As of 2016, there are 28 million registered small businesses offering competing products. The barrier to entry is lower than ever and new businesses are popping up every day. With increased market saturation come increased customer expectations. Consumers just have too many similarly-priced options to choose from, and the businesses that survive either do it through sheer luck or by differentiating themselves early on.

This is true for more than just small businesses. The world’s leading brands still wage turf wars constantly. Visa has Mastercard. Duracell has Energizer. BMW has Mercedes-Benz. Ultimately, whichever brand appeals most to its target market will win more customers.

So how do you monitor public brand perception and then turn those insights into competitive gains? And further, how do you do it without launching into a multi-phase, multi-month positioning project? Today we’ll discuss the top questions you should ask when developing a brand strategy—and few ways marketing surveys can help you answer them.

A Good Brand Strategy Starts with Good Data

Deciding how you’ll position or reposition your brand is key to growing your business. It’s tempting to take shortcuts—you can quickly create a logo, set up a website, advertise some products, and hope for the best. But branding without research is a big mistake. You only have one shot at a first impression, and it counts.

86% of consumers say customer loyalty is primarily driven by likability. To make your brand likable, you need to understand your audience’s needs and analyze your positioning constantly. So before launching or rebranding, it’s important to plan, conduct research, and gather data from your target market. That starts with a little self-reflection.

According to Frontera Group, here are some of the key questions you should ask before defining your brand strategy:

  1. If you’re a new brand, what is your desired brand position?
  2. If you’re repositioning, how do customers currently perceive your brand?
  3. Is your desired brand position differentiated enough to compete in a saturated market?
  4. Can you communicate your brand position in a compelling way?
  5. Is your brand position similar to other brands in the marketplace? If so, how?
  6. Is your brand position viable long-term?

To answer these six questions accurately, you’ll first need to understand your target market—or who you’re marketing and selling to. By examining their needs, wants, preferences, and tendencies, you’ll collect data that helps you market and sell to them more effectively.

Defining Your Target Market

According to Forbes contributor Chuck Cohn, defining your target market is a 2-step process.

  1. Narrow your focus.
    • Determine what needs your products or services fulfill, and who is most likely to have those needs.
    • Use a funnel approach to slim down your target market by demographics and preferences, until you arrive at a narrow group that is both highly interested and capable of buying.
    • Connect your primary value propositions to corresponding consumer needs.
  2. Gather data.
    • Use marketing surveys to collect demographic data on your target market.
    • Study existing data, including public information on competitors and their customers.
    • Ask friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances for their opinions about existing brands in the space.

Once you’ve defined your target market, you can select a sample of existing and prospective customers that fit the mold. Customer relationship management (CRM) software may play a heavy role here. For example, you might run a report in Salesforce to gather data on your customers and/or choose a sample group. Better yet, if you integrate customer feedback with a CRM, you can analyze your customer base on more subjective factors, like customer satisfaction (CSAT) score.

Even if you’re trying to enter a new market, it’s important to consider your existing customers before you hunt for new ones. Their perception of your brand and experience with your company can reveal strengths and weaknesses you’d otherwise miss. Plus, a competitive strategy that ignores existing customers will eventually damage your customer relationships and your brand reputation.

Running a Competitive Analysis

After you’ve collected insights through general market research, you’ll need to analyze your competitive positioning. For most companies, that involves a combination of focus groups, surveys, and analyses of existing customer data, but the process will vary considerably based on industry and company size.

Marketing MO suggests all businesses go through the following steps when analyzing their competitive positioning:

  1. Identify your major competitors and determine how they position themselves.
  2. Survey your target market to identify key preferences and pain points.
  3. List all of the ways your competitors solve customer pain points.
  4. Rate your company and your competitors based on price, product, customer experience, etc.
  5. Identify where competition is vulnerable and where you shine.
  6. Use those vulnerabilities as opportunities to deliver more value.
  7. Segment your market into personas in order to eventually determine how you can more effectively market to those personas than your competitors can.

Surveying Your Target Market

Let’s focus in on step number 2 above: Survey your target market to identify key preferences and pain points. As with any survey, getting quality data from a marketing survey starts with asking quality questions.

Here are some examples of the topics you might want to survey your target market on—plus examples of relevant survey questions.

  • Emotions that affect purchasing decisions
    • Out of the following options, which influences your purchase decisions most?
    • Which of the following qualities do you value most in the brands you buy from?
    • Which of the following would deter you most when researching potential solutions/products/services?
    • In the past year, have you switched providers because of a negative customer experience?
  • Needs and wants
    • On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to purchase a _____ in the next six months?
    • Which of the following qualities is most important to you in a _____?
    • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your current need for a _____?
    • Have you ever been dissatisfied with the quality or availability of _____?
  • Brand perception (your company and your competitors)
    • Based on your experience with _____, how would you rate their product quality/service quality/customer service/overall experience?
    • On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague? (the Net Promoter Score question)
    • Which of the following would influence you to switch providers?
    • How would you rate our product/service quality on a scale of 1-10?
  • Marketing communication preferences
    • Which of the following channels do you prefer to receive marketing and sales communications through?
    • Which of the following advertisements appeals to you most?
    • How many hours a week do you spend browsing _____ websites?
    • Do you prefer to talk to salespeople via email or phone?
    • Do you subscribe to any _____ newsletters?

Wrap-up

The biggest and most successful companies don’t rely on luck when developing their brands. They use calculated market research and a customer-centric approach to connect to their audiences and then speak to them effectively. But not every company can afford to hire a market research company and devote months to a brand overhaul.

Marketing surveys help you take control of your brand strategy, delivering actionable data that helps you craft smarter messaging and select the channels that speak to your target personas. That data can also inform future marketing campaigns, steer demand generation initiatives, and help you develop a brand voice that resonates.

With an online survey software tool like GetFeedback, you can send on-brand marketing surveys to your customers and your audience. Plus, our seamless Salesforce integration gives you complete control over survey distribution and analysis.

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