COVID-19 has had a big impact on consumers and businesses alike.  Consumers’ mindsets and behaviors have shifted, while business operations have changed for many companies.  In addition, the current economic headwinds are making next year to be one of recovery for many business sectors. Now is the time for companies to re-evaluate how they can remain competitive and either bolster or initiate a growth trajectory to ensure 2021 is a better year.    

Implementing a marketing research plan is a nod towards a business looking to grow instead of looking at how to just survive. Such a plan might include utilizing external consulting as well as internal research partners. Either way, the items outlined here highlight ways to identify whether your team or company should consider creating a marketing research plan or changing your research consulting group partnership.  As you review this article, ask yourself if any of the following scenarios apply to you or your business.  A yes indicates that you likely need help in preparing your marketing research efforts for 2021. 

Too much of the same   

A benefit of using an outside vendor for some or all marketing research is objectivity and experience.  But over time this can be dulled or lost.  Partners may adopt too much of the client’s thinking.  They might begin to anticipate needs and wants and deliver what the client wants to hear instead of an objective position or insights. 

If the research conducted is only validating the current situation and what you already know or if a business leader finds the research is not providing new ideas or insights, there might be a need to look for a fresh approach, a new partner.  

Peaks and Valleys instead of a smooth upward trend 

Marketing research helps organizations remove as much of the unknown as possible from a specific topic.  This might come in the form of pricing strategy, messaging, audience adoption, etc.  Gaining insights into market conditions and consumer behaviors improves forecasting and builds strategies that will have considered the positive and negative impacts of a plan.  The result is a more predictable growth plan for an organization. 

While marketing research can provide a granular understanding, if the research is not well designed or does not use the proper methodology, the insights will not align with the strategy or business plan.  If the strategy uses the research, but the results are wildly different from what the research predicted, it may be time to re-evaluate and employ outside help.  A research consultancy can investigate the research approach and design to understand the misses and suggest an approach that is better aligned to the research efforts. 

We have research (but no one uses it) 

Creating a good partnership with marketing research professionals, whether internal or outside consulting, is essential to a business. Its success is grounded in stakeholders and researchers properly defining their needs and challenges.  When there is a good relationship, the synergy between the two groups can yield very productive results.  When communication is lacking or objectives are not fully defined or understood, the relationship cannot reach its full potential. 

If you have reporting and data from completed research that has not been transferred into actionable items on a strategy or were received, reviewed, and then never referenced again, there might be a disconnect with your research team.  It may be time to revisit the research insights and seek additional guidance from partners.  Doing so may either revive the partnership or highlight the need for a more tailored research option than the current resource is able to provide. A consulting firm specializing in a specific area or one that can provide dedicated research might be a viable option. 

The target audience oddly looks the same as last year 

Companies invest in marketing research to obtain reliable information that will guide strategy and growth.  Marketing Research has a shelf life – over time, changes to target audiences, competition, and buyer sentiments will necessitate updated insights so the strategy aligns with the current marketplace. 

Considering the impact 2020 has had, historical research and trending will fall short on guidance going forward.  The need for new research is critical if a company is to capture the current economic and consumer lifestyles that have emerged from the pandemic.  Many businesses can expect significant changes to their audiences as we enter 2021. 

Insufficient resources to address research needs  

Many companies have excellent internal research resources.  They can quickly scale research and deliver insights to stakeholders across an organization.  Their depth of knowledge of the company and the strategy create an efficient and productive alignment that delivers needed knowledge.  But when the list of priorities and research needs go beyond the capabilities or bandwidth of internal resources, the insights needed to properly guide a business may fall short. 

Many organizations look to outside help when the internal team needs assistance to perform unique or complex research projects.  By using outside research, professionals allow the internal team to remain focused on the critical research efforts.  An easy way to identify whether your team is maxed out is to review marketing research requests from the past year and determine what you could not accomplish due to lack of resources or complexity level.  Onboarding a marketing research firm to conduct and support the team with overflow requests can make for a cost-effective resource for a company to complete the needed research. 

As you enter 2021, consider your marketing research plan.  Gathering useful insights to support your company’s growth during this time of uncertainty and change may be more important than ever.  Ensuring the company’s strategy will match the competitive, economic, and social changes can be achieved with a proper plan to implement and utilize marketing research that is aligned with the goals set for 2021.  

Socratic can help your business in developing a 2021 marketing research plan. To learn more, click here.