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Ready…Fire, Fire, Fire…Aim! (The how and why of marketing research)
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Now that you know why marketing is important, it’s time to learn where to start.

The place to start your marketing is the place most businesses want to skip over—Research and developing a Marketing Plan.


Companies that do research (even occasionally) have 7-10X the growth rate of companies that do no research and are 25-80% more profitable. Consider those numbers before deciding that you shouldn’t spend some time researching your own business.


Since we don’t yet know exactly what you should spend your time researching, it’s best to start by putting together a small marketing plan. Yeah, planning out your marketing can be…tedious…but it’s actually a pretty good tool for

·       Brainstorming ideas

·       Informing you of your next steps

·       Directing your research efforts

There’s nothing like spending hours doing research, only to realize you’ve spent your time looking at all the wrong things! Ouch.


Your Marketing Plan

If you don’t have a good marketing plan outline, you can download one from my website. These things may seem a little overwhelming at first glance, but just make a quick initial pass through it and fill out the parts you already know. For now, we’re going to focus in section 1, Marketing Research. If you go through everything sequentially, it will make your life easier. When you’ve gone through the outline once, put it down for a bit before revisiting it and going through everything again. Repeat this process until all of the pieces seem reasonable and work together, or until you have several questions you just can’t answer. Then it’s time to start the research!

Note:  Any general marketing outline will have categories that may not seem to apply to your business. If you see something like that, just ignore it for now.


Doing the Research

When you finally have a handful of specific questions that you can’t answer, you’re ready to start your research. In the beginning, it’s best to keep super-focused or you can quickly get lost in all of the data. If something peripheral looks like it might be interesting, just note it (for future research) and stay focused on the questions you originally wanted to answer.


To begin, see if you have any data in-company that might answer some of your questions. That’s usually quickest, easiest and most focused on your objectives—but  try to steer clear of anecdotal information. Next, see what information you can get using regular search engines, as quite a bit of the initial research can actually be done with Google (or Yahoo, or Bing). You’ll save a lot of time by using a standard search engine to gather some of the basic information. For example, when searching for direct and indirect competition, just think of keywords that would be good for your own business and then see what companies/industries show up on the Search Engine Results Page. Make sure you look several pages into the search results, as the first page or two are often dominated by national companies and organizations that have so much internet clout they can out-muscle smaller companies on nearly any topic.


Once you’ve exhausted your Google research possibilities it’s time to move on to more serious research. Here are some of the more useful and readily available (mostly free) sources.


Industry Research

·       Small Business Administration Office of Entrepreneurship Education

·       Census Bureau County Business and Demographics Map

·       Census Bureau Economic Statistics

·       Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy

·       Bureau of Economic Analysis

·       Bureau of Labor Statistics

·       Encyclopedia of American industries (a fee site)

·       Public or university libraries

·       Industry journals (some free, some have associated fees)


Competitive Research

·       Census Bureau’s Business Help Site

·       Dun & Bradstreet (a fee site)

·       Business and Residential Information (at libraries and for a fee)

·       Hoovers (a fee site)

·       Manta (free and for a fee)


Client Research

·       U.S. Census Bureau statistics

·       American Fact Finder

·       Census Bureau’s Business Help Site

·       American Time Use Survey

·       You are Where You Live


Misc. Marketing Research

·       Internet World Stats (a mega list, some will cost you $$)


Remember that many libraries (like Boulder’s main library) have a research librarian who can help you out.


Once you’ve researched as much information as you can, plug that info back into your marketing plan outline and see what new decisions you can make about your company’s marketing. It may seem like a ton of work, but the insight and target focus that you end up with will be well worth the time spent.


Charles Luna

Gnu 2 Marketing

Powerful Marketing & Branding



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