In college, research was always my favorite part of writing papers. I don't know why, but finding data to back up my hypotheses always gives me a thrill.

But, even though I love research, it's not exactly my forte — and I know I'm not alone.

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Conducting market research is a necessity for both B2B or B2C companies. It enables you to use hard data to back up theories and predictions about customer behavior. This data can influence how you structure a campaign, and how you interact with customers.

However, when researching for marketing purposes, it can be tricky to know where to start, and how to keep going when you get stuck.

If you find yourself striking out during the research process, we've got you covered. Here, we've collected tips from HubSpot researchers about their research processes to make sure you feel confident collecting and analyzing data for your next campaign or report.

Tips from HubSpot Researchers

In 2019, HubSpot's VP of International Operations, Nataly Kelly, wrote, "Data is incredibly powerful. It can inform, persuade, and reinforce. However, it can also mislead. We all bring our own biases to the table when we interpret data, and that can often lead to drawing an inaccurate conclusion."

Keep this in mind while researching — it's a good reminder that data is useful when it's accurate, but presenting inaccurate data can ultimately harm your marketing strategies.

1. Take a variety of perspectives.

According to marketing research co-op Meg Kartham, "When conducting any type of research, it is important to take a variety of perspectives, whether that be industry or region."

What this means is that you must think about as many outcomes as possible, especially if you're conducting global research. Think about it — is a survey about nationwide customer satisfaction useful if you're only surveying the Midwest?

Consider a survey conducted by HubSpot to measure International Net Promoter Scores (NPS). NPS measures customer satisfaction with our CRM. Some assumptions HubSpot researchers made included the assumption that some global norms that are different from those in the U.S. might've impacted the scores internationally.

For instance, when asked to rate customer service on a scale of 1-10, did you know that in Germany, 1 is the highest rating, rather than 10? Additionally, in some European countries, giving the highest score is almost unheard of. An A+ is considered 8-9, rather than 10.

When creating surveys, try to make one that can be universal to as many audiences as possible to make data collection easier. Alternatively, do research on global differences and take those into account when measuring results.

2. Research for your audience.

Research uncovers your target audience and provides insight into what kind of marketing you can do to reach them. As campaign manager Kyle Denhoff said, "Research helps inform the Campaign Brief that becomes the most important document of your campaign."

That is why, when researching, Denhoff suggests to begin with understanding your audience. When building campaigns, Denhoff has found that covering as many bases as possible helps to give a rounded view on how to reach delight customers.

Behind the Screens is a four-part mini interview series about digital advertising that brings industry leaders from Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn together to educate business on how to use digital ads to their advantage. Because HubSpot is devoted to helping businesses grow better, it is probably in the interests of our customers to engage in a series like this one.

We know that because of the work done beforehand. Preparation for this series employed Denhoff's team to collect as much prior knowledge as possible, a technique he points to as successful. 

"Gather insights from various sources including customer calls, keyword research, and social media audience insights," he said. "Giving your team a clear picture of the audience you are creating for and the challenge you are trying to help them solve."

3. Make research relevant.

When researching, Kartham suggests personalizing the research as much as possible. If you're sending out a survey, respondents should only be asked questions that are relevant to the study.

Alternatively, a survey with the goal of measuring brand engagement on social media probably wouldn't benefit from asking the respondents whether or not they use video in their marketing materials. It's critical you ask only the most relevant questions in a survey since too many questions will cause respondents to exit the survey without finishing it.

By making research relevant, you can ensure that the results you receive help you answer your research question. All of the answers should aide in proving or disproving your hypothesis.

4. Broaden areas of study.

In 2018, HubSpot researchers wanted to find research on how customers use email subscriptions. When Associate Product Manager of Subscriptions, Tyler Scionti, and his team began the research process, they found there was a gap in this subject.

Though Google is vast with research about how to get email subscribers, there's seldom about what to send subscribers. There was a need for this information so the team decided to collect it by analyzing data from emails. So began the research process and a challenge to collect data on a subject that has less than stellar findings.

"I decided to collect as much data as I could in an objective way and let the data bring forth a conclusion rather than my own ideas affect the data," Scionti said. "This helped me write an objective report and gave my team great food for thought on the state of our product."

In a dataset that focused on how customers use their email subscriptions, it's probably not important to gather data about how many subscriptions customers have — instead, it's probably more important to analyze data based on open rates by contacts, so the team focused on the latter.

By keeping an open scope in data collection, Scionti's team was able to deepen their knowledge about the product as well as refer to a large amount of relevant research. This was an aide in developing email subscriptions further and can be a good method to use if you don't know where to start in your research.

5. Make it easy to follow.

Let's say you've finally completed the hard task of collecting all of this market research. When analyzing and interpreting that data for a presentation, you'll want to make sure you're presenting it in a way that's easy to follow.

Kartham said that when organizing results, "Presenting and sharing research in an easy to read and understanding fashion is needed."

This is especially necessary if your research topic is something known as less-than-glamorous. For instance, a framework about how consumers respond to brands on social media, while a thrilling and interesting topic to me, might not be the most engaging topic to professionals who aren't social media enthusiasts.

That being said, when presenting research, it should be given in a way that's easy to follow. Research won't transfer well to those who might need background information on the functions of different social media channels.

Information that seems like simple math to some might look like the most complicated level of calculus to others, so organizing research that reads like you're explaining it to a grandparent is essential.

For instance, in the branding framework mentioned above, the University of Virginia team in partnership with the leader of HubSpot's Market Research and Competitive Intelligence team, Mimi An, does a great job of providing visuals to represent complicated numbers and survey answers.

Keeping these tips in mind can help you elevate your process of collecting research and interpreting data. Another tip when researching is to read over research reports in topics similar to yours. Seeing how they formulate data can give you pointers and inspiration when collecting your own.

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Originally published Dec 10, 2019 4:00:00 AM, updated December 10 2019

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Conducting Marketing Research