Marketing Research Tools and Suggestions for Startups
Startup got funded? Way to go! Are they asking for a content marketing plan? Don't have that worked out just yet, do you? It's OK. Well, it will be OK. Set aside some quality time with your marketing director (unless that's also you, in which case, set aside the time on your calendar), start with this guide, and you'll have a solid plan worked out in no time.
The foundation of a solid marketing research plan is to understand that any company, whether B2B or B2C, relies on customers to function. That might sound self-evident, but you may be surprised to see how many startups fail because they forgot about their customers in the race to get products to market or secure the next round of funding.
73% of startups say that marketing research is essential to their success.
"Marketing research" is a pretty open-ended phrase when discussing everything from viability research to focus groups, product R&D, and target buyer persona development. Then there are the digital aspects of keyword research, audience research, and content development. We will stick to the target audience and keyword research topics to keep this manageable and get you started on the right foot. In our experience, these are the main areas of interest when developing a content marketing strategy for your nascent startup.
Market Research is a Fundamental Piece of any Startup Strategy.
Before you can launch or bring anything to market, it stands to reason that you should know said market pretty well, right? And in today's digital world, a large part of that will be knowing how to reach your target market once you've identified them. There are three critical aspects of any startup marketing research program to have in hand before moving forward: knowing your audience, your product, and the power of perspective.
Know your audience
As we already said, you can't develop a marketing plan without knowing who you're aiming it at. That means research focused on identifying your target audience. Demographics, psychographics, and economics all come into play as the key aspects of your audience to get a handle on at this early stage.
From there, you can narrow down the tactics and techniques to help your marketing efforts land effectively and generate the leads and purchases your startup will need to start and stay viable.
Know your product
This should go without saying, which is precisely why we will say it. Know your product better than the designers and developers who made it. Your job will be convincing the public to invest in this item/service to address their pain points, so if they ask a question, you better be able to answer it with facts, figures, and citations to back your claims.
Cultural norms are often overlooked at this research stage, but this is exactly when you should focus on them. Where's your primary target audience located? How will they respond to your product, ads, or copy? There may be regional differences in the terminology used to describe pain points. Or national differences in how they'll react to the actors in your ads. Or religious differences in how they'll interpret the whole reason for your widget existing.
Knowing that before launching in these areas is your job, so you're not surprised. This detailed research aims to decrease time to market, increase customer satisfaction, and enable better allocation of resources. Avoiding boycotts is always a good thing as well.
Free Audience Research Tools Abound
Once you have a well-documented target buyer persona fleshed out, it's time to meet people and see how well they align with what you have on paper. We can hear the fretting from here. Don't worry about this step... it's not as daunting as many imagine.
You likely have an existing email list, whether it's your contact list or from early adopters eagerly awaiting your product. And if not, use your social media following or LinkedIn contact list. Whatever the source, these folks are a ripe pool of potential customers from which to draw valuable insights. Send out short surveys with different carrots on offer to entice participation. Phrase your questions to elicit information on search habits or buying patterns, then use the responses to cull your list of possible topics and keywords to focus your content on or even weed out entire segments of who you thought your audience would be.
44% of startups use SurveyMonkey to conduct surveys.
Today's consumers are craving personalization and one-on-one contact with the companies they do business with. So setting up a series of focus groups, drawing from the same contact list above, can uncover valuable insights into what people seek in a widget, how they intend to use their next widget purchase, etc. You can increase engagement by making these events exclusive and offering access only to social media followers, early backers, or any other audience segment.
Online keyword research tools
Now that you've created a master list of content keywords your target audience is likely to be using when searching for solutions to their problems, it's time to see which of these you're most likely to be able to rank for so you can focus your efforts and budget accordingly. Among our favorite free keyword tools are Ubersuggest and Wordstream's Free Keyword Research Tool--both are excellent for conducting SEO on a budget.
These two offerings work similarly. You enter the keyword you're interested in, and the site returns a plethora of data. Everything from search volume and frequency to a score tells you how difficult it will be to rank for. We suggest using both and combining the insights you glean to develop a unified keyword list for your initial content marketing campaign. After all, who knows your audience and product better than you do?
38% of startups use SEMrush to track their website's search engine rankings.
When you're ready to dive deeper, some excellent paid tools will open up new horizons of insight into your keyword options. Ahrefs, Semrush, Buzzsumo, and Google Ads are our favorites. Google Ads, while designed to run your PPC campaigns, has elaborate keyword research features to consider.