The Value of Internal Market Research

Brand, Strategy

There are numerous symptoms felt—on the marketing team and otherwise—when your company positioning is not a great fit. The pain may come in the form of friction in the sales process, with longer sales cycles and lack of collateral that reflects the brand today, poor quality from your lead generation efforts, or lack of clarity from your internal teams around the direction of the organization.

 

Regardless of the initial symptoms, if your leadership arrives at the conclusion that your brand, messaging, and go-to-market strategies are in need of a review, some research will be involved in the process. Marketing teams oftentimes jump to the conclusion of external market research—talking to existing customers and potential prospects about how your brand shows up today. However, an equally important aspect of your research efforts should be aimed internally.

 

TURN THE QUESTIONING ON YOURSELVES

 

Does your leadership team share the same understanding of your brand as the individuals creating the collateral or interacting with your industry ecosystem on the front lines at trade shows, dealer meetings, and sales conversations? If you were to pick an individual from your customer service team, would they have the ability to articulate your brand’s mission, values, and differentiators? Are your sales conversations bringing to light a contradiction between how your organization pictures your brand and how the marketplace does?

Questions like these, and the friction associated with them, won’t be answered by your customers in research—alongside your external efforts, there are likely signals within your walls that point to a brand or strategy problem. We often speak to the fact that the ceiling of understanding of your brand in the marketplace is the level of understanding with those who work for the brand itself. How can you expect your prospects to understand why you’re better than the next competitor if your sales team doesn’t have the words or tools to articulate that differentiation? Or, equally challenging, what if the market is hearing one message from your leadership team, a different message from your marketing efforts, and another different message from your sales representatives in their outreach and direct conversations?

Let’s discuss a few ways you can work with your internal customers (i.e. sales, customer service, leadership, etc.) to gain further insight into how to move forward with your brand.

 

KEEP IT SIMPLE

 

Internal research doesn’t always require an external partner. An approach as simple as a survey, sent to various leaders and teams in your organization, can provide valuable data about the shared understanding of your brand and the effectiveness of your messaging.

For example, you might create a list of questions on a 1-10 scale around different aspects of your marketing. These can include questions around sentiment such as “how well do you feel our brand represents the value we bring today?” or “how would you rate your understanding of our organization’s positioning and target personas?”

If your marketing team’s average rating over the course of the questionnaire is an 8 and leadership’s rating is a 4, you may have an internal alignment issue that needs to be resolved, or your marketing may no longer reflect the direction for the organization into the future. Internal alignment is equally important as you start to take action on marketing strategy or seek an outside partner to accelerate those efforts.

 

INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL, IT’S NOT ONE OR THE OTHER

 

The purpose of this discussion is not to say that internal research is more valuable or important than external research. At the end of the day, you need both types of data to have a full picture of the things that need fixed moving forward. Having conducted both internal and external research, you’ll have an idea of where the market sees you, how your internal customers feel, and be able to formulate a plan to resolve those issues.

 

SCALING UP

 

As we discussed earlier, you don’t need to hire an outside partner to conduct some level of internal research. However, depending on the level of detail or scale of data you are hoping to gather, there may be an opportunity to leverage expertise outside of your walls. An outside research partner can help alleviate a few issues as your take on this research process:

  1. If time capacity is an issue, research partners can take the bulk of the research burden upon themselves.
    External patterns may be able to offer a level of research sophistication not otherwise possible using limited internal resources.
    No one likes to tell someone their baby is ugly. Getting candid internal research accomplished can be much easier through an outside party.
    Research is only valuable if action can be taken from it. Make sure you have a plan for how to leverage what you learn from your research, or you may want to hire a partner to help actualize what you learn.
  2. You will need to decide what level of research is required to uncover the truth behind your pain (or use a partner to create a research strategy). There is always the option to start small, use the survey approach or other tactics with your team, then use additional resources if you need further information to be truly actionable.

 

UNCOVER WHO YOU ARE TODAY

 

Through this process, the goal should be to uncover and articulate how you show up to customers today. In many cases, the need to research and update your brand is driven by the evolution of your product or service offering, rather than a shift towards something aspirational. Talk to your customers. Talk to your employees and leadership. Then use this information to craft and refine your message.

Reid Morris
Reid is the Marketing Manager here at Element Three — dedicated to finding businesses at an inflection point in their growth curve — who could use E3's help to reach the next level.

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