Market research in an advertising context is just learning about your target audience, where to find them, and how to create content that resonates and drives them to action.

You may have already done some informal market research, such as posting a poll on social media. You may have also learned how to pivot the hard way after a less-than-stellar campaign or product launch. Even just chatting with customers about what they like about your products or services can be considered informal market research and invaluable to how you choose to advertise.

Understanding your customers and how to reach them and how to drive them to act is crucial to an advertising campaign. Research is one of the first steps of creating an ad campaign, and the findings from that research will almost definitely influence the tone and execution of the campaign.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and guide of how to do market research. As a full-service advertising agency, we’ve handled this for all our clients and have developed a few ways to stay on top of the latest trends while investigating a wide variety of customers and buyers.

Let’s go over a few terms you’ll see popping up while doing research:

Quantitative vs. Qualitative

Quantitative means data generated by numbers (quantity means an amount or number). This could mean number of page views or that 28% of survey participants preferred X over Y.

Qualitative is the opposite — it is data that isn’t defined by numbers. This can be preferences, likes or dislikes, or emotional responses. This type of data is usually gathered in surveys or interviews and helps expose the customers’ thoughts.

Primary vs. Secondary Research

Essentially, primary research is conducted by you, in house. You can write and send out surveys, interview customers, and create buyer personas. Secondary research is when a third party carries out research on your behalf. Many companies choose to hire research groups to dive into their customers and habits. Secondary research can also mean reviewing previously established research — such as reading a white paper on the buying habits of your targeted age group.

Different Ways You Can Conduct Market Research

There are many ways to help collect information about your customers. You can handle it yourself or hire an ad agency or research group to conduct the research for you.

Some ways of gathering information include:

  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Observation-based research
  • Competitive analysis research
  • Customer surveys
  • Competitor observation
  • Social media listening

There’s no one specific method that’s better than the other. In fact, it’s a good idea to mix and match methods so you can get a fuller picture of your customers.

One thing that is important, though? Asking open ended questions! Only asking “yes” or “no” questions can severely limit the amount of information the customer will give you. Remember, you really want to dive deep into their thoughts, actions, and reasoning. By encouraging the customers to explore their thoughts, observations, and more in the answers will only enrich your understanding of them.

Another great way to help glean information is to create a buyer persona. You’ll spend the time creating an avatar for your ideal customer — where do they live? How much money do they make? What’s their favorite social media network? How will your product solve problems for them? Need a bit more guidance? We’ve developed a guide to creating your ideal buyer in our How To Guide, which you can download here.