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Article -> You Know Customers? You Better Think Again

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Date Added: June 2007

Strategic Marketing Always a Good Idea
It seems like yesterday we loaded the family into the wood-panel station wagon and headed to destinations such as Mount Rushmore in South Dakota or the world’s largest penny in Woodruff. Now, with fuel prices well above $3 per gallon, travel is expensive. The cost of running a business is also soaring.
To protect the bottom line, some organizations slash their marketing budgets. After all, marketing investments are optional, unlike fixed costs. However, if you are not seeking new business, what revenue remains after current projects are completed? A shrinking budget combined with fewer marketing dollars sounds dire. But isn’t it vital to increase share in current and new markets?
This is why strategic marketing – to ensure your marketing budget is allocated toward the most cost-effective tactics – is a wise investment. Strategic marketing also involves expanding into current and emerging markets. Conducting research is a way to learn about these markets.
Market research may sound like a daunting task, even for an experienced professional. Many organizations rely on third parties to perform research because they are independent and objective, lacking preconceived notions about your brand and customers.
Three major obstacles face organizations contemplating research:
·         Organizations don’t invest in research because it’s viewed as a cost rather than an investment – typically because nothing was done with previous research. If  research is completed, it must be used. Research based on your best customers’ perceptions about your brand is extremely useful, and shapes your brand image and marketing messages for years.
·         Organizations believe they can skip research because it was conducted years ago and still considered valid. This is dangerous, because even the slowest markets are changing. Conducting research to validate what you think you know is wise. If you’re right, others see how smart you are. If wrong, you’re wise because the research helps your marketing efforts.
·         Organizations claim they cannot afford research because of limited budgets that must be spent on marketing tactics. What good are tactics if you lack good research to determine whether they are the “right” tactics – targeting the brand image, messages and positioning you are trying to communicate?
Strategic marketing with research is like taking your next vacation with the current gas prices. Be sure to invest where you will generate the highest return for everyone. 
This article was published in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on June 17, 2007.
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