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THE AVERAGE COMPANY spends 3 to 5 percent of revenue on marketing, which is certainly not a trivial expense. Why, then, do so many companies invest so little time in the construction of the marketing plans that ensure their investments are getting results?

Remember that your organization’s steady growth is dependent upon the strength of your marketing plan, and bid farewell to wishful marketing plans that ride on a wing and a prayer. Instead, use research to guide the creation of an informed plan that will generate a predictable return on your investment.

There are two reasons that you should begin building your marketing plan by conducting research. No business owner can be entirely objective about the current situation of his company and the competitive landscape, as well as the honest perceptions and needs of customers and prospects. Research can help you gain the objectivity of an outsider. Research can also help you come to new revelations about your market, industry or customer base. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know — until you engage in market research.

Begin with qualitative research, which is necessary to ensure you fully understand the broad scope of the opportunities for growth, as well as the various obstacles you will face in executing your plan. Qualitative research is subjective in nature and often takes the form of focus groups or interviews with a small sampling of internal or external stakeholders. For example, your internal stakeholders might be your employees, your management or your board of directors. Customers, prospects and influencers would all be considered external stakeholders. You should also incorporate a competitive assessment into your qualitative research by shopping competitors and evaluating their public communications and marketing efforts.

With this new information in hand, you are ready to validate those findings through quantitative, numerical research. Quantitative research is more objective in nature and is based on hard data, often featuring fixed-response options like you would find in a survey. Be sure to survey a large enough number of people, so that you can be confident your findings are accurate. If you skip this step, you risk making major marketing decisions based on small-scale findings that may not be representative of your market.

A high-level financial assessment and marketing audit can also provide valuable insights. When you are conducting the financial assessment, examine your profit margins by product and service line, taking into consideration internal capacity for growth, so that you are crystal clear on where best to apply your marketing dollars. With the marketing audit, pull analytics available from your website, email campaigns and social media efforts, at a minimum, from the prior year.

Research, if properly executed, will inevitably bring to light the most efficient plan to grow your organization.

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RedRover Sales & Marketing

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