Research + Strategy

Knowledge is power. But not all knowledge is of equal value. 

What info will be most useful to you? How can you get it? And, finally, what do you DO with it?

Market Research

Physical / Emotional Benefits:

The user's left hand side of the brain is wired up to seek practical benefits. The cost and warmth of the heating. The quality of a wedding photo album.

Their right hand side seeks emotional benefits such as the comfort of a warm home and memories that last forever.

Which do you think wins out? Rational or emotional, left or right?  How can you effectively communicate both groups of benefits in one ad?

The benefits of truly understanding your target markets are huge. While market research can be expensive, it doesn't have to be. We regularly advise clients to look into areas such as:

  • Who are your customers? Consider demographics such as lifestyles / cultures, age groups, gender, income bracket and physical / technical ability.
  • What makes them tick? What physical and emotional benefits does your product / service provide over and above those of your competitors?
  • Where do they hang out online? Which social media sites do they use? Where do they post comments? What tone of voice do they use?

A simple, effective and low-cost method of market research is to ask your customers. Some companies send out questionnaires with each order (a prize draw can encourage them to be filled and returned). Others use free online services such as SurveyMonkey.

Competitor Research

Their SEO Strategy

We recommend using Google's Keyword Tool as a good first step. Enter their website to get a feel for the keywords they're likely to be found for.

Inbound links are a key part of any SEO strategy. What other websites link to your competitors?

Examining this list can be a good way to find inspiration and ideas for building your own. A number of free tools are available to do this, but most are patchy - out of those we'd recommend OpenSiteExplorer.org  or BacklinkWatch.com . Market Samurai is an excellent desktop application that will give you a shed load of useful info. It costs about £100 and take while to learn - so you may want to go for their 30 day free trial first.

Read more about SEO

Actively researching competitor strategies should be standard procedure in business planning - but we're often surprised by how many companies don't find the time and resources to do so. Ideally it will be done before planning your web presence but whatever stage you're at - now is always a good time to start!

In our experience there are 5 key areas worth investigating:

  • How do they entice customers in?  Is it through strong branding, aggressive promotion, a niche / unique selling point, special offers or discounts? What benefits are they promoting to their potential customers (and how do they do it)?
  • Examine their websites. What works for them? What features do they have and what content are they including in their pages? What tone of voice / style of writing do they use?
  • What calls to action do they use on their website? What do they lead their users to do? Buy something? Signup to a newsletter? Enquire?
  • How do they promote themselves online? Do they keep a blog or news section? Do they have links to Facebook, Twitter or other social media? If so you should check these pages out and see how they're doing it.
  • LAST BUT NOT LEAST: After all this, how do they actually treat their customers?  Many glittery promises of VIP Customer Service are not backed up in practice.  This can be your chance to excel. We cannot overemphasise the value of repeat customers. We knew a developer who drew his potential client list from the 'portfolio' pages of bad web designers.

Your Strategy

Research Recommendations (Monthly if Possible):

Latest activity on Twitter and Facebook

Competitors' websites - any changes or tweaks? Why?

Any new websites or companies of interest?

Any particular industry news / developments?

Any new possibilities for promoting to your target market?

Regularly monitor your site using Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools.

Now you're armed with information about your customers and competitors, it's time to turn this knowledge into power and drive your business forward.

It's time to put on your thinking cap (or ask your team if you're lucky enough to have one.) 

What you have is a bunch of information. What you want is a series of practical, realistic and clearly defined steps that will advance you steadily towards your goals.

How can you use this information to:

  • Generate sales or otherwise make your business / website more profitable?
  • Get a better ranking in Google?
  • Offer your customers a better deal?
  • Deliver a product or service that is superior to your competitiors?
  • Enhance / expand range of your product / service?

Strategy Development

A good first step is simply brainstorm - anything goes, don't throw any ideas out at this stage, just get all your options down of paper. Make it a big sheet.

Next it will be time to review the ideas and chuck out any junk. This time be ruthless - as a guide aim to keep no more than 20%, less if possible. It's better to focus on a few clearly defined and achievable steps than a whole bunch of maybes.

Now start to examine these ideas in more detail. Visualise the steps needed to implement each idea. What different outcomes might there be? What's the best / worse case scenario for each?

Strategy Execution: Not 1, but 3 Plans!

  • The first should be a reasonably detailed plan for the next 12 months, listing all the main steps required.
  • The second should be highly detailed - but only for the next 3 months. This might list very detailed steps to be taken and any possible barriers to achieving these
  • The third should be long term- probable direction over the next 3 years or so and any possible deviations that could take place.

We recommend repeating this process every 3 months - it may just be a review of your existing plans, or you might want to start from scratch. Don't be afraid to deviate from your plans and try new things - new opportunities can appear at any time. But don't lose focus or get distracted - this is particularly important to small business owners who are typically overloaded with numerous distractions.

We also recommend that you set and judge achievement of goals using SMART targets (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic + timely).

Performance Review

Finally - and most importantly - we need a way of measuring our success as we go along. This may be any number of things, for example:

  • Volume / value of sales per month
  • Position in Google for a particular keyword / phrase
  • Number of enquiries
  • Number of website visitors / conversions
  • Number of new members / signups
  • Response to a promotion or campaign

It's important to be diligent and consistent in our measurement of these 'Key Performance Indicators'. Add new ones by all means, but don't discard old ones unless you're sure they're no longer of use. Over a period of 6 to 12 months your results will be starting to build up a clear picture of your businesses' performance, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

How F&P Can Help You

At Fresher & Prosper our research and strategic planning services provide clients with research, reports and recommendations tailored to their requirements.

  • Strategic assessment of position within in the competitive marketplace
  • Ideas, guidance and recommendations on achieving your goals
  • Step by step actionable plans - how to get 'there' from 'here'.
  • Development and implementation of Key Performance Indicators and SMART targets