Science: 1. a systemized knowledge derived from observation, study. 2. a branch of knowledge, especially one that systematizes facts, principles and methods in order to produce solutions in some problem domain.
As Webster Dictionary's definition suggests, marketing expertise is base on obtaining objective knowledge and using it to develop methodologies and principles. It all begins with gathering, managing, analyzing and systematizing information.
Marketing is far more than tactics. A sound marketing strategy begins with analysis. Therefore the word ‘science' aptly reminds us that first-rate marketers do their homework by researching the marketplace, competition and customer preferences, just to name a few. The goal is to take a crap shoot and turn it into an informed decision. Is there still risk? Absolutely, but it's greatly reduced.
There are a number of textbooks devoted solely to the types, validity, merits, descriptions, etc. of various marketing research methods. Some are quite complicated, while others less so. Since research and analysis are particular interests of mine, I'm tempted to provide you with specific details on each type. But you're in luck… I will resist the pull.
Nevertheless, it is important that you understand and consider that the operative word is knowledge- About:
- Yourself… your abilities, goals, beliefs, work ethic, passions.
- Your company… strengths, weaknesses, resources, culture.
- Your products/services…quality, selection, value.
- Your industry…trends, innovations, successes.
- Your prospects… ones that are already buying from you; ones who ought to be buying from you; and ones who are about to buy from you.
- Your employees… their goals, talents and expectations.
- The economy… and its effect on your those that your serve.
- Your customers…the problems they're facing; their buying habits; average transaction amounts; level of satisfaction; additional product/service requests; number of lifetime transactions, etc.
- Current events… events that may affect your customers' ability and/or desire to purchase.
- The marketplace… the whole universe of people who can use your product/service; those that can purchase it; and those you choose to serve.
- Your competition… what are they doing well and where are there opportunities for your company to shine.
- The business climate… general optimism or pessimism about business, particularly as it relates to your industry.
- Your community… local news and events which may impact your business positively or negatively.
There are two basic types of information you can gather, affectionately known as quantitative and qualitative data. Don't be intimidated by the names, because they're really quite simple
Provides you with measurable, objective, facts… For instance, if you asked 10 people if they liked ice cream and 6 said ‘yes' then you'd be correct if you concluded that 60% of respondents like ice cream. Caution: If your respondent numbers are low (like 10!) the information you receive is not valid and should not be used to generalize over a larger population. Your random (this is an important point… your respondents must be selected randomly) sample must be large enough to be considered statistically valid.
... are considered more exploratory. Usually a small number of respondents are asked to give their opinions on various subjects, products, companies, and the like. This data can be extremely useful but should never be used as a decision-making basis for key strategic or tactical activities.
There are thousands upon thousands of great resources available for obtaining helpful information
Some of the best are:
- The Internet … if you have access to the internet all you have to do is type logical keywords into one of many search engines (I like: www.dogpile.com) and you'll be overwhelmed with information.
- Your local newspaper… It's a wonderful way to keep abreast of local news, community events, national and international news, business and industry trends, competition, etc.
- The library… volumes of references books on industries, commerce, research studies, consumer data, etc.
- Friends, neighbors, customers, family members… stay abreast of their concerns, desires, frustrations, problems. Use their answers as a jumping-off point for further research.
As a very wise man once said:
An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Benjamin Franklin