Today’s SMEs face a number of challenges that pose obstacles to growth.

A recent study of 400 SME leaders revealed that some of their key challenges are:

  • Keeping up with technological change and disruption.
  • Inciting and delivering constant innovation to deliver results.
  • Understanding different consumer groups, including their main motivations and brand relationships.
  • Managing rising costs as the business grows.

Research by Imperial College London and marketing agency Earnest found SMEs generally turn to online research for answers, but remain skeptical about the advice they receive and want to combine it with other modes of research.

There’s an air of confusion around who to trust, and what small businesses should do to improve their business strategy to get the best ROI possible.

Here are some common mistakes SMEs can make when reliable research isn’t used to guide decision-making.

Five mistakes small businesses make

1. Applying big business approaches.

Shallow internet research may uncover what appears to be strong advice on how to position and market your business, but this advice isn’t tailored to your company size, strategy, mission, values or services.

2. Bracketing themselves in by looking only at the obvious customer.

Without deep insight, it’s easy to only see the logical customers of your brand and products. But when you dig deeper, you may find suitable and switched-on consumer groups that you otherwise wouldn’t have allocated resource to targeting, leading to a better ROI.

3. Making assumptions on their audience.

You may think you know your audience, but unless you’ve used deep survey data offered up directly from the consumers themselves, you’re simply making assumptions. A solid marketing strategy is built on a foundation of absolute truth, and when you get your information from those you’re looking to target, you know you’re on the right path.

4. Not investing in content marketing.

Content marketing is a key focus for any business looking to create a strong brand-consumer relationship. But why spend resource on something that may not yield immediate fiscal results?

Because when you offer relevant and actionable content to your target audience, you’re moving far beyond simply making a sale. You’re answering their questions before they ask them, helping them solve their problems, creating brand trust, and encouraging loyalty and advocacy.

And according to Demand Metric, content marketing generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing, and costs 62% less.

5. Not using facts to guide decisions.

Again, guesswork and assumptions just don’t cut it for any company with a limited amount of time and money to spend.

Even if you know your consumers well, today’s audiences are constantly changing and evolving both in terms of their behaviors and their opinions.

It’s absolutely crucial to stay on top of these changes and keep a constant pulse on your buyer personas.

Luckily, these mistakes can all be overcome.

How SMEs can overcome these challenges

Validate your audience.

Using global data from a trusted source, you can confirm that your target audience is appropriate and uncover new segments of consumers that would also convert if they’re targeted well. This way, you’re focusing your spend on strategies that will pay off.

Conduct robust research to understand their needs.

But it’s not enough to know who your consumers are – you need to understand what you can offer them.

By creating data-driven buyer personas, you can map segments in minute detail, outlining the interests, attitudes and perceptions that are crucial to target.

Using data from the consumers themselves enables you to identify where, when and how your brand can swoop in and fulfill their needs.

Know your value proposition per target consumer.

Once you’ve identified who your target consumers really are and created granular buyer personas, you need to customize your strategy to each of them.

A value proposition demonstrates to the consumer what your business can offer them and how, highlighting in detail the ways in which they will benefit from your services..

But it’s not enough to have one, overarching value proposition to represent your brand – you must go deeper to hone in on the unique aspects of each consumer group you’re looking to reach.

Invest in the right channels and tactics.

With all these data-driven tools at hand, you can reduce wasted spend and become hyper-targeted.

By focusing your marketing only on the channels and tactics that you already know your target consumers will respond to, you’re finally moving far beyond guesswork and putting your brand in front of the right eyes, in the right place, at the right time.

Where to start

By investing in a top-quality data source, you can avoid making unfounded business decisions and face challenges head on, with confidence.

Challenges like new tech, constant innovation, evolving consumer groups and rising costs can all be managed when you have true, reliable insight into what your consumers expect from you.

And when you have access to a source of deep consumer insight, you have everything you need to move past the guesswork and be in complete control of your business strategy.

Steps to generate and implement solid market research

1. Identify the problem. What issue do you want market research to solve?

2. Set your objectives. Define your key objective or objectives. This might be expressed as a question, a statement or a hypothesis.

3. Start your research planning. Detail how the information will be collected and analyzed, and get a clear plan of action.

4. Determine your sample size. Select a small, hyper-targeted group of people who are representative of a wider group or population to get the deepest insight possible.

5. Start collecting your data. Using a mixture of active and passive data collection combines analytical and scientific data to give breadth and depth to your findings.

6. Analyze the data. Data analysis involves bringing together the qualitative or quantitative data – or mixture of both – for scrutiny.

7. Start applying your insights. Interpreting the information and understanding how this can be translated into business actions is the final stage of marketing research. You can then apply them to your strategy, and create data-driven campaigns.

Introducing contemporary, granular market research to your business can seem daunting – especially if you haven’t made use of a data source in the past.

But as many SMEs are aware, in today’s landscape, having the data to guide your decisions is no longer a nice to have, it’s a necessity.

With reliable and robust consumer insight at hand, you can avoid making small mistakes, and focus on the work that will net you success and growth.

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