Our Top 5 Research Tips for Marketers
By Amanda Spencer, Partner & Researcher
We all do research, every day. We research the weather forecast when deciding what to wear in the morning, we research what hotel to book when we travel, and we research service providers before we decide who to work with.
In marketing, you might research how your company’s products or services would be a good fit for a specific industry or sector. Research about customer preferences can provide insight to help develop new products and run effective marketing campaigns. And research about your competitors can help you identify gaps or opportunities in the market that your business could take advantage of. Done well, research can give you information about your customers, your competitors, and specific industry triggers and topics that will help your company gain an advantage.
Your brand and how people see it, how you’re positioned in the market, and how you stack up against other companies all starts with research.
Here are our top five research tips to help you get started:
Start with the basics. There’s a reason why the phrase “Just Google it” has become a meme: most questions can be answered by consulting a search engine. But don’t rely on Google alone. Other options include Bing and DuckDuckGo, and they’ll all give you slightly different results.
Ask questions in different ways. What do you need to find out? What different words or phrases could you use to ask that question? Often, you’ll need to ask the same question in multiple ways to find the exact information that you’re looking for. Even when you think you’ve got an answer, try a slightly different question; you might be surprised at what you discover.
Use reliable sources. As a first step in researching a complex or unfamiliar topic, Wikipedia certainly has its place. It can be invaluable in helping you gain a general understanding of what you’re researching. It can also help you define the questions you’ll need to ask as you move forward in your research. But as useful as Wikipedia can be as a starting point, it shouldn’t be where you end up because it’s almost impossible to determine who has written a Wikipedia article.
This means that you shouldn’t rely on Wikipedia as a “reliable source” of information. Reliable sources are sources that are knowledgeable about a topic, and that present information in an unbiased manner. They are rarely anonymous. If you’re using material published by an organization, rather than an individual, consider the organization carefully, how trustworthy it might be, and whether it has an agenda that might distort its presentation of specific facts.
Organizations that can generally be trusted to present accurate and unbiased information include government agencies such as Statistics Canada and Revenue Canada, academic research institutions, scientific organizations, and international and intergovernmental agencies such as the United Nations, the European Union and the World Trade Organization. In addition to material published by organizations such as these, Google Scholar is a good place to start your search. It provides access to scientific and research content that has been subject to expert peer review, so you can assume that the information provided is widely considered to be accurate.
Confirm that your information is accurate. If you’ve used reliable sources, this shouldn’t be a problem. But sometimes, sources that are easily available online won’t be the best source of information: they might be outdated, or they might present an overly simplistic view of the data. In these situations, it is worth digging a little deeper. Is there an industry expert you can reach out to? News media can also be a good source of up-to-date information on specific topics.
Keep track of where you find information. Always keep track of the websites you visit and the places you’ve found information. Programs and apps such as Evernote and OneNote offer a range of ways to do this. Find a method that works for you and use it diligently. Don’t rely on your memory, or your browser’s history; once you navigate away from a page it can be hard to remember just what you were looking at. And there’s nothing worse than fielding a question about a fact or idea and being unable to back it up because you can’t track down where it came from.
With these tips, you’re well on your way to using top-notch research for your content and company goals. HeadStart can also help you save time and uncover opportunities so you can be the hero at work. Check out our research services that are ready to go for you.
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