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If “marketing manager,” “marketing director,” or any variation thereof is part of your job title, this post is for you.

Working in marketing – managing brands, defining strategy, working with sales teams, and being the Supreme Problem Solver when marketing issues arise – well, it’s a tough job. Marketing managers have to wear a lot of hats, please a lot of people, but most importantly, create effective marketing that actually sells products and services.

To create the most effective strategy possible, wise marketing managers understand that it all starts with getting up close and personal with actual customers. What are customers really saying? What do they want from products? Is this reflective in what’s actually being promoted and created? If not, there is more work to be done. And it ain’t easy.

If you’re nodding your head right now, read on, marketing manager. Here’s how to become the Superhero you were destined to be.

Marketing manager superhero step #1: Start with the product teams

Marketing managers work with product teams. Clarification: “Work” in parentheses. They overlap in meetings. There may be a lot of CC’d emails between product and marketing departments. The first step in becoming a marketing manager superhero is to get to know your products team a bit better. What is their big issue they’re trying to solve with their next product? What are their theories about how it will be used? How do they think customers will use the product in practice? What is their roadmap to improve and add features?

Sit down with the products team and try to find out as much as you can. Take good notes. You’ll need them in step 3.

Marketing manager superhero step #2: Next, talk to sales

Sales teams can be hard to track down – often, they’re remote. That’s okay. Set up calls with them. Ask them about their pain points. What are customers in the field saying about products? What issues are sales members running into when it comes to how the current messaging is working? Does the branding accurately portray the product? What are customers asking sales teams for?

Sales teams provide a wealth of insight – they talk to customers all day, so find a few that can be your source, and check in frequently.

Keep taking notes. You’re about to put it all together in the next step.

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?

Put your findings into a brief. Segment out the populations you want to learn from, and figure out the essential questions that need to be addressed. Run your brief by products and sales. Once you get their opinions, turn the brief into a Request for Proposal (RFP).

Now, the hunt begins. You know the issues. You see the gaps. Your customers are the ones who need to answer these questions and provide insight. Spend some time searching for experienced, reputable qualitative market research companies in your area. Send them the RFP.

You’re getting really close to donning that Superhero cape.

Once you engage a market research firm, you’ll be working closely with them throughout the research process. You’ll provide input on the study design, discussion guide for the research, and you may even assist with recruiting if customers are involved. The qualitative market research firm will handle the rest of the recruiting, setting up a facility if there are focus groups, moderating the research, and developing a comprehensive 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.

Go ahead, don your Superhero cape with pride. You’ve earned it, and your team will love you for going above and beyond.

Are you a marketing manager? Let’s discuss that RFP.