4 Mistakes Marketers Make With Audience Research

FacepalmMarketers, encouraged by self-proclaimed gurus, experts and thought leaders, are increasingly misusing and abusing research and statistics when developing their marketing approach.

Yes, market and audience research can be incredibly valuable. But when it is misused, even the best information can lead you in the wrong direction.

Here are four mistakes marketers make when using market research data.

1. Forgetting the Trend

Instead of focusing on the value, look to see if it is increasing or decreasing and how quickly is it changing. The trendline is generally far more important than the absolute level.

As a marketer, your opportunity is anticipating or responding to the trend.

Check IconKey questions:
Are you ready for the where the trend is going? Is there a trend you have missed and need to react to now?

2. Assuming the Average Describes Everyone

Averages are just a mathematical midpoint. The average is valuable in statistics because it tells you what the expected value is.

However, this fails for two reasons when it is applied in marketing.

  1. Research rarely studies an audience exhibiting a single consistent behavior. Instead, multiple distinct audiences are generally assessed together. As such, the average isn’t actually a reasonable expectation for any individual member of the audience.
  2. Marketers need their message to resonate with a significant portion of the audience. Focusing on an average value is often inappropriate for the majority of your audience.

For example, what if you optimized your website content based on the average time spent on site? Using analytics data from my blog, B2B Digital Marketing, more than 90% of all visits are shorter than the average time on site, which is biased upwards by a handful of people that must just leave it open all day.

Check IconKey questions:
Will your marketing connect with the entire audience, or only those that are “average”? Are you considering the multiple segments within your audience?

3. Applying Industry Benchmarks to Your Business

Industry benchmarks are, by definition, from multiple businesses in different situations and with various practices.

If the average email click rate for your industry is 1.1% and most marketers in your industry send unsegmented email blasts to big purchased lists, your carefully constructed, opt-in only, triggerred email program better beat the benchmark. In fact, if it doesn’t beat it by a significant margin, you should hang your head in shame!

Check IconKey question:
What should your marketing investment be able to achieve? This is your goal and what you need to measure your marketing against.

4. Ignoring Surveys’ Common Behavior Bias

People are not automatons. Survey responses reflect what people normally do, not what they always do, overstating the importance of common action and masking secondary activities.

If a survey indicates most people use search engines as a starting point, it doesn’t mean most people always start with a search engine. It means it is common for many people to start with search.

Check IconKey question:
Beyond the primary reported activity, what other behavior does your marketing need to consider and support?

Your Turn

What mistakes do you see marketers making with research? Share them in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Photo Credit: striatic via Flickr

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