Types of marketing research to learn about your customers

6 min read
Juned Ghanchi

For any business to stay competitive and grow, knowledge about their target customers plays a pivotal role. You need to have a solid grasp over your market, customers and competition, which is only possible with in-depth marketing research. In this post, we will explain various types of marketing research, tools and avenues that small businesses might find helpful.

Related: Customer retention — 5 tips to keep clients coming back

Primary methods

Let's begin our list of the types of marketing research with primary market research methods. In the case of primary research, you or someone you hire gathers the information instead of only reviewing feedback gathered by someone else.

1. One-to-one interviews

This involves interviewing experts in your industry. Such discussions can be carried out face-to-face, on video conference or over the telephone.

Though interviews are generally conducted with acclaimed experts, you can also interview a selected group of likely customers. This method works best for expert advice.

2. Market surveys

Surveys are one of the most common types of marketing research. Surveys can provide a solid understanding of:

  • What your customers want
  • What they’re willing to pay for it
  • Who they are (age, household income, etc)

The size of the survey audience is a crucial factor in achieving precise results. Generally speaking, the more completed surveys you gather, the more reliable your findings. Learn how to carry out a survey here.

3. Sending questionnaires

While surveys are carried out to get a large pool of information for statistical analysis, questionnaires are sent to a smaller groups of people to collect stories and comments.

This market research method works great for customer feedback and satisfaction analysis.

It gives more detail compared to the information fetched by customer surveys. Questionnaires need to be shorter to get more people to respond.

4. Study of focus groups

Types of Marketing Research Focus Group
Focus groups bring customers together to talk about your product or service.
Photo: You X Ventures on Unsplash

Focus groups are nothing but a representative selection of customers who will be observed and asked questions. This method offers relevant insights about customer behaviour, purchasing patterns and customer feedback.

This is an excellent method for:

  • Price testing
  • Comparing the effectiveness of various advertising concepts
  • Product testing
  • Customer message testing

For example, for an online garment store, you might select a group of customers representing different buying frequencies, demographics and behavior patterns.

You can hold a focus group in person, through video conferencing or over the telephone. This method gives you a clearer idea on why a customer makes purchases and how this process could be given a boost.

5. User groups

Similar to the study of focus groups, user groups also offer a proper way to get customer feedback.

User groups are mainly used for user experience (UX) research.

This type of research allows those who make websites, software and apps to watch real people using them. As per this method, user groups discuss various features and their experiences with a product while researchers capture their comments. They may even be given tasks to complete on the website or in the app as the researchers watch.

6. Test marketing campaigns

This research method can give you insights on how your ads, web pages and social media posts work (or don’t work) with likely customers.

From validating the success of a landing page to evaluating the marketing message copy to testing the success potential of the call to action buttons, this method is effective for an array of purposes.

For this test, you can utilise free tools like the free version of the Google Optimize to find out how your campaigns are doing in fulfilling your intended goals.

Secondary methods

Types of Marketing Research Man on Laptop
Secondary research includes public information available to everyone.
Photo: Sopan Shewale on Unsplash

Secondary research is particularly useful for small businesses that cannot afford cost-intensive primary research techniques. These methods can be tried initially, and the above-mentioned can be adopted as the business grows.

1. Competitor analysis

This is about knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the products or services offered by other businesses in your industry. You need to consider the companies of the same size, similar product/service and the same type of customers.

Crunchbase Pro is a great way to know how companies are faring in your category. The tool also provides information about web traffic and revenue estimates for your competitors.

2. Your internal sales data analysis

Internal sales data is something any business owner can easily access. Sales data can reveal a bounty of insights, including:

  • Customer trends and buying patterns for each product category
  • The profitability of each product segment, etc.

By comparing the analysis results with your marketing plans, you can easily understand which products and customer segments deserve more of your focus. Internal sales data analysis is great for validating your marketing efforts and making strategic decisions.

3. Public data and statistics

Any market researcher has to consider publicly available data and relevant statistics with utmost importance. These data points give you an overall scenario for building a strategy to reach your target customers.

The World Bank, U.S. Census Bureau and Pew Research Center are some of the most trusted resources for insights and data on larger market trends and demographics.

4. Industry publications and resources

Every industry has a few publications that are widely respected for forecasting trends and publishing industry news and statistics. Some traditional market research companies also make data available to the public. These resources are great for understanding industry-specific trends and impending forecasts. Just search “publications + your industry” to see a list.

5. Other methods

Apart from all the above resources and methods for marketing research, there are several other ways to gather useful information.

Types of Marketing Research Facebook on Mobile Phone
You can learn a lot about your customers by listening to them online.
Photo: Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash
  • Take part in Facebook groups attended by your likely customers
  • Post and see responses and queries in Quora and Reddit
  • Engage with industry influencers across social platforms

Such tactics make it possible for businesses with no money for research to take a pulse of the market.

Concluding types of marketing research

Large multinationals and big companies no longer dominate marketing research. Small businesses can also avail the benefit of market research now, thanks to an array of free or low-cost tools and do-it-yourself tactics.

This information will allow you to make better business decisions that win you customers for life. Knowledge truly is power.