Fun with brand research (no, really)

If you read my last brandDIY post, you’re probably all revved up about your brand’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Truth is, the fun is only half done. In this story, we kick it up a notch and ask your fans what they think your USP should be.

Of course, if you haven’t read the BrandDIY series of blog posts yet, let me fill you in on what’s going on.

I’ve been helping clients build powerful brands for over 25 years. Today, more than ever, entrepreneurs with small to medium sized businesses are on the rise – we live in a startup world.  As a consequence, I’m seeing a greater need to help clients help themselves. That is, DIY their brand.

With that in mind, I launched the BrandDIY Playbook late 2016. The Playbook takes you through the step-by-step process I follow when I’m building brands. It works.

That said, it can always be better. That’s why, in 2019, I created the new BrandDIY books.

In this series of blog posts, I’m sharing highlights from the book. No, it won’t be the same as reading BrandDIY itself, but each post will provide invaluable insights nonetheless.

Without further ado, let’s dig into our topic for today – asking your audience what they think your USP should be.

Spoiler: brand research is fun

Research can be dry. Anyone who has sat through an evening of focus groups can attest to this.

But research can also be terrifically inspiring. Almost every time I conduct research, I find fresh brand truths, waiting for my clients to tap into. Eyes widen, smiles broaden, we all rub our hands together enthusiastically and agree – research is fun.

Almost every time I conduct research, I find fresh brand truths, waiting for my clients to tap into. Eyes widen, smiles broaden…we all agree – research is fun!

I’ll use my own company as an example. A few years back, when I was positioning my newly-minted consultancy, I did some interviews with former bosses and clients. Where I expected they would tell me my strengths were in innovation or creativity, they said my greatest aptitude was actually making complicated things simple. Even better, they said this talent was rare and greatly appreciated. It was this feedback that became the cornerstone of my offering.

What the *&%$ do you want brand research for?

Before we jump into the joys of research, we should pause and ask ourselves the first blatantly obvious question. Why?

Before you jump into the joys of research, ask yourself the most blatantly obvious question. Why?

If you don’t ask yourself this question now, and write down exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll spend your research time wandering around in the dark. Sure, you may stumble over some insights, but it will be a painful process.

So grab a pen and paper, and answer these questions:

  1. What exactly do I want to know?
  2. Who can tell me what I need to know?
  3. What should I ask them to get the right answer?

Feel the clarity starting to wash over you like a cooling breeze? Well, a little bit, anyway.

What sort of brand research?

So we’ve established that research is very worthwhile. We have an idea of exactly what we want to learn from our research, and who can tell us. Now what?

We need to figure out what sort of research we want to conduct, in order to get the best insights on a DIY budget.

While there are many worthwhile forms of research out there, I tend to fall back on a few that give me great results without much fuss.

  1. First, I read. No matter what sector, there are trade publications, books, and journal articles that describe the market and the players. If I find a story that seems to offer a good perspective on the sector, I call the journalist to dig into their learnings and insights. I’ve found most journalists are happy to chat, especially on a topic they’re passionate about.
  2. Next,  I map out the battlefield by digging into competitors online. I try out competitor sales funnels, I read yelp reviews or testimonials, I check out popular search terms in the field and see whose sites pop up when I type them in. In short, I go where the rabbit hole leads me.
  3. Finally, I talk to people. I’ve found myself chatting with competitors about their perception of the market, talking to consumers about the truth behind competitor promises, talking to fans of my client’s product about their experiences, talking to suppliers and buyers, legislators and stakeholders. Usually, I try to cap my conversations at about 20 ‘outsiders’. By then, I tend to see patterns in responses that point to consistent experiences.

Is DIY research infallible? No. But does it generate the sort of insights we can turn into brand propositions and test in the real world? Yes.

Is this research infallible? No. When I’m working with clients on a DIY budget, the priority is generating insights we can act on. I believe ‘nailing it’ in research is a pipe dream propagated by research houses looking for fat commissions. The beauty of working in an online world is that we can generate a hunch through research, stand up marketing that reflects the hunch, and test for response in the real world. It’s a beautiful thing.

It’s time for a well-earned break

I wanted to dig into great interview questions, how to be a great interviewer, and how to compile your findings. But your DIY brain is probably as overburdened as a pizza delivery scooter, so we’ll take a well-earned break. Digest these nuggets, and we’ll get back to work in the next story.

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