How Marketing Research Can Strengthen your Direct Response Marketing

For years direct response marketers said the best research was gained through testing. Their thought process was, ”Let the customers and prospects tell us with their responses and purchases what is most effective.”

As direct mail creative development became more expensive and postage rose, direct marketers turned to marketing research to gain product, target audience, offer, and creative insights to zero in on the best tests—and the most profitable strategies.

Research can help you identify opportunities, solve specific challenges, and inform almost every decision across the marketing spectrum. Read on for a simple breakdown of the fundamentals of marketing research and uncover some best practices for applying them to your direct response marketing initiatives.

The Value of Research to the Direct Response Marketer
While marketing research can be monstrous in scope—think of a massive industry-wide exploration into the online purchasing patterns of Millennials, for example—it can also be leveraged for more specific purposes. Your company can conduct marketing research at almost any scale to help you answer questions about your market, your customers, your product or service’s placement in the market, the viability of expanding into new markets, your communications approach, etc.

When it comes to your direct response marketing efforts, marketing research provides you with the information and insights you need to develop effective campaigns: to target the right audience with the right offers in the right time and at the right place. Research enables you to:

Understand your customers better. Get a feel for their values, expectations, purchasing considerations, and communication preferences; identify what drives their motivations and behavior through the customer journey (when they become a prospect, when they take action when they convert).

Identify marketing opportunities. Assess trends in your space by discovering how key players (e.g. competitors, experts, influencers) are interacting with your target audience; find new contacts you can target with your messages and offers.

Improve your lead-gen and conversion strategies. Evaluate your messaging, communication channels, and goals; capture insights on offers and creative that help you focus on and prioritize what’s most important to customers and prospective customers.

Collecting the Data
How do you go about getting all of this information? There are a variety of ways you can conduct marketing research and collect the data you need. Here are some familiar methods:

• Customer surveys
• Customer interviews
• Expert interviews
• Website analytics
• Observations
• Focus groups
• Keyword research
• Analysis of user-generated content
• Testing

You’ll probably want to use more than one method to solve for your particular purpose—it all depends on the reason you’re researching. If you want to know where to find your target audience and what channels to use for lead generation, customer surveys and an analysis of social media activity might be you’re best bet. If you want to know which pages on your website are ripe for offers with call-to-actions, you’ll want to dive into website analytics and keyword research.

Regardless of what you’re trying to achieve, keep in mind these important distinctions:

Quantitative vs. qualitative research. Use a combination of the two for a well-rounded interpretation of your data. Quantitative data is numerical data; it’s more structured and statistical; it shows trends, such as “88% of our target audience reads product reviews before making a purchase.” On the other hand, qualitative data is less-structured but can provide key directional insights into the target audiences thought process and reasoning that can be verified through a quantitative study.

Primary vs. secondary research. Again, a mix of the two will provide a comprehensive view of your topic. Primary research deals directly with your customer; for example, a survey or focus group performed by you or a research partner. Secondary research is based on outside studies (e.g. Consumer Reports surveys) and can be found via a web search or visit to the library.

Putting Research to Work for You
Getting started isn’t that difficult, as there are a number of online resources you can take advantage of:

Survey Monkey offers a free online survey tool for primary research
Twitter search shows you what’s happening on the popular social media channel
Klout rates its users according to online social influence
Think with Google provides a wealth of insights into consumer behavior
• Claritas’ MyBestSegments lets you examine market segments based on demographics and behaviors
Pew Research Center offers different data sets for research analysis

Of course, you can contact us to learn more about structuring the best research plan to help you get better results from your direct response marketing.