Researching Your Plan - Financial Services Marketing

Before you can write your plan, you need data. Market research data can be quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative research usually refers to surveys and other techniques that involve large sample sizes and resulting data that can be analyzed with some degree of statistical confidence. Qualitative research relies on small groups or individuals.

Quantitative Market Research

There are two types of quantitative data: that which you derive from your own customers and that gathered from public sources. Customer information is invaluable in helping you answer questions like these:

  • Who are your most profitable customers?
  • What is your average customer-retention rate?
  • How do buying patterns (amount, frequency) impact retention rates and profitability?
  • Are there other factors that impact retention and profitability (such as demographics, psychographics, or life cycle)?

Public information commonly used in market research includes statistical data compiled by local and federal sources, business associations (like the Chamber of Commerce), and industry trade groups. For example, comparative banking statistics are available from sources such as the Federal Reserve Board and the American Bankers Association. Census data, industry information, and much more can be found by regular reading of business and trade publications and on the Internet. Competitors’ websites are also good resources for constructing comparative information on target markets, positioning, and marketing tactics.

Purchased research is available from market research firms. Syndicated research is often made available by subscription. For example, Dalbar and Cerulli Associates compile information of interest to pension plan providers from regular surveys of third-party sales professionals, plan sponsors, and plan participants. Subscribers can receive information that is industrywide or specific to their own company and its immediate competitors.

Customized research provides information based on the client’s specific questions and is not shared with anyone but the client. A bank launching a new ad campaign, for example, might commission a survey to determine baseline awareness. After the campaign launches, the bank would conduct another survey to determine whether brand awareness and positive recognition have increased. The bank might also survey whether the ads were recalled (aided or unaided), and changes in purchase intent.

Qualitative Research

Sometimes marketers want answers to questions that can’t be reduced to multiple choice. Finding out client price sensitivity or how to effectively motivate third-party distributors usually involves qualitative techniques. Qualitative methods, such as focus groups and personal interviews, are often used for evaluating branding strategies and marketing campaigns. Focus groups are usually done in a series, either over time or over geographical locations. One focus group may be atypical; it takes more than one to establish a pattern. For example, a brokerage company planned to launch a massive campaign targeted to high- net- worth women. Prospective materials, including promotional and educational tools, were shown to focus groups in New York, Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles. Each group consisted of eight women with net incomes over $100,000 and net assets over $500,000. While there were minor regional differences, there was substantial agreement among all the groups on key issues, which were then incorporated into the materials. Observational research is another type of qualitative data gathering. For example, “mystery shopping,” in which a researcher poses as a customer, is a technique that can be used to evaluate the service proficiency of one’s own employees or to learn more about competitors.

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