Why is research crucial in communications strategy?
After all, you know your business inside out? It’s so tempting to just dive into your strategy once you’ve decided you need a communications plan, but stop…
There is one crucially important step that I see missing time and time again…and that’s the research part. The analysis of your customers and other important stakeholders you want to reach and influence provides vital information to shape your strategy – and should always be carried out before your communications plan.
In my last blog, I shared why you should have a communications strategy and how it forms the ‘golden thread’ that links everything together. But for a communications strategy to be effective, it MUST be backed up research to ensure you really understand your target audience – e.g demographics and lifestyle choices, product/service preferences, how best to reach these people, and what they respond best to.
Carrying out this analysis and research is ultimately the key that will determine the success of your strategy and help you define your objectives – ultimately boosting your business and sales. So let’s start with who you’re trying to reach…
Stakeholder mapping in four steps
Stakeholder mapping is a great research exercise to help you identify all those who have a vested interest in your business and will help you try and understand these groups. It involves brainstorming with others in your business – prompting debate, discussion, and different perspectives. It’s a great way to determine a list of your stakeholders and what makes them tick.
Once you’ve rallied your team together, it’s useful to follow these four steps:
1) Identifying: listing relevant groups (including customers – current and potential), organisations, and people to your business
2) Analysing: understanding stakeholder perspectives and interests
3) Mapping: visualising relationships to objectives and other stakeholders
4) Prioritizing: ranking stakeholder relevance and identifying issues
The process of stakeholder mapping is as important as the result, and the quality of the process depends heavily on the knowledge of the people participating.
What other types of research can I do?
Stakeholder mapping provides a great starting point for your research but if you really want to know anything about your customers, the best thing you can do is ask them!
The more you know about your customers, what they want, and what they need, the more informed decisions you can make about your strategy. Some of the methods I find useful include:
- Online reputation audits: Often overlooked, an online reputation audit is one of the most valuable things you can do for your business. If you have poor visibility online or negative press, you’ll be missing out on prospective customers. Carrying out an online reputation audit is a great way to assess what other people are saying about your brand and business.
- Communications audit: A communications audit determines how effective your current communications tools are and provides recommendations to make your communications plan to work even better. A communications audit involves looking at the channels you’re currently using, from social media to email to events, and considering whether these are the best ways of reaching your audience. For example, you may love Linkedin but if all of your potential customers spend most of their time on Instagram, that’s where you need to be showing and building trust. A communications audience will also help you tailor the right messaging which resonates with your target group you want to communicate with.
- Targeted market research: If you want to target a specific group, questionnaires, surveys and workshops are all great ways of speaking to your customers to obtain the getting the information. www.Surveymonkey.com provides a great tool to help you design your specific questions and collate your answers – there’s lots of functionality on the free version so it doesn’t have to cost you much either. It can sometimes be problematic to get people to spend the time helping you with your market research so consider giving them an incentive to help you. For example, a chance to win something in a prize draw or a 10 per cent off code.
Research is too often the missing part of the puzzle
By carrying out research and analysis of your stakeholders, you uncover key information to help guide and shape your approach when it comes to your communications strategy – leading to a more successful campaign.
Your research will help you decide what messaging will resonate most with your target audience and ensure you do not overstretch your resources, you set realistic timeframes and measurable objectives.
I hope this blog has given you a taste of why research is so important and how it forms the foundation of your communications strategy, guiding all communication efforts.
I’d love to know if you found this blog useful and what other topics you’d like to hear more about – see what I did there 😊
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