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Don’t Fear the Librarian April 9, 2010

Posted by Jack Macholl in Market Research.
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COMMON SENSE MARKETING

WISDOM BRIDGE MARKETING L.L.C.

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MARKET RESEARCH-THE BEGINNING AND DESTINATION POINTS IN IMC

 For those who have studied integrated marketing communications or “IMC” we realize that research is the beginning and destination point of the IMC process.  In essence, we can never stop learning or evaluating the changing world and our effectiveness as players within it.

 Today research seems to have fallen by the wayside with business owners reverting to “intuition” or “gut instincts” to make product offer and marketing decisions.  Not to discount the importance of knowing one’s field, however, running marketing or product programs solely from instinct or anecdotal information is a risky practice at best.

 In order to begin writing a strategy based IMC plan you must be able to develop a “Situation Analysis”– a combination of internal and external factors

Budget the prevalent research ‘stifler”

 In recent years money to fund market research has been difficult to come by. That said it is not impossible to find low or no-cost sources to study the market, your competitors and identify new areas of opportunity.

 For purposes of this post, let’s assume that you are already compiling internal (research) information– data on sales, profits, market share, strengths/weakness analysis, (SWOT) client service and return on marketing investment.

 I’m going to the library-really!

That’s right— although once most of us finish school we rarely see one, your municipal or university library is be a fantastic source of market research data. Since the common complaint I hear is lack of budget or understanding of the value of paid research by management, this track offers some thoughts on ways to avert these arguments and gain valuable knowledge.

 To compile the latest in common library research sources I reached out to Deb Whisler, Director of Marketing and Public Relations and Jason Kuhl, Information Services Manager my contacts at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library www.ahml.info  in the suburbs northwest of Chicago.

 The Arlington Heights Memorial Library is a fantastic repository of information that spans traditional printed reference sources to the latest electronic databases. Certainly each community has different resources, so be sure to visit or phone your local library experts to discuss your research objectives and narrow down some quality local (tangible-printed sources) or online resources.

 If it has been a long time since you have been to the library, you might be surprised to find out you can use many library resources without ever leaving your home or office.  Most subscription databases available at the library are also available remotely to library cardholders through the library’s website.  If a question comes up while you are using one of the databases, many libraries offer a chat reference service that allows you to chat online with a librarian without ever having to leave your chair!

 For External factors, let’s explore the possibilities:

 External research essentially covers factors or “forces” occurring outside of your business. Depending on what your organization does this factor will vary but we’ll concentrate on the essential information you’ll likely need to construct a plan that adequately identifies challenges and opportunities.

 As you prepare to visit with a business librarian you’ll want to consider specific requests and the end-purpose, so they can provide maximum guidance and support.

 General literature search-  Largely articles about your organization sometimes referred to as a “content analysis,” this search can unveil what the marketplace (consumers/competitors) are saying about you. This data can be derived from basic search engine queries, however most libraries have access to one or more databases you can use to locate articles specifically from business magazines.  Two of the most popular are:

  •  Gale Business & Company Resource Center
  • EBSCO Business Source

 General industry search– you can often uncover industry trends in print sources and through inquiry within subscription database sources that may be in place at your library.

 There are a number of resources and subscription databases that provide industry information. Some of the best are:

  •  Standard & Poor’s Industry Surveys available in print volumes and as part of the Standard and Poor’s Net Advantage database, this source offers detailed, up-to-date analysis of more than fifty industries.

 

  •  Plunkett Researchthis database provides a thorough analysis of over thirty industries. Information includes detailed market research and trends; company profiles; statistics; and associations.

 

  •  Market Share Reporterthis print volume is a compilation of market share reports for companies, products and services.

 Learning about Consumers

This is a massive area to cover, however; successful marketing and product development requires meaningful offers and advertising messages that will resonate with a particular demographic group(s). Understanding who your clients or benefactors are lets you identify:

  • Who are your consumers/supporters?
  • What products do they use?
  • What type of lifestyle category do they belong to?-psychographics
  • What motivates them to buy products or donate to charities?

Some of the essential research sources to answer consumer questions include:

  •  The United States Census www.census.govthe place to go for demographic information.

 

  •  Sourcebook of Zip Code Demographics and Sourcebook of County Demographicsthese volumes offer demographic and income information along with spending indices  for every county and zip code in the country.

 

  •  Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS) Lifestyle Market Analystprovides information about interests, hobbies, and activities by demographic area.

 Exploring research sources for business to business planning

 Learning about businesses- sometimes referred to as “firm-a-graphics” this information is particularly important in business-to-business (B-to-B) applications.

       There are a number of sources you can use to learn about companies.  Among the essential sources available to help you acquire detailed company information include:

  •  Lexis Nexisdatabase that contains detailed company profiles that include financial, legal, and intellectual property information. Much of the information is provided by Hoover’s, another standard source for company information.

 

  •  Dun and Bradstreet Million Dollar Databasea database containing company profiles for public and private companies

 

  •  ValueLine Investment Surveygeared toward investors, these reports provide important financial information for publicly traded companies.

 

  •  EDGAR http://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml    Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system of the Securities and Exchange Commission. It can be used to retrieve filings from public traded companies.

 

  •  State Manufacturers Directories—published for each state, these provide basic information about manufacturers. 

 There is no question that the time you spend on market research will supply functional data that provides a foundation for product (offer) and marketing (promotion) that serves the needs and interests of your clients and potential customers.  Delving further into market research also gives you the “diagnostics” that help you understand the impact of new offers and associated marketing campaigns on sales or contributions (in the case of non-profit organizations).

 At the conclusion of the IMC cycle, “evaluation” is the (“back-end”) research phase that requires a look at findings; enabling you to learn and alter your marketing “mix” including distribution (place) and price. After that, you begin again, ready to regroup and embark on the next marketing challenge.

 Today’s business owners and marketing professionals need to adapt and reinvent themselves to remain competitive. Do not give up hope when research funds are cut or eliminated— ask the librarian, it worked when you were a kid didn’t it?

  Are you ready to begin the research phase with these new tools and begin exploring opportunities for your organization?

 For additional articles on Integrated Marketing and Research subjects you can also visit www.wisdombridgemarketing.com/articles

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