Research is key to the success of your marketing.
Without the right research, you will be throwing a lot of money after bad ideas that you only know are bad once they fail.
With good research, you have a better idea of what strategies are likely to succeed with your audience so that you are translating your money into results.
However, just doing the right research isn’t as easy as it might seem. You can’t just Google “how to succeed with marketing” and get a one-size-fits-all answer that will guarantee you more traffic and sales. It’s all a lot more complicated than that.
The two types of research that are most common for marketers are case studies and data. Here’s what you need to know about the pros and cons of case studies vs. data driven research for marketing:
Case studies show you what other brands have done with their marketing and how they fared.
For example, you might read a case study of how Burger King offered people a free whopper if they shared a picture of their unwanted Christmas gifts on social media and used the hashtag #whopperexchange. You may learn how many people used the hashtag, what kind of traffic the campaign generated to the Burger King website, and whether sales increased at Burger King during the campaign.
The benefit of this kind of research is that you can see what’s possible for your own marketing. You might get inspired to adapt this campaign to your own purposes, or you might think about your own marketing in new ways.
The downside is that these results don’t really tell you much about how this campaign would work for your brand. You don’t have whoppers to exchange. But even if you do a similar exchange for one of your own products, the campaign may not work as well because you don’t have the same reach or the product doesn’t have the same cache.
Even if you use a case study of your own results from a previous campaign, you don’t know that you can replicate those results. The timing has a big influence, and there may have been numerous other circumstances that contributed to your success that you can’t replicate.
Case studies are limited in what they can tell you about your marketing. They can give you a frame work, inspire you with ideas, and let you know what might be possible, but they cannot provide any kind of certainty about expected results. There are too many variables involved.
Data Driven Approach
With a data driven approach, you can get more conclusive answers about your marketing – assuming you are looking at the right data.
The best data is data from your own marketing.
A/B testing, or split testing, can help you quickly determine what elements of your marketing are getting you results. If you perform your A/B testing the right way, you will be able to tweak your marketing strategy to get results in the fastest amount of time.
Start with the big elements for your split testing. For example, if you are running a PPC ad, run it at 9 a.m. and then again at 9 p.m. You’ll quickly see what the better time of day is for your audience. Look at other major elements such as using an image or plain text, offering a discount or a free item, or asking people to visit your site or follow you on social media.
Once you determine the major elements that are getting you results, you can focus on the minor elements, such as the different adjectives you use, the call to action, the placement of the image, and so on.
You can use data from other marketing studies to help you get a head start where appropriate. For example, you may learn from a competitor’s research that your audience is most active in the afternoon. You can then narrow your A/B testing to focus on which hours of the afternoon are the most productive.
It is important that you use a good analytics program and that you isolate your variable so that you know exactly which changes are bringing in results. Otherwise, you will flounder unnecessarily while you spend money on strategies that aren’t working.
Case studies and data both have their place in marketing research, but split testing and other data collection methods have proven to be much more effective in getting concrete results for your own campaigns. Split testing should be an essential part of your marketing assessment, and you should be using it to start any new campaign.
You can also use data to show your clients the kind of results you are getting for their marketing dollars. Anyone can talk about “buzz” or “klout” or “awareness,” but it’s those cold, hard numbers that will really have people paying attention.