Most professional services firms seem to underestimate the importance of market research in growing their firm. You hear a lot of bravado around assertions that “I already know my clients, and I understand some of their issues even better than they do.”
While that may well be true, it leaves you with one persistent little inconvenient fact. Professional services firms that do frequent, structured research on their target client population grow faster and are more profitable than those that don't. It's truly hard to ignore that one.
Why Is Market Research So Important?
As I've tried to answer this question for folks, I've come to the conclusion that there is not a single reason. There are several:
1. You probably don't know your clients as well as you think you do. In almost every piece of market research we do, we find several areas where professional service providers misjudge or misread their clients.
2. Your clients are often subject to powerful influences that you are not aware of. These influences may be market pressures that your clients never bring up to you because they don't think they are relevant to your work.
3. You may be intimately familiar with the trees but miss the forest. It's sometime hard to see patterns when you are so wrapped up in your day-to-day interactions with clients.
4. Your current clients may not be representative of the market as a whole. Consequently you may miss an important trend.
5. In the rush of day-to-day activities it is easy to put off dealing with complex, hard-to-resolve issues. Good market research makes these issues hard to ignore.
6. Research-driven facts help shape staff behavior. It is very easy for staff to become set in their ways and resist change. There is nothing like being faced with objective statistics to motivate change. Hearing it from the market directly, backed up by objective data, can cut through the underbrush of opinions.
7. Market research can illuminate which services you should offer and how and when to offer them. When you understand emerging issues and trends, it's often clearer which services to develop and offer.
The importance of market research is easier to understand once you've been through it. But research is most valuable when you do it on a regular basis — that gives you a deeper appreciation of your market over time.
Here is another post that answers some of the most common objections to conducting market research. For a greater understanding of how it plays into your marketing and branding check out our new branding kit below.