Research will save you from catastrophe

We talk a lot about the need to do good research in marketing but we aren’t always so keen…

Most of the time we have preconceived ideas about things and we feel lazy when it comes to change our minds.

Mainly because research takes time and effort, and it may even involve spending some cash.

But the reality is that without data which allows us to make the right decisions, the chances of succeeding with our businesses are much lower.

Studying your target audience and your competitors is essential and there are many reasons for that.

We’re going to take a look at some of them.

Trust me, once you shake off your laziness and start doing research it’s even fun.

You feel a bit like those investigators in the movies, spying on people.

You also learn lots.

Let’s see what the advantages of doing research are and how you can put yourself in Jessica Fletcher’s shoes, from “Murder she wrote”.

Luckily no one has died here.

You do research so your business won’t die, which is a very different thing!

Reasons to do research in marketing

  • Studying the consumers’ reaction to your product before launching it will provide you with big chunks of wisdom. It can make you see the chances of success before you invest more money in marketing and product development.
  • You can also compare it with other products that are already in the market. You’ll have the opportunity to improve it if consumers think it’s not as good as others.
  • Good research will help you choose the design of the packaging, for instance. You can test how easy it is to open. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to open a can or a box to get the product out.
  • It will also help you to better define your target audience. Male or female, education level, lifestyle, etc.
  • It can help you define the factors that are important to customers before choosing a product or the words they use to define it.
  • Research will help you identify the promise. The promise is that main benefit your product or service offers to the consumer which will be the basis of your marketing strategy.

Ogilvy in his book “On Advertising” tells us the anecdote of the writer Samuel Johnson who said, more than 2 centuries ago “Promise, large promise is the soul of an advertisement”. His best friend Henry Thrale had inherited a brewery that brought them more pain than joy and when they wanted to auction it off Mr. Johnson said “We are not here to sell boilers and vats but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice”. This man was a hell of a copywriter without knowing it!

  • Good research will help you decide which lead magnet works best. The lead magnet is that material you offer for free in exchange for an email address. It must be interesting enough for your buyer persona, who is fed up of receiving hundreds of emails a day, to be willing to sign up to your mailing list in exchange for that free material. It can be an e-book, a webinar, a short course sent with an email sequence, etc.
  • Research will also serve you as back up when defending your idea in front of your boss or your client. You can show them that your opinion is not just your opinion but that of most consumers.
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OK, we’ve seen the main advantages of doing research. Let’s look now at the different methods that exist today to get the information we need.

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Main marketing research methods


Surveys are the safest way to get valuable information directly from consumers.

If you don’t have a lot of means, don’t worry, today we have different ways of carrying surveys without having to invest too many resources.

For example, you can ask in social media groups if they are willing to answer a few questions.

If you don’t get many volunteers think about offering something interesting in return, such as a free sample or material like a guide or e-book.

The number of respondents you need will depend on the type of information you are looking for.

For example, if you want to know if a technical word needs more explanation, you can ask a dozen people who are part of your target audience.

Imagine that you want to know if most people understand the acronym AI. If you ask 10 people and 5 don’t understand it, then you’ll have to write down Artificial Intelligence to make it clear.

However, if you’re looking to identify trends over time, you’ll have to consider a larger group so the results are representative.

For example, if you want to know if working from home will be a trend after a pandemic, you’ll need to choose a larger number of respondents and ask them the same questions over a period of time.

Customers’ reviews about your competition

Here again, social media is an excellent source of research.

Now we know why they exist, don’t we? Companies want to know how they can sell us things.

You can also use them to find out what people think about certain products, how they react to an advertisement, etc.

Knowing what customers think about your competition will help you designing your own marketing strategy.

Your own customers’ feedback

Your customers are going to be honest with their opinion.

Send them a questionnaire after they have used your product or service.

If the response rate isn’t high enough offer them a discount or some kind of benefit to encourage them to spare a few minutes.

Try not to ask too many questions but encourage them to be specific. Don’t ask questions that can only be answered with a yes or no answer.

Ask questions that need some explanation and help them providing examples so they don’t have to think too hard.

Or, if you prefer, offer them a range of possible answers to choose from.

But above all, make sure the questionnaire don’t take too long.

I still remember my second job in Paris when I didn’t speak so much French yet.

I was doing telephone surveys in Spanish for car manufacturers like Renault, Peugeot, etc.

The surveys were extremely long and if the customer got fed up and hung up halfway, the survey was no longer valid.

I’d sweat lots trying not to lose their interest: “Don’t hang up on me, please, we’re almost done!”

These surveys were over half an hour long!

I still managed to get almost everyone to answer all the questions but it was really hard. My trick was adding funny remarks now and then…

Anyway, even today I’m amazed at how eager most people are to give their opinion, so take advantage of it.

Call your customers.

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A/B tests

A/B tests are widely used in marketing and advertising.

You can’t imagine the impact that changing a word in a headline or a photo on an ad can have in the final results.

By doing this kind of tests you will find the winning formula.

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The promise, the greatest triumph of our research

This is the most important reason you should do research.

So you identify that main benefit on which you will base all your sales strategy.

One way to get to that big promise is to choose several benefits of your product or service and ask your target audience to rate them.

The one that scores the highest will be your big promise.

Another way is to create two ads with two big promises and see which one gets better results.

If that big promise you have chosen after your research is already used by the competition, bad luck, you will have to keep looking.

Your big promise has to be unique and desirable in the eyes of your buyer persona.

In order to get to the big promise your research needs to answer these questions:

– What’s keeping your ideal customer awake at night?

– What does he desire the most?

– How could your product or service make her life easier?

– How would you help him be more attractive or have more money or more time?

Sometimes just changing the angle of how you present that great promise can make all the difference.

Let’s look at an example.

Do you remember the Levi’s ad Twisted to fit?

They were actually just introducing a new line of jeans which seams weren’t straight but crooked.

Their big promise is that the seams were this way to fit better (Twisted to fit). This at the same time made the jeans more comfortable to wear, after years of wearing tight jeans that almost cut off your blood circulation.

With these jeans you can twist without a problem.

You know, whenever you feel like it, give your big promise a slight “twist”.

The headline should be the expression of your great promise.

In order to write a great headline you need to put the creative part of your brain to work after completing your research.

Write as many interesting expressions of the benefit of your product or service as you can and choose the one you find most compelling, fresh and sincere.

Rewrite this sentence until it shines and is worthy of a great headline.

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I hope that after reading this post you’ve convinced yourself how important it is to do research before writing your sales copy and deciding what kind of ads you want to create.

I will finish this post by quoting again Ogilvy, who was a great advocate of research in times when it was not common practice in the marketing world:

“Many agencies and clients misuse research. They use it to prove that they are right. They use research like a drunkard uses a lamppost, not to enlighten them but for support”.

I love this analogy because it illustrates perfectly the idea of how you should use the results of your research.

Don’t be like the drunkard and let the data enlighten you.

See you around!

Sobre Elena de Francisco

Siento un placer inmensurable aplastando textos zombis que no dan resultados y transformándolos en textos llenos de vida que provocan muchas ventas.

About Elena de Francisco

I find real pleasure in crushing zombie copy that doesn’t provoke any emotion and turning it into vivid words that convert prospects into smiley paying customers.


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