With so much competition out there, it’s more important than ever that you understand your target customers and their pain points or motivations so you can develop products, services, and marketing campaigns that make them feel seen.
Market research is how you gather the information you need to do this effectively.
When done well, market research will help you understand industry trends, the needs and wants of your audience, and the ways in which your competitors are falling short.
These insights will enable you to create sales pages, product descriptions, and marketing content that truly resonates with your target market. It may even inform the development of your products and services, ensuring you create exactly what your dream customers are looking for!
Conducting market research is no small task, but when done well, it will inevitably result in higher conversion rates, better engagement, and more devoted customers.
So how do you go about gathering these customer insights?
There are a few things you should have in place before you begin.
An outline of your buyer personas
Understanding your customers is key to marketing to them effectively and creating a buyer persona is an important part of this. A buyer persona is a fictional identity that is developed based on real-life data from your actual customers. Compiling this data into a persona makes it easier to conceptualize how customers make decisions, their motivations, and where they are most likely to interact with your brand.
Once you’ve fleshed out a buyer persona, you can design your marketing strategies to target this specific individual as if they were a real person. Many brands create several buyer personas, but one is enough to get started.
Incorporate the following information about your ideal customers into your buyer persona:
- Personal details such as their age, gender, location, marital status, and income and education levels
- The goals and challenges that they face in their life and career
- The types of media they consume, the platforms they favour, and how they prefer to receive information
- Their preferred hobbies and leisure activities
- What their personal values are, and how they factor into their decision-making
Many businesses opt to assign names to their buyer personas to help humanize them in the eyes of a marketing team. After all, it’s easier to develop strategies for a real person rather than a data set.
Additionally, if your brand has numerous buyer personas, giving them names makes it easy to tell them apart. Remember, your strategy for connecting with Maria, a city-dwelling millennial pet owner with no children, is inevitably different than your strategy for connecting with George and Barbara, a retired couple in the suburbs.
Some research questions or guidelines
For your market research to be effective, you should have some clear objectives in place. This will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed by the vast amount of information and data you are met with throughout the research process. Your objectives will also help guide any one-on-one interactions with your target market.
So before you get started, establish a handful of specific questions you want to answer with your research findings. Even if your research is purely observational, you should keep these questions in mind.
Primary vs. Secondary Market Research
Most market research can be categorized as either primary or secondary. Primary research involves insights that are gathered directly from members of your target audience, including customers and prospective customers.
Secondary research consists of data and insights that you find in published sources. This might include reports or studies from government agencies, trade publications, or other organizations from within your industry.
Both types of research are very valuable, and combining the two will offer you the most comprehensive view of your industry and your target market.
As you become more adept at market research, you may find that some methods work best for certain phases of your product or campaign development. For instance, relying on reports and studies may help you in the early stages of product positioning. At the same time, social media enables you to gauge audience reactions after launching a new product or marketing campaign.
Now let’s take a closer look at some market research methods you can use to learn more about your industry and target audience.
Interpret data from reports and studies
Reviewing reports and studies is a method of secondary market research that can reveal valuable insights about both your industry and your target market.
Research and studies may come from both public and commercial sources, including government bureaus, non-profit organizations, and businesses within your industry.
A few organizations where you might find data related to the pet industry in Canada include:
- Statistics Canada
- The Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI)
- Humane CanadaAgriculture Canada and more
Generally, information found from public organizations, such as the government, will be free, while you may have to pay for data from commercial sources.
These types of studies can be beneficial for gathering broad information about industry trends and determining who your target market may be. If you’re in the preliminary stages of launching a new pet business or product, these types of studies are likely a great place to start.
Survey your customers
Surveying your existing customers and audience members is a valuable form of market research that provides direct insight into your target market’s opinions about your brand.
Not only are surveys easy to develop and deliver, but doing so is incredibly affordable. You can develop a simple survey within Google Forms and deliver it to your audience using your existing email marketing software!
You can conduct surveys online, over the phone, or even through snail mail! The best method for delivering your survey depends on your target audience. Which delivery style do you think they’d be most amenable to? Choosing a survey delivery method your audience finds convenient will help you gather more responses, giving you more data to work with!
Host a coffee chat
Setting up a coffee chat is an excellent way to get one-on-one insight into how your customers (or prospective customers) feel about your pet brand. A coffee chat is usually an informal conversation with a member of your audience, but you may frame it as an interview if you prefer. You could conduct coffee chats in person, but in many cases, you might find it easier to do them over Zoom. Instead of being limited to meeting with prospective customers in your immediate area, you can connect with audience members all over the country (or the world!), offering a diverse range of perspectives.
Keeping the conversation casual may help you learn new perspectives you hadn’t previously encountered. To facilitate discussion, ask open-ended questions and pay special attention to the responses. Is there any particular vocabulary that is used repeatedly by your audience members? Incorporating the language your audience members use to describe your products or services is a fantastic way to get their attention.
Use a focus groups
A focus group is a collection of individuals you have selected to engage in a group discussion around your products or services. A mediator leads the group by asking questions and facilitating conversation around specific aspects of your brand or products.
When used strategically, focus groups can provide really valuable insights into how your pet brand is perceived, but to get the best results you must put them together very intentionally.
Your focus group should consist of a collection of individuals from your target market. To garner various perspectives, aim to include a mix of people who have purchased from your brand and individuals who have not yet tried your products or services.
The questions asked may pertain to anything from specific features of your products and services to aspects of your packaging, marketing strategies, price points, and more.
The information you gather from a focus group conversation can help you refine or improve your products and services, or it might even inspire you to create something brand new that better suits the needs of your target market!
Depending on your budget and the breadth of your project, you can conduct your own focus group research or hire a third-party organization to hold a focus group on your behalf.
Connect with your target audience in Facebook Groups
Facebook groups can be an incredibly rich resource for market research. There are hundreds of millions of Facebook groups out there on every topic under the sun, so there is inevitably a group out there containing members of your target market.
While you can create your own Facebook group for market research purposes, it’s likely faster to conduct research in existing groups. To find them, search keywords related to your niche on Facebook and request to join a handful of relevant groups.
Once you’re admitted, you can use these groups to conduct both passive and active research.
To get started, use the search feature within Facebook groups to search phrases related to the problems your pet brand aims to solve.
For instance, if your product is a no-pull dog harness, search phrases like “dog pulling on a leash” or “how to stop a dog from pulling.” Then take note of the language individuals use to describe the issue, including what they call it and the emotions they associate with it. Are there any phrases coming up over and over again? Finding ways to incorporate these into your marketing will help your target audience see that your brand truly understands their feelings around the issue.
Another thing to watch out for in Facebook groups is which resources are being referenced over and over. This helps you see who your target market sees as an authority and could reveal publications your pet brand could advertise with or influencers for you to partner with to get in front of your ideal customers!
Take note of the brands and products that other group members are recommending to one another. Is one of your competitors coming up over and over again? If so, what do people seem to like about them? How can you position your pet brand as a more favourable option?
In addition to passive research, you can use Facebook groups to interact with members of your target market. You might even use them to find members for your focus group!
You can use groups to post helpful content related to your audience’s pain points. Or, you can engage with people individually by responding to their posts and comments and offering words of support.
Gather insights from social media
Social media can be a truly incredible resource for conducting market research. Not only can it help you understand how your customers feel about your pet brand, but you can also gauge their feelings about your competitors. Plus, you can use social media to gain insight into your audience’s lifestyle and values.
To find what others are saying about your pet brand, search your brand name on platforms like Reddit or Facebook. On Twitter or Instagram, search your brand handle to see any posts that your brand has been tagged in.
This will inevitably reveal a mixture of both positive and negative comments related to your brand.
If there’s one thing you can count on when it comes to social media comments, it’s that users are often unfiltered. You’ll quickly learn what people don’t like about your pet brand. While negative comments can be difficult to stomach at first, they become an asset when you use them to improve your products and services!
Social media also allows you to see how your customers use your products. In some cases, this may be different than what you expect and could even inspire you to position your product differently!
And finally, following and interacting with your target audience on social media gives you valuable insight into their lives, which helps you further flesh out your buyer personas. You can learn about your audience’s values, the types of hobbies they enjoy, where they shop, the different brands and experts they trust, and so much more.
Use these insights to discover new opportunities to connect with your potential customers. Can you get your product into one of the retailers they prefer to shop at? Could you pursue a partnership with one of their favourite influencers or a publication they respect?
You can also engage with your audience directly by commenting on their posts. This is a great way to build a relationship with your prospective customers and learn more about their problems so you can better solve them!
Analyze your competitors
Competitor analysis is a crucial part of your market research efforts. It will help you better understand your market, how your target customers feel about the existing solutions to your problems, and help you create something that better meets their needs.
You can draw inspiration from your competitors’ positioning and marketing strategies as well. Pay close attention to exactly what they offer, their price points, and how they present their products.
Make a list of their strengths and weaknesses. Is there a segment of the market they are overlooking? Is there an aspect of their brand strategy they could be executing better?
Scroll through social media comments and product reviews to see what your competitors’ customers say about their products. What takeaways can you find to help you position your product as a more appealing option?
Market research can reveal valuable insights at any business and product development stage. While you should conduct formal market research before launching your pet brand or new products, you should also incorporate some types of market research into your day-to-day operations.
Keeping an eye on industry trends, monitoring your brand mentions, listening to customer feedback, and building relationships with your target customers are three simple ways you can continue to draw on market insights in between launches.