The target audience for market research marketing

Surgeon, nurse and anaesthetist

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Snapshot : Research on market research keywords shows a surprisingly small amount of searches on key market research terms. Is market research marketing itself well to it’s target audience of marketing managers and business owners? Market researchers need to think about their own target audience more and spend less time explaining how it’s done. And they need to adapt to the latest trends coming out of digital transformation. 

Marketing always starts with the consumer.

And that means market research.

When we started this website, the first content section we wrote was on market research skills.

The first post on our blog was about market research.


Because, we believe understanding your target audience is the start point for marketing.

The consistent theme that runs through marketing, creative and e-Commerce is understanding your target audience. So we took some time recently to review and update our market research skills guide.  Check out all the quizzes we added for example.

Google Ads Keywords tool

Market research keywords

This review included a review of what market research keywords were popular using Google Ads Keyword planner.

And weirdly, it seems like there’s not a lot of people out there looking for content on market research. Which made us think, is market research marketing itself well?  

While there are some searches for keywords around market research. But really, the numbers are small. Really small.

Now, we do filter on Australia only which will reduce the amount of searches. But for most terms that we looked at, we saw less than 100 searches a month. And in fact, many terms that we thought would be of interest to people were less than 10 searches a month. 

So, with over 2.3m businesses in Australia and the Australian market research industry employing around 10,000 full-time equivalent people, why is it that less than 100 people a month search for terms like market research advice, market research plan or market research proposal?

For an industry that is the start point for marketing itself, it makes you wonder what’s going on to drive that behaviour. Or to be more accurate, that non-behaviour. Is market research marketing itself well to its own target audience? 

Here’s some thoughts

Expertise in market research is not the same as expertise in marketing

Market research is one of the more technical and process-oriented parts of the marketing universe. In fact, until the recent encroachment of marketing technology and it’s need to understand IT and systems, market research was the destination for anyone who had more of a detail and process-centric mind to work in marketing. 

And that’s fine.

There is a need for market research to have standards in areas like sampling, questionnaire design and respondent privacy for example. Because important business decisions get made based on the outcomes. And the views and data of real people need to be protected.

There is a skill set and a way of working behind these requirements that suits certain types of people.

We get it.

But here’s the thing.

Go back to what we said at the start. Understanding your target audience is the start point for marketing. But it’s not the end point. And this is something we think a lot of those smart people who work in market research often forget. 

The end point is the successful commercial connection between a brand and it’s target audience. And usually the ‘driver’ on this journey between the start point and the end point is not a market researcher. It’s a brand or marketing manager. It’s a business owner looking to create momentum and activity and sales growth behind their brand.

Target audience for market researchers

Those types of people are the target audience for market researchers.

But do market researchers really know what this target audience wants?

Does the business owner want actionable answers to their research questions? Or do they want 100 page plus Powerpoint decks?

Do they want clear explanations of why previous campaigns or initiatives did or didn’t work? Or do they want endless charts and p values?

If they saw and approved the research methodology in the brief and proposal, do they really want to give up another 20 minutes to hear it again in the debrief?

Because we know which ones market researchers are more likely to deliver.

Surgeon, nurse and anaesthetist

Only market researchers really care about how market research is done

The market researcher and marketing manager / business owner relationship is a little like the anaesthetist and surgeon relationship. 

If the market research does their job properly, they set the marketing manager up to have a much better chance of success.

But like the surgeon, the marketing manager or business owner won’t care too much HOW the patient got knocked out. Just that they are knocked out, so they can carry on and do the job they need to do.  

And let’s face it, there are elements of market research that are just hard work. That you’d really want someone else to worry about. 

The statistical process behind calculating sample size requirements and confidence intervals in quantitative research for example are mind-numbingly tedious to follow.

We freely admit that despite having worked in and with market research for decades, it’s a process we always need to refer back to notes every time we do it. Even with three-brains, we struggle to make the maths stick in our heads.

And if that’s from our experienced point of view, put yourself in the shoes of the new brand manager or new business owner. Who is more worried about sales targets, and invoicing and customer deadlines. How interesting is a confidence level really? How much brain space to they have for degrees of freedom?

That’s why market research is essentially an outsourced skill for marketers and business owners. Their need for action and results is not satisfied by the technical aspects of market research. So they are happy to outsource it.

And happy to outsource it to those who’ve shown themselves willing and capable of covering off the technical skills of market research.

Is market research marketing keeping up with digital transformation?

Our final thought is that even in our recent experience, most market research is still done similarly to how it was done 20 or 30 years ago.

Qualitative, quantitative and secondary research form the bulk of the work done in market research. And yes, technology might help some of these processes become more efficient these days. Online samples for quant. The vast library of secondary research available through Google for example. But our perception is that market researchers are on the whole a conservative bunch. They stick to what they know. 

If we look at the list of training topics available on the Australian Research society’s events calendar for example, the topics are heavily focussed on market research processes and techniques.

We don’t doubt that Sense-making, Scenario Thinking and Semiotics in Digital Media Analytics are interesting topics for market researchers. But for the target audience of market researchers – remember, marketing managers and business owners – we’d struggle to see how these topics would be converted into activity that will hit next month’s or next year’s sales targets. 

Read through the rest of the list of topics all the way up to end of the year. There’s a common thread on how to “do” market research better. But we struggled to find any topics, that would cover how to “market” market research better. It’s a very inward-looking list. 

In conclusion

We know and work with many market researchers. It’s not the first time we’ve banged the drum about the way they work. And let’s face it, marketing managers and business owners are by no means perfect. 

But we believe market research is just too important to any business, not to constantly push for market researchers to continually raise their game.

We’ve previously recommended Big Data* by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger as a must-read for anyone who works with or in market research.  

The opportunities for market research and it’s ability to influence the chance of your business success has never been higher.

We have a tsunami of data about consumers and what they want and do flowing through our digital ecosystems. And yet, here in 2020, we’re still making decisions based on watching random focus groups of half a dozen people through a 2 way window just like we did in the last century. 

We sincerely hope that all those smart people in the market research world put their brains together and come up with smart ways to do market research marking better in the future.

We’re speaking as their target audience.

Just like you. 

* As Amazon Affiliates, we earn from qualifying purchases

Credit : Surgery photo by Olga Guryanova on Unsplash

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