Some economic indicators are starting to turn positive and suggest that the worst of the recession may be over. Even so, companies continue to cut their marketing budgets and this is perhaps the very worst time to do so. Cutting marketing expenditures at this time in the economic cycle is akin to stopping contributions to one’s investment portfolio during a bear market – in each case, one stands to miss out on the rebound.
Right now, marketing research is more critical than ever. Yes, business is still slow. But marketing research can be used ever more strategically right now. Your margins might still be tight, and you may still have some cuts to make. Many travel-related industries, especially hotels, are making use of marketing research to identify which amenities they can either eliminate or charge extra for, without negatively impacting customer satisfaction and/or loyalty. You should consider doing the same.
Marketing research can also be helpful in gauging the optimism of your customers and prospects, so that you can plan ahead for the future. Conducting marketing research right now can also inform you of what your target customers are substituting for your product or service to cope with these hard times. This information can help you accommodate them and/or find other ways to fulfill their needs.
You can also do marketing research relatively inexpensively with survey tools such as SuveyMonkey, Zoomerang, Survey Gizmo, etc. As long as you understand survey theory and sampling, you should be able to use these tools without compromising research integrity. You may even be able to reduce the size of your typical samples without sacrificing much accuracy. And you may be able to rely more heavily on secondary research. You can even track your competition with online tools like Compete.com.
Whatever the case, don’t abandon marketing research, especially now. Some carefully thought out, informal research is better than no research at all. Marketing research is the compass that will help you navigate out of these hard economic times.