Historically, when brands wanted to understand their market, they would speak directly to their current and potential customers. With this method, they could able to identify the emotions, motivations, and characteristics of their customer base in order to make more informed decisions. Today, brands can combine these old-school methods with newer big data approaches to get a qualitative and quantitative view of their market, customers, and competition.

If your business is going to use research to find insights, you’ll need to first seek to understand how a target audience is reacting to your offering. Only then can you dig a little deeper and dig into the nuances of a real business challenge.

With that in mind, here are three things you should know about data’s vital importance in the B2B marketing space.

Data can help you make decisions

Whether it’s inside a marketing department or in a research room in a data center, everyone in the business wants to make the right decisions. Market research offers an opportunity to uncover factors influencing buying decisions that will allow you to make better decisions about your business. For example, you may determine that the newest discoveries in your industry are impacting your business in different ways, allowing you to build or develop a relevant offering.

The research provided by your research center can be used to generate customer insights that can form the basis of a special offering, such as savings, promotions, or new product launches.

Data can be used to show you trends in the market

Even if your research doesn’t directly link to a specific offer, it can always be used to show trends. Although both buying patterns and feelings can change over time, often patterns can be seen that help inform the development of new offerings or new business strategies.

You can also track business growth and sales, allowing you to see what things work and what fails to move the needle.

Data can show new competition

It may seem obvious that research will assist a brand to understand its competition, but that isn’t always the case. As a market researcher, you must be careful not to be biased and get blinded by specific results. If you are making decisions based on a data set, it’s imperative to be aware of how they compare to the competition.

In general, you’ll want to be sure that the numbers provide a comparable set of data to other market data, and that it includes some attributes that the other data doesn’t have. If another data set has unique features, be sure that you have also taken into account these unique data elements.

The distinction between user perception and user performance can be highly evident in a company like Microsoft or Oracle, which enjoys great brand recognition and strong brand loyalty. If you are a newer company, it can be very difficult to find market share growth, even if you’re a market leader. Instead, it may be important to try to understand customers’ experiences as well as their motivations and expectations when they make decisions.

These three benefits are only a taste of what data can do to improve your marketing approach. Going forward, data will only become increasingly important. If you don’t foster a data-centric approach, you will be left behind.

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