Marketing research in 5 easy steps

A business will not get anywhere without a strong marketing research. High-quality products and services can only go so far. If they are not pushed in front of the right eyeballs, guess what – they will not generate the sales numbers you hope to achieve. That is bad news.

Yet, you cannot simply jump into any old marketing strategy. You could think a few paid ads and blog posts will generate the organic traffic you desire, but that might not be the case. In fact, you may end up simply wasting your marketing dollars on promotional avenues that lead to a dead end.

How can you avoid costly mistakes? Two words: marketing research.

With marketing research as the backbone behind your marketing decisions, you will make smarter, more productive moves toward your promotional goals. At least, that is the case if you get it right with your marketing research.

If you are a newcomer when it comes to this area of business, this guide will help. Below are the key marketing research steps all beginners should take.

Why is marketing research important?

Marketing research is important because it provides analytics. This image is a chalkboard with "analytics" spelled out in magnet letters.

Before exploring the marketing research steps you need to take, let us first focus on the importance of marketing research.

There are various reasons to perform this type of research. Yes, you want to gain insight into the marketing tactics that will benefit your business. Yet, it is also a way to take a peek – well, eyeful – of your competition. You can learn about their strengths and weaknesses from a marketing perspective. Furthermore, you can keep track of their strategies and any developments they make.

Marketing research is also essential for another huge reason: you can better understand your target audience, and this allows you to create a competitive business plan.

Okay, it is likely you have a general idea about your target audience already. You realize their needs and what they want to purchase. With marketing research, however, you uncover a secret ingredient: how to win their loyalty. It is not just about the ‘what’ – research assists with revealing the ‘why’. It lets you know why customers are doing what they are doing, along with what they are thinking.

As an example, you could identify through analytics that people are leaving your website once they hit a certain landing page. Yet, that only gives you the ‘what’ in terms of it happening. The research will enlighten you as to ‘why’ potential customers are feeling cold toward that landing page. 

Right, you know why it is important for your business. Now let us go through those all-important marketing research steps.

Related: Market Research vs. Marketing Research

Step #1: SEO

Three blocks spelling out SEO.

Search engine optimization. There is a primary reason why many businesses, both big and small, dedicate a large portion of their time and resources to it. SEO is the main gateway to organic traffic.

If your website’s content or external content – think Amazon product pages and YouTube videos – ranks among the top results for in-demand search terms, this will naturally lead to a lot more eyes seeing what you have to offer. For this to happen, your SEO efforts must fire on all cylinders.

Marketing research can help in a big way with achieving that goal.

Fortunately, this marketing research is easy due to the sheer number of SEO tools on the market, with both free and paid options available.

Here are some of our recommendations when it comes to SEO tools:

  • Google Search Console
  • SEMrush
  • Ahrefs
  • Moz Pro
  • Answer the Public
  • SpyFu

By seeing what competitors are doing with their own SEO strategies, you can discover a wealth of information. This includes two main elements: the keywords they are using and the backlinks they are receiving.


Keywords are, pardon the pun, the ‘key’ to succeeding with SEO. With smart, seamless implementation of keywords – no sticking them into content unnaturally – this can boost your SEO ranking for said keywords, aka search terms.

Say you work in the t-shirt printing business. Your marketing research could reveal that ‘t-shirt printing company near me’ is a valuable long-tail keyword that your local customer base is using. With this in mind, you could update current content to include this keyword or build an entirely new page with it as a primary focus.

Related Article: 5 Best Keyword Research Tools

As for backlinks, these are one of the most integral SEO ranking factors. If a webpage has an ample collection of valuable backlinks from reputable, high-ranking websites, chances are you will see it feature prominently in relevant Google search results. The problem is acquiring backlinks is a serious challenge. Simply finding possible candidates that will share a backlink to your website is tricky.

With astute marketing research, however, locating those possible candidates is made a lot easier. It is possible to gain a full list of backlinks a competitor has received. Then it is a case of going through this list, finding sites that are a suitable fit for your content, and trying to entice them to share your links. A nice email to the site’s webmaster is always a solid starting point.

Step #2: Content Strategy

Chess pieces with white pieces all knocked down before the black king.

Content strategy is the next natural step to take after SEO. After all, these two marketing strategies work in tandem. If the content is not good, your SEO efforts will fail to hit the mark. If your SEO efforts are lackluster, your content will end up in no man’s land via the search results.

As stated, simply appeasing the search engines by going through a standard SEO checklist will not cut it – certainly not in this day and age. In fact, one of the essential ranking factors is to create in-depth, important content that answers user inquiries and keeps them reading until the bottom of the page.

There is a problem. What if you have no idea about what content to create for your business? What if you are struggling to come up with blog content or social media posts? If you are experiencing a creative mental block, do not worry. Marketing research is here to help.

Spy on Competition

With marketing research, you can effectively spy on what your competitors are creating. You can analyze their blog posts, webpages, product listings, and social media content and use this as inspiration for your own work. Of course, you cannot simply copy what they have – that would be cheating. Plus, Google does not take kindly to duplicate content!

What you can do is understand the type of content your customer base likes to consume. By using an appropriate SEO tool, you can pinpoint which content is receiving the most attention in terms of views, conversions, and time on page.

Say you run a digital marketing agency. One of your competitors might be receiving a boatload of visitors due to their ’10 Strategies to Earn Backlinks for Your Website’ blog post. You may decide to include this core topic for one of your own blog posts.

However, to stand out, you need to improve on what already exists. Along with more informative, creative writing that is joined by visual aids like videos and infographics, you bump the strategy count to 15 and include additional info. You then end up with a ’15 Powerful Link Building Strategies + The Best Free Backlink Resources’ blog.

Attempting to one-up the competition is necessary across all content sources. You want the best product descriptions. You need the most engaging, shareworthy social media posts. You desire landing pages that lead to the most conversions.

A content strategy is also something that cannot stand still. As such, your marketing research should be an ongoing process. Along with following the latest trends, make sure to create alerts that let you know about the latest content your competitors are publishing.

Step #3: Paid Ad Spend

Google app icon on a phone.

What are your competitors spending on ads? What platforms are they using to host these ads? How effective are these ads in getting people to click and convert? These are the questions you should answer with marketing research.

Paid ads are a fantastic short-term marketing solution. While SEO and content marketing can take a long time to bear fruit, paid ads provide instant visibility for your brand. It is effectively a shortcut to the top of Google searches, Amazon results, and so on.

That is the case if you craft effective ads. If your ad is not eye-catching or convincing enough, potential customers will not pay it any attention. This is the same if you target the wrong market or demographic with your ad campaign. With marketing research, you can learn how to avoid these types of mistakes.

Looking at the competition and their own ad campaigns educates you on the type of ads that are effective. It also reveals which ad platforms are worthwhile and how to maximize your ad dollars.

Step #4: Company Reviews

Five stars in a row.

Company reviews are an excellent insight into how your competitors operate. This is where you gain real feedback from real customers. Visit a company’s website, and they will boast about all of their positive aspects – as they should. Yet, this does not highlight negative points in the same way as reviews.

Admittedly, reading reviews, whether these are about a product or the business in general, is not only about spotting negatives and gaps in the market you can capitalize on. It can also help you spot positive trends to focus on with your marketing efforts and product development.

As an example, you could analyze reviews for comparable headphones that you offer. These reviews highlight a common issue: the lack of noise-canceling technology. If your headphones are strong in this area – or they can be following development – this is something to focus on with your product description and other content.

There is also a specialist tool available to analyze these reviews: GapScout.

By utilizing AI technology, GapScout will help you drastically accelerate the process of review analysis. It will pick out certain trends found within reviews across a company, doing so with a level of accuracy that a human will struggle to match. This is particularly helpful if a competitor receives a plentiful serving of reviews on the regular.

With the help of GapScout, it is not only about finding new business opportunities within your existing products. You can also use the extracted information to improve everything from your sales copy to current offers.

Step #5: Sponsorship

Racecar with sponsor stickers.

Not every business uses sponsorship as part of their marketing strategy. As it is not a direct promotional tactic, competitors in your industry might decide to opt against going down this path. Yet, if sponsorship is part of their plans, it can be a great source for your marketing research.

Sponsorship comes in many different forms. Yet, in general, this is where two brands work together in a professional capacity. One business will sponsor the other in some way, whether this is through funding, services, or resources they can offer. The recipient benefits from this support, while the sponsor gains a welcome boost to their reputation and brand awareness.

When done right, it is a win-win for both parties.

So, how does this factor into your marketing research? By analyzing different sponsorship marketing campaigns used by the competition, you can learn about the type of recipients that would welcome this type of partnership.

While an option, this does not mean you would necessarily usurp the competition by offering a better sponsorship deal to a specific brand. The information you uncover can assist with knowing the type of business or industry that would be interested in agreeing to a sponsorship deal.

For example, an online therapy business could sponsor a popular true-crime podcast. If this partnership has been a long-term one, it suggests that it is a fruitful one for both brands. With this information, and rather than trying to disrupt this partnership, another online therapy brand may decide to explore sponsoring a podcast in some way, whether this is in the true crime sector or another relevant category.

Marketing research can separate you from your competition.

Marketing research is important for businesses because it helps you to understand your target audience, keep track of competitors’ strategies, and make informed decisions about your marketing tactics.

There are several steps that beginners should take when conducting marketing research. These include optimizing their website’s search engine rankings through the use of keywords and backlinks, analyzing the competition, studying customer behavior and demographics, and testing different marketing strategies.

By following these steps, you can improve your marketing efforts and reach your promotional goals.

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Justin Ferriman
Justin Ferriman
Justin is the founder of GapScout, the easiest way for solopreneurs and small businesses to find profitable gaps in their market. Follow Justin on Twitter→

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