A Conversation About Brand Discovery

Let’s Talk About Brand Discovery

Before a case goes to trial, lawyers embark on a fact-finding mission known as discovery. Without getting a handle on the background and all the facts, how could a lawyer effectively try a case? When you’re in the early stages of building a brand, the process is similar except for the fact that we don’t lock founders in an airless, dark room while a hulking interrogator shines a blinding light on their face in hopes of getting the perp to fold under questioning. It lets you define where you stand and where you fit. Respected research firms like Pew, IBIS World, Statista, Nielsen, Comscore, and Econsultancy share free industry reports and customer research online; some even offer paid upgrades, for those who want to go deep in their discovery. It helps orient you in the context of your industry’s size and health, direct and adjacent competitors, and your customers’ needs, wants, lifestyles, and preferences. Data aids in your decision-making, but the ultimate test is market and campaign performance and the insights you gather to refine and optimize your marketing and messaging.

Know Your Customer

One of the most vital aspects of marketing is that if you’re talking to all customers, you’re talking to no customers. Also, if you’re focused on targeting everyone, your content becomes generic and diluted and you’re not honing in on the behaviors, consumables, motivations, and pain points of your specific audience. However, you always want to be as specific as possible when it comes to targeting. If you sell different products meant to target different kinds of people, you have to create a customer map for each of those products; those sub-maps ladders up to the overall master customer profile. Keep in mind that your ideal customer profile may refine over time. The objective is to define the limits of a particular group and burrow deep inside that group.

Demographic Information

This is data that tells you who’s buying your product. You want to start by learning the basic characteristics of your customers, including age, gender, race, ethnicity, income, marital status, geography, education, profession, and occupation.

Behavioural Information

This is data that shows you how your customer is buying your product. Behavioral analysis is an all-encompassing view of how your customer interacts with your sector, products, and competition. What channels (i.e., smartphone, desktop, in-store, catalog, etc.)

Transactional Information

This is specific data that demonstrates what your customer is buying.

Psychographic Information

For this data, you’re moving away from demographics and dealing with personality, values, attitudes and opinions, interests, and habits. ( For extracurricular reading, this great piece goes into psychographics in detail.) What is their “why”? Influences: Who do they trust? What platforms or kinds of people influence their decision-making? Pain points: What are the challenges or obstacles that pertain to your product and service through the entire buying process (i.e., from encountering your product to post-purchase and use)? How do you compile all the information you need about your customer? Survey your customers and prospective customers.

How to Perform Primary Research

Map out your methodology and all associated logistics. How long will it take? Develop your questions. Regardless of your methodology, you’ll get a set of raw data. Did you get the answers you were looking for? Did you uncover new questions and insights into the process that require further study?

Advantages of Primary Research

With primary research, you have complete control over the questions you ask and the information you collect and use based on the needs of your business or organization. Because there’s complete transparency in how the research is formulated and conducted, you get raw data. This means you won’t have to deal with diluted or “massaged” results. In other words, you’re getting insights directly from the people you want to target without filter or spin. You get more of a sense of your subject when they’re empowered to speak or write freely.

Disadvantages of Primary Research

Primary research is time-consuming and expensive. Setting aside all the logistics of getting a group of people into your office for a focus group, consider the collection, assortment, analysis, and segmenting of online surveys—especially if you have a large sample size (i.e., lots of people have answered your survey). You not only need the resources to fund the setup of your primary research, but you also need the resources to synthesize and make sense of the results in a way you can use in your brand development, marketing, and messaging efforts. Never rely on a single data source to drive material decisions for a company. You want to gather a confluence of data from myriad sources to gain the most objective, non-biased insights.

How to Perform Secondary Research

For example: smartphone usage of college students in India. You’re looking for consistent themes and trends and also intriguing outliers. Did you get the answers you were looking for? Did the research get you a step closer to understanding more about your audience? Did you uncover new questions and insights into the process that require further study? Pro tip: You can use Google alerts, YouTube, and Amazon to get intel on your customer on an ongoing basis.

Advantages of Secondary Research

With secondary research, information is quick, inexpensive, and easily accessible. You can scrape information on the web/social networks using open APIs and pull internal data faster than conducting a full-blown research study without the hefty price tag. It’s an excellent supplement to primary research. In an ideal world, use primary research to validate and secondary research to refine. Pulling information from a variety of sources can create a clear picture of your customer.

Disadvantages of Secondary Research

As the Rolling Stones so sagely sang, “You can’t always get what you want.” With secondary research, it’s more challenging to pinpoint the exact questions you want to pose based on the specifics of your business, product, and target customer. Secondary research provides an excellent general big picture but can lose some of the fine details. Timeliness might also be subject to question. Are you getting the most recent statistics? You can purchase Harvard Business Review’s excellent tutorial on segmentation and targeting ($40).

Know Your Competitors

Context is crucial, and you have to define your place in your industry to build a brand and be competitive. You want to have a general understanding of your industry’s size, health, growth, and trends to determine where you fit. In the overview tutorial, I outlined the questions you need to ask when evaluating market conditions. Today, we’re going to home in on how you can keep close tabs on the competition. I like to create a formal competitor review where I evaluate players from a strategic standpoint, then track their tactical campaigns and movements as a result of the strategies in place.

How to Formulate a Competitor Analysis

Create a list of direct and indirect competitors. Check out Owler, an online community-based competitive insights platform that houses a treasure trove of information on over 12 million companies. Consider all aspects of their brand and business; a competitive analysis encapsulates so much more than the products a company offers. Is it their R&D or lean towards product or industry innovation? Outline their offerings: products, services, features, benefits, and pricing strategy. What types and forms of content are they creating, and where are they distributing them?

Additional Resources

The hardest part of building a brand is sitting down and being honest about your business. The discovery process is not only about amassing as much external information and resources as you can; it’s also an invitation to turn inward—your brand is bigger than the products you sell. In the overview tutorial, I shared three exercises you can use to immerse yourself in your business. The answers to those questions, in the context of your market and customer research, will serve as the foundation for your elevator, story, positioning, benefits, reason to believe, and your character. Concept testing also gives you a powerful, objective third-party perspective for those who are too close to their business, giving feedback from the people you want to sell to.

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