Market research in the marketing plan

Market research lets you gets closer to the world of your target audience. When you understand their needs and how they think and feel, you can be more confident in the choices you make in your brand activation and innovation and communication plans. But how do use market research in the marketing plan? Read our guide to find out more. 

Market research in the marketing plan

How this guide raises your game

1. Understand market research in demand forecast, new product development and communication plans.

2. How to identify key insights to build your brand story.

3. How to use market research in the marketing mix.

There are three common areas where you can use market research to support the marketing plan.

Firstly, to measure demand so you can forecast opportunities.

Secondly, in product or service research, especially marketing innovation.

And finally, to test changes in the marketing mix, especially in marketing communications development.

We will cover each of these below.

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Market research for demand measurement and forecasting

This is a common use of market research.

As we outline in our guide on segmentation, targeting and positioning, it is usually not efficient or impactful to go after the total market.

Relevance counts a lot when it comes to how consumers make choices about which products to buy. It is impossible for one brand to be relevant to everyone.

You can therefore use market research in the marketing plan to identify the most attractive segments for your brand.

Looking external through a lens

Where you have products that appeal to multiple segments, you can use market research to identify how many people are in each segment. You can also use market research to check how often they buy and how much they spend.

Size of prize

These types of numbers give you a ‘size of prize’ per segment. How many dollars is each segment worth in terms of sales?

If you also use your market research to identify historic and future purchase behaviour, you can also identify whether that segment is in growth or decline.

This type of information can help inform how you position your brand identity and develop your marketing communications.

If you are a beer brand for example, you might use market research to question how much of a concern putting on weight is to beer drinkers.

We know research like this identifies that older males and women worry about this more than younger drinkers. So many of the lower-carb and lower-calorie beer options position themselves as for the more mature drinker.

When you put together a business case for external investors or for internal management, market research gives a degree of confidence in your plans.

The fact you have asked your target audience their needs and intentions means that your plans are much more likely to be relevant and succeed.

This is why demand measurement and forecasting is one of the most common uses of market research in the marketing plan.

Market research for products and services

As consumer needs change over time, smart brands track these changes and adapt themselves to these changing needs.

This leads to a lot of market research in the marketing plan being used for product and services development. 

Products

With physical products, there can be a regular cycle of upgrades and improvements coming through.

 

Candy bars packaging

This could be from the Research and Development team (if you have one), the manufacturing team, the supply chain team and many other sources.

Perhaps there is a new ingredient which improves the health of the consumer in your food product? Maybe there’s a packaging development which makes the packaging more sustainable or easier to transport? Maybe your product is fashion-led and needs to change colour or shape on a regular basis to keep up with fashion trends?

Services

If you are a service led business, these changes could be technology or people driven.

Maybe a new app is available that makes it easier for consumers to track delivery of an order? Or a new booking system can help consumers make appointments in advance so they receive speedier service? Or perhaps your service delivery team could be trained in a new skill that you think could add extra value to your customers?

Whichever “new” product or service is under consideration, market research can help validate and test the impact of the change.

In general, most people like routine and predictability in their day to day purchases. When you change any element, there’s always a risk that consumers won’t understand or like it.

Testing out concepts and ideas with consumers before you change the whole marketing mix is a way of reducing risk and improving the likely success of any change.

That is why product and services research is another common use of market research in the marketing plan.

Market research for communication and advertising

The final most common use of market research in the marketing plan is to test communication and advertising.

These can be a large part of your marketing investment. So it is common to use qualitative research early in the communication planning. With this approach you aim for a broad understanding.

Does your communication idea work for the target audience? Do they understand it? Will it motivate them to buy your product ? 

Nighttime advertising billboards

You then use quantitative research to validate the likely scale and impact of the message.

How many consumers will like the ad? How many will find it relevant? And how many will be motivated by the ad to buy your product? 

Continuous research is then often used to track the on-going impact of a piece of communication or advertising.

Most advertising does not stick around for ever. It has a life cycle where once consumers have seen it a certain number of times, they start to get used to it. They begin to ignore it. This is called “wear out” in the world of advertising.

Market research can be helpful to identify when and where this wear out happens. So you know when you need to create a new advertising campaign. 

Internal sources

We mentioned in our guide to the market research process that internal sources can also be a helpful source of market research. This is especially true if your brand is online.

As we cover in our data and analytics section in our digital marketing guide, your digital data generates many insights about your audience.

Present market research in the marketing plan

Most market research reports are long and detailed. They cover the methodology of the research, a detailed presentation of all the answers to the research questions, and usually many appendices including data tables and details on statistical analyses.

While, these are important, it can be an overwhelming amount of information. The big challenge for brand owners is to be able to synthesise all the data in to a simple and easy to understand story. A story that drives actions and aligns people to a common vision. 

Here are three different processes and techniques you can apply to your market research results. These can help you get to clear action plans from the market research in your marketing plan. 

The elevator pitch 

A good analysis discipline is to try and synthesise all the information from the market research into an elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is a deliberately short version of the story you want to tell. It should aim to be about 30 seconds long. It is rarely used in an actual elevator.

Which sounds obvious, but we did once have explain to a past customer’s legal team, that our marketing plan elevator pitch wouldn’t actually be presented in an elevator – true story. 

Elevator

Why the elevator pitch exercise works is that you are forced to be concise and make choices.

If you only have 30 seconds, you have to work hard to find only the most important words to fill those 30 seconds. It helps to crystallise what are the really key messages you want to say from your analysis.

We’ve seen a variation on this recently where you have to articulate your idea in a Tweet. Write out the key message using less than the number of characters in a Tweet. Give it a try. It is harder than it sounds. 

But it is the same principle – be concise and make choices.

In the elevator pitch, you typically want to state key findings from your research, what the opportunity is and what’s coming next. That’s about it.

So something like this, would be fine. This is our actual elevator pitch for this part of the website.

“We’ve found people want to learn more about marketing, but they find existing websites too academic, too commercial or too dull.

So we will build marketing content for them with more practical advice in interesting and short articles

Rule of three

You may have noticed a heavy use of the term ‘three’ throughout this website. 

This is not an accident.

The “rule of three” is a common technique used in writing and presenting to create memorable content. It states that people are more likely to remember things in threes.

The brain effectively triangulates complex data into groups of three when it needs to remember things.

 

Rule of 3

The easiest way to prove this is by saying your phone number out loud. It is probably ten or eleven digits long.

But we guarantee that 99% of people will say the numbers in groups of three. “Oh four one four (pause) five five five (pause) five five five”.

Once you hear it, you can’t not notice it next time.

It is why three is so common in story-telling.

Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end.

In jokes – an English man, a Scots man and an Irish man go into a bar – three men!

Listen out for it. Three is everywhere!

Apply the rule of three to market research in the marketing plan

What does this mean from your market research presentation point of view?

You can use the rule of three to expand on your elevator pitch and organise your story into groups of three to make it more likely to be remembered.

So let’s say we were doing an analysis of market research content on this website for example.

We would organise the analysis into two groups of three. The market research process, qualitative and quantitative as one group.

And secondary research, market research companies and putting research into the marketing as a different group of three.

Build a more complete story

The elevator pitch and the rule of three are helpful for when you need to be really concise. Or you want people to remember a core message.

But if you have to present your marketing idea to an investor or a senior manager, there’s a good chance they will want more detail.

This is when you can generate really valuable uses of market research. 

Business Model Canvas Template

In the past, this would almost certainly have involved pulling together a lengthy powerpoint presentation and / or business plan document.

Though some businesses will still use these, we would like to point you in the direction of the Business Model Canvas approach.

This has become more popular in recent years. We’ve found it a technique to capture a lot of business plan detail in a structured and concise way.

We’ve used this technique dozens of times now and it is almost foolproof.

Business Model Canvas key elements

  • the essence of your target consumers and customers
  • the key capabilities and assets you need to meet consumer needs
  • a short articulation of the value of the idea to your consumers and your business
  •  the basic finances of the proposal.

The model manages to do all this on a single page. It’s very clever, that’s why we like to use it at three-brains.

In conclusion

You cannot be a true marketer if you do not carry out some sort of market research.

Listening to your consumers whether in a focus group, through the results of a questionnaire, or through your digital data or secondary research helps you build a more complete picture of your target audience. 

Market research in the marketing plan increases the quality of your decision making in your brand identity, your communications, your digital marketing and in your overall customer experience.

It helps you test new ideas and make informed decision based on what people actually want or need.

It is a fundamental skill you need to grow your business profitably and to raise your game in marketing. 

Three-brains and market research

We coach and consult on market research and often include market research skill development and market research project delivery as part of our services. We help businesses commission, manage and apply market research.

If you’d like to talk about raising your game in market research as part of our coaching and consulting services, click on the button to fill out the contact form.

Use this market research brief template when working with your market research agency to brief them on market research related tasks.

3 pages including a blank template, a guide to completing each section and an example brief from the vegan ice cream case study in our secondary research skill guide.

Download it here or from our resources section. 

Powerpoint and Keynote versions of this document available on request. 

Market research brief template
Click to download the pdf

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