This statement might sound completely ludicrous to some people. To them, market research is all about collecting information about their customers, the products that they are selling, the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns, economic conditions or anything else that can influence their bottom line. It’s a huge part of developing their marketing strategy. But, it isn’t marketing.
If you are one of those people, you either haven’t embraced inbound marketing as a viable way of generating leads and increasing sales or you don’t understand what market researchers do.
If you look up inbound marketing in Wikipedia, it lists two definitions.
The old definition of inbound marketing is market research.
However, the other definition is more in line with what people often refer to when they currently mention inbound marketing. This definition states that inbound marketing is a marketing strategy that focuses on getting found by customers.
HubSpot, a leader in inbound marketing, teaches that in addition to getting found (i.e., creating, optimizing and promoting your content), you also need to find ways to maximize conversions and analyze the results of your efforts in order to be a successful inbound marketer.
In a blog post, titled “Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing,” Brian Halligan, CEO and Founder of HubSpot, writes, “Rather than doing outbound marketing to the masses of people who are trying to block you out, I advocate doing “inbound marketing” where you help yourself “get found” by people already learning about and shopping in your industry. In order to do this, you need to set your website up like a “hub” for your industry that attracts visitors naturally through search engines, the blogosphere, and social media. I believe most marketers today spend 90% of their efforts on outbound marketing and 10% on inbound marketing, and I advocate that those ratios flip.”
Now that we have a basic understanding about what inbound marketing is, let’s now look at what many market researchers do.
Part of the purpose of doing market research is to uncover information that will help identify what your potential customers need, how your products or services are fulfilling their needs, what your competitors are doing to fulfill their needs and what environmental factors will have an impact on what your potential customers will need in the future.
After collecting the information either through primary research (e.g., surveys, focus groups, observational studies, experiments, etc.) or secondary research, it is usually the job of those in market research to organize the data in an accurate and easily understandable format that can be delivered to the client. The data is often presented in written form (e.g., reports, white papers, blog posts, etc.) However, it could just as easily be delivered in person or via podcasts, webinars, online videos or any other way that people can communicate with each other.
Furthermore, after doing research on specific topics, the market researchers who conduct the research often gain so much knowledge about the topics that they are researching that they become thought leaders or subject matter experts in that particular area of business. This will often give them access to even more people who they can collaborate with.
In other words, market researchers are huge content creators.
In fact, I would argue that most of the content that your potential customers find valuable has some information that was influenced by market research in one form or another. (Note: I am focusing on information that was created to educate consumers about a product, service or industry, not content that was created for entertainment purposes.)
Inbound Marketing and Market Research
We have already established that market researchers are by definition content creators.
But, I would argue that the other areas of inbound marketing also involve a form of market research.
Market research adds value to the content and valuable content helps generate links to your website or blog. Therefore, market research helps with search engine optimization. (It also doesn’t hurt to conduct market research to find out what your potential customers find valuable in the first place.)
I’d even argue that search engine optimization, itself, is a form of market research. It definitely requires many of the same skill sets.
And, when promoting your content, it is always suggested that you measure and test the effectiveness of your efforts. Testing and measuring the effectiveness of your content promotion efforts are forms of market research.
Measuring and testing also play a part in maximizing the conversion process.
And, analyzing the final results of your inbound marketing efforts… yep, that’s market research.
From Market Researcher to Marketer
If you asked me 10 years ago what I did for a living, I would have told you that I was a market researcher.
At that time, even I didn’t really think of myself as a marketer even though I was involved in the marketing of the research products and services that I helped create. (Note: CUNA Research was using inbound marketing techniques to market their products and services before the term was even coined. Need proof? The Research Review articles that are listed in my publication list could very well be described as blog posts. Blog posts, that in my opinion, delivered value to the reader.)
It wasn’t until I started learning about inbound marketing and content marketing that I started to see myself as a marketer, rather than a market researcher.
As more marketing campaigns move online, businesses will gain additional access to analytics that will help them better understand the needs of their customers.
Furthermore, with the increased use of smartphones, savvy businesses will make it extremely easy for consumers to find them no matter where they look. Providing relevant and useful information to consumers when they search for their products, services or industry will give these businesses an edge over their competition.
This makes it even more important for businesses to have people on staff who have the knowledge and training to accurately interpret data and present it in a clear and concise way so that it can be effectively communicated to their potential customers.
With that said, the line between marketer and market researcher is being blurred, so much so that they are often one and the same.
Therefore, the next time you are looking to fill a marketing position, don’t overlook job applicants who have a background in market research. Their skill sets may be more valuable than you think.
Photo credit: jeckman on Flickr.