Does your job title include the words “marketing manager,” “marketing director,” or any variation thereof? If so, keep reading; this is the post for you.

It’s not easy working in marketing, trying to manage brands, define strategy, and work with sales teams all at once. Being the Supreme Problem Solver is only one of the many hats a marketing manager must wear. Above all these responsibilities, it falls on your shoulders to sell products and services with creative and effective marketing.

The savviest marketing managers know that they will be most successful if they can understand what customers think and translate this information into effective marketing strategies, and there is no better tool for this than market research.

If this resonates with you, read on, marketing manager. Your path to stardom lies ahead.

Marketing manager superstar step #1: Go to the source!

To say that marketing managers “work” with their products teams might be a slight stretch. There may be some overlap in meetings, and some CC’d emails between the two departments, but nothing overly substantial. To be a marketing manager star, it helps to get to know the product team better, and in turn get to know the product better! Ask them, what problem are you trying to address with this upcoming product? How do you envision its use? Can you predict how customers will employ this product in practice? Will there be later availability to improve and expand? Take good notes – they’ll come in handy in step 3.

Marketing manager superstar step #2: Sales, sales, sales

The sales teams might be a little harder to track down, since they often work remotely. We can work with that, though: call them up. Skype them. Their field-based assignments give them insight about what customers are saying about products, any problems with current messaging strategies, the connection between the branding and the product, and even what customers want from sales teams. Since sales teams talk to customers all day, they’re going to be incredibly informed on this topic – find a few that can act as your source, and go back to them frequently.

Don’t stop taking notes, because you’re about to use them!

Marketing manager superhero step #3: Finally, invest in qualitative research

Compile what you’ve heard from the product and sales teams. Where is the overlap? What are the question marks? What questions do you need to still figure out, and who are the customer segments that are the best fit to answer these questions?

This is the time to amass the information collected from both the product and sales sides of the equation to find the overlaps and question marks. What questions need to be further explored? Which portions of the customer market are best suited to answer these questions?

Compile these finding into a brief, where you identify the populations you want to learn from, and formulate the essential questions you wish to ask. Show this brief to products and sales, collect their feedback, and turn the brief into a Request for Proposal (RFP).

This is where the treasure hunt begins. You know the issues, and you see the gaps. It’s the customers’ turn to provide their expertise and information by answering your questions. Now start your search for experienced, reputable qualitative market research companies near you, and send them your RFP.

Hang on, because that path to stardom is fast approaching.

When you choose a market research firm to conduct business with, you’ll be partners throughout the research process from beginning to end. You’ll get to influence the study design and discussion guide for the research, and may even assist in recruiting customers. The firm will take care of the rest of recruiting, organizing focus groups if necessary, moderating the research, and delivering a final report.

The final report will be gold to your products and sales teams – as well as to your marketing department. You will have answers to your most pressing questions – from real customers and prospects. You will understand if your brand proposition is on point. And, most importantly, you won’t be guessing if your strategy is misguided or accurate. You’ll have tangible proof and real feedback.

The comprehensive report you bring back to your products and sales teams, not to mention your marketing department, will be gold. There won’t be any guesswork – you’ve heard what the customers want, right from the source, about everything from branding to overall marketing strategy. This tangible feedback will be instrumental moving forward.

This makes it official: you’re a shining, marketing manager star. Enjoy it; you’ve earned it, and your team will love you for going above and beyond.

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