In this piece we examine how marketing research can pay big dividends to your sales efforts. Analysis of qualitative and quantitative data about your industry, company, brand, products/services and pricing provides you with an informed definition of who you are, a specific sense of where you are, and a roadmap to guide you where you want to be. At the very least, marketing research should be the bedrock and touchstone of your strategic planning if you seek to have a realistic and measurable plan for success.
Consisting of the processes that identify, define, and evaluate the links between manufacturers, their products, customers, and end users, marketing research seeks to provide clear definitions for manufacturers in four key areas: awareness, targeting, acquisition, and retention. It typically involves the following:
- Brand Awareness
- Readiness to Purchase
- Product Testing
- Advertising or Messaging Testing
Obviously, there are direct benefits of marketing research to marketing communications professionals, but what’s in it for sales?
As it turns out, quite a lot.
Let’s consider the tangible benefits the different types of marketing research provides to sales professionals.
Introductions take up a large part of any sales presentation, so anything that shortens that introduction while differentiating you from your competitors removes the first obstacle to closing a sale. Research into brand awareness provides insight into how you are perceived by prospects, guiding your presentation to address any concerns prospects may have about your company, product, or service. Research can also help identify and segment the most likely prospects who are already familiar with what you’re offering vs. those prospects which require more information and a greater sales effort.
Effective branding reduces the cost of attracting new prospects and customers because it pre-informs your prospects of the solutions you offer.
Readiness to Purchase
A common concern of sales teams is that leads provided for their follow-through are not adequately vetted for interest level. Research can help identify those prospects who are ready to buy, those who need more information/time, and those who are just gathering background information.
But this segmentation doesn’t only help define your customers and potential customers, it can also identify indirect players who can influence your customers’ choices. For instance, you make a product bought directly by commercial building owners or facility managers, but the specifying engineer has a recommendation of which brand to use.
How the features and benefits of a product (or service) compare to those of the competition directly impact the success of a sales team.
Product testing allows manufacturers to confirm the unique features and benefits while also testing brand assumptions (compared with competitive products). This research provides sales professionals first-hand information about what customers expect, how they perceive the attributes provided, and how they interact with products or services. This information can help sales teams tailor their efforts based on empirical evidence of how customers actually interact with what they are selling.
Marketing communications specialists test various positionings and messaging to determine how to best position a product’s attributes to prospective customers. Similarly, sales professionals can use messaging research to determine what elements most resonate with their current and potential customers. In this way, the sales team can concentrate on those attributes that hold value to their customers while bypassing those that don’t.
Sales efforts need to be conveyed with the same branding and voice as the product or service to avoid any potential dissonance with the prospect. A Porsche salesperson rarely speaks of their car’s hauling capacity.
Research is often used to determine achievable pricing goals by delving more deeply into a prospect’s wants and needs, and aligning the product with them. This is how known brands demand higher pricing while separate themselves from commodity products.
Competitive insight research is also utilized to track the attributes and pricing of key competitive products to compare with yours. The key is not necessarily to be the low-cost leader, rather to determine which of your product’s attributes your prospects are willing to support with premium pricing. Sales professionals use this data to construct pricing options such as good-better-best tiers of offerings.
Research is often viewed incorrectly as the purview of marketing communication teams, yet this discipline also plays a key role with forward-thinking sales teams to help determine pricing, messaging alignment, and how to best address prospects to generate a quick sale. If you have questions of how to utilize research for either marketing communications or sales efforts, please contact Studio/D.