People with MBAs conducting Marketing Research

Would you send marketing emails about retirement home options to people who have just graduated college? Or run beer commercials during Saturday morning cartoons? Probably not, because the people who would see those emails and ads are not the audience for those products. 

Marketing research helps you target the best audiences for your product and identify the types of campaigns that will appeal to them. Observing demographic trends and competitor strategies will provide you with valuable insights that can innovate and expand your product offerings.

Depending on their budgets and requirements, every organization will conduct their market research uniquely. However, they generally include the following steps (though they may differ in name or approach):

  1. Identify your target audience
  2. Analyze your competitors’ marketing activities
  3. Find opportunities for stronger markets
  4. Evaluate engagement
  5. Identify problems and create solutions
  6. Run tests based on your findings
  7. Restructure your marketing efforts based on your results

1. Identify Your Target Audience

Say you have a coffee brand and you want to maximize your marketing dollars. Targeting the entirety of the coffee-drinking population is too wide-reaching to be an effective strategy, and you’ll end up wasting money trying to engage people who are unlikely to want your product. Fans of frozen, heavily sweetened coffee drinks aren’t likely to resonate with an advertisement for a simple, unsweetened shot of espresso, after all.

Start identifying your target audience by using primary data (also known as direct data) and secondary data. Focus groups, surveys, interviews, and questionnaires are forms of primary data that give you control over who you talk to and the questions you ask.

There are plenty of sources you can use for secondary research, such as census data, articles and reports in industry publications, and online databases. You can also search and monitor social media platforms to see what people are saying about products and services similar to yours. 

After analyzing and segmenting this data, you can create buyer personas—fictional representations of your target markets that incorporate their demographic information, pain points, and preferred methods of communication. These will be useful guides to help you develop your strategies and messaging.

2. Analyze Your Competitors’ Marketing Activities 

See what other businesses in your industry are doing by conducting a competitive analysis to get an overview of the landscape and identify trends and tactics you may be able to leverage in your own efforts. Study what their ads are like and where they appear. Who do they seem to be targeting? What social media platforms do they use? What kinds of content do they create, and how often? Do they get a lot of mentions and pieces in the press? What is their overall brand profile and market share?

3. Find Opportunities for Stronger Markets

Consider functionality, features, pricing, performance, customer service, and brand reputation. Brainstorm strategies to position your product or service in a way that will appeal to an underserved or overlooked target market. One way you might do this is by offering a low-cost option targeted toward people facing socioeconomic hardship. There may even be an opportunity to provide a complementary product or service, which is not only a kind and generous thing to do, but also a great opportunity for brand awareness and perception.

4. Evaluate Engagement

Different audiences prefer to engage with brands on different platforms. Some consumers spend a lot of time on X or Instagram, while others prefer reading newsletters via email. The social management platform Sprout Social has some useful information on the demographics of various social media platforms

Content formats play a part in engagement as well. Some audiences like reading copy, while others prefer short-form video. If your target audience isn’t very active in certain channels, pull back and invest in the ones they do use.

5. Identify Problems and Create Solutions

If you find areas where your efforts are falling short and you’re not seeing the response or conversion rate you’d hoped for, check whether the problem might be your messaging, the format, timing, or other factors. For example, you might be using an ineffective channel. 

If you’re struggling with consumer engagement or creating products that aren’t optimized for your market, you may be facing a value proposition issue. The Pace University MBA offers Value Creation as an elective or Marketing Management course that will teach you how to find innovative opportunities for consumer engagement through the use of technology. 

6. Run Tests Based on Your Findings

Rather than spend a lot of marketing dollars on a tweak that might not work, test it first. A/B testing is everywhere in digital marketing—these tests are easy and cheap to run, and they can deliver valuable results quickly.

For example, try A/B tests by sending emails with two different subject headings or creating two slightly different landing pages to see which one gets more engagement. 

7. Restructure Your Marketing Efforts to Better Connect to Your Target Audience

You may only need to make small changes, such as emphasizing a certain feature of your product in messaging or focusing more on social channels with a wider audience of younger users, such as TikTok. Or you may need to completely rethink your marketing strategy or even adapt your product or service to meet customer needs and preferences. In our hypothetical coffee example, you may find that your target audience prizes convenience. That may lead you to offer your coffee in pods and adapt your messaging to highlight the ease and speed of making your coffee in a pod machine. 

The Value of Marketing Research

Marketing research is a critical part of strategic planning. It helps business leaders make informed decisions that minimize risks, maximize returns, and ensure that resources are allocated efficiently.

Marketing isn’t static, especially in a crowded and competitive business landscape. Businesses must engage in market research activities consistently to A) add or refine products and services and B) monitor how their target market might be changing. Customer tastes and needs evolve, and external factors such as new technologies, economic developments, and changes in cultural norms can completely shift the market. Well-executed marketing research can help ensure you always know who your target audience is, what they want, and what you need to do to attract them.

How an MBA Prepares You To Make an Impact

An MBA can provide you with an advanced understanding of business operations, including marketing, to prepare you for leadership and management roles. Pace University’s MBA program offers a Marketing Management concentration that enables you to dive deeper into marketing research, including learning frameworks for gathering and analyzing information. All of the marketing-focused courses in the program will integrate research in some way, and the concentration overall is dedicated to teaching you how to create and improve the performance of your marketing campaigns. Armed with this expertise, you can make an ongoing impact on organizational objectives as well as the trajectory of your career over a lifetime.

About the Pace University Online MBA and Lubin School of Business

The Pace University online Master of Business Administration (MBA) gives professionals a hands-on learning experience to master the ins and outs of business theory through real world application. This 100% online program has been handcrafted by expert faculty to ensure that students are career-ready upon completion. Choose a Corporate Finance, Marketing Management, or general business concentration.

For over a century, Pace University’s Lubin School of Business has been preparing professionals for fulfilling careers in business. From responsive professor communication to hands-on, project-based learning, we do everything we can to help students succeed.

Pace’s Lubin School of Business has dual accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International, an elite distinction shared by fewer than 2% of business schools in the world. With graduates thriving in companies like AIG, Nickelodeon, L’Oreal, Tesla, and many others, Pace equips students with vital business knowledge, while also creating innovative thinkers that companies want.