In addition to traditional tools like focus groups and observation, current technology has vastly increased the range of options, offering new techniques such as web analytics, online surveys, and social media analysis.
These tools, when properly used, can yield useful, actionable data, helping you reach your business objectives. Used improperly, they can overwhelm you with large amounts of out-of-context information that can obscure the answers you're looking for.
Having access to a full range of research techniques is like having a well stocked toolkit in your workshop. It gives you the capability to build a range of models, but entails the responsibility of learning how to use each tool correctly. We'll outline the process of determining which of the many research techniques available will allow you to reach your business objectives, and provide examples to illustrate the approach.
Step 1: Defining the business goals
Before selecting a research approach, it's important to consider and articulate the goals of the project. Just as you would decide on the parameters of a home repair project before selecting the tools you'll use to complete it, you should consider what you want to do with your research before deciding on the approach you'll take.
Your goal should be focused and provide some guidance to your research. A very general goal, such as "a better website," won't give much direction to your research. What does a better website mean for your company? One useful way of thinking about the goal is to consider the differences between a successful launch and an unsuccessful one. Perhaps success means more sales on your site; perhaps it means users recommend your product to others; perhaps it means more people are aware of your product. Each of these definitions of success requires different types of tools to assess.
Finally, whenever possible, try to set specific, quantifiable goals. Using numbers as targets will help you to better access movement toward those goals.
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