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A Two-Pronged Approach to Your Market Research Process

When conducting market research for your professional services firm, there are several methods from which to choose.  Which methods are right for your firm will depend on your situation and specific goals.  In any case, if you want to paint the clearest picture of your marketplace and your brand, you’ll likely need to undertake both secondary and primary research as part of your market research process. Let’s take a look at what you can accomplish with these two forms of research and why each is necessary. 

Understanding Your Market with Secondary Research

Secondary research is the synthesis of existing research. Instead to conducting surveys or interviews yourself, you are searching informational resources (like the Internet) and compiling the data in order to tell a story.  This type of research can come in many forms, including:

  • Searching Google
  • Visiting your local business library and using their databases
  • Reading books and articles
  • Working with a research firm

 

Conducting market research in this fashion is hugely important for understanding your competitive landscape, market size, and target clients.  It allows you to be fully aware of the market in which you are competing.  Without this information, you will be making decisions in a bubble.

 

For example, let’s say you are thinking of introducing a new type of consulting service offering. You have a hunch that clients will want this service but you don’t know for sure.  Secondary research will help you understand how many people are searching for this service in Google, whether this type of offering is trending upward or downward in demand, and how much competitors are charging. Without this information how could you responsibly make a decision?

The following are common types of data that professional services firms collect during the secondary research process:

  • Market trends around demand for specific services and industries
  • Insights on which niches are saturated and which are open
  • Sizing of industries and niches in terms of revenue and number of consumers
  • Data on social media and search engine activity within certain industries
  • Data on which marketing methods are resonating with clients within certain industries

 

After putting time into getting to know your market landscape, you should feel more comfortable making decisions about your brand and how it fits into the big picture.  Primary research will then help to inform the specifics of your brand’s position.

 

Developing Your Brand with Primary Research

While secondary research is important for setting the stage in the market research process, primary research is where you’ll really discover the DNA of your firm’s brand.  In primary research, you are collecting data directly from your clients, prospects, and other stakeholders by way of interviews, surveys, and focus groups.

As a business owner or marketing executive, you likely have a good idea of how your firm is different from competitors and what sets you apart in the marketplace.  However, there’s a good chance your perception of the brand is pretty different from how the rest of the world sees you.  Conducting custom research is the most effective way of understanding your brand’s perception, both externally and internally within your company. Evaluating how those internal and external perceptions align (or don’t) is a key step in figuring out what your firm is and should be known for.

When doing primary research on your brand, look to capture the following kinds of data:

  • How your clients, prospects, and got-aways (prospects that didn’t choose your firm) perceive your brand
  • What these same people believe to be important in a service provider
  • Who people believe to be your competitors
  • The key benefits that your firm offers over competitors
  • How people found out about your brand
  • How people prefer to receive marketing information (i.e. email newsletter vs. a telephone call)

 

Talking directly to the people that have interacted with your brand in some way is a proven way of understanding who you are as a firm.  Your unique selling points will become very clear after receiving direct feedback and your position in the marketplace will begin to take shape.

 

Putting it All Together

A combination of secondary and primary research will allow your firm to both understand the landscape you live in and also determine how your brand fits into the scheme of things.  Without either type of research, your decision making process is going to be much tougher.  Avoid making assumptions and guessing what the market is like and how your brand is being perceived.  Spend the time up front working through a thorough, well-rounded market research process and you will make better decisions and market your company more effectively.

To learn more about research for professional services firms, download our free guide below.

 

Author: Sean McVey

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