For thousands of years, people have conducted market research. I don't mean with fancy focus groups or complicated conjoint analysis, but just by asking questions and listening to the answers.

Using the art of listening is so crucial to the success of your company's marketing, that to deny it is to invite failure. Follow along as I show you how to use marketing research to funnel knowledge into your marketing programs.

Why research is so important

In the early 1990s, when I started my own consulting business, I conducted my own little research survey. I wrote on a piece of paper a 100-word description of what my consulting practice would look like; that description included (1) the target audience for the practice; (2) what these buyers wanted from a consultant; and (3) how my practice would be different from others.

Then, I set up coffee appointments with 20 business leaders and put this written description in front of them. After asking for their feedback, I sat back and listened.

Their advice was invaluable. I learned that my positioning, focusing on growing companies without an in-house marketing department, was on target (it remains my positioning today). I also learned that clients like these were less interested in hearing about my Fortune 500 work experience and more interested in knowing how I would help organizations their size.

Because of this research, I believe my company's marketing ended up being more focused and targeted.

Research can also perfect products

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Jay Lipe is the president of Emerge Marketing LLC (, a firm that helps growing companies develop marketing plans. He is the author of the books The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Businesses (Chammerson Press, 2002) and Stand Out from the Crowd: Secrets to Crafting a Winning Company Identity (Kaplan Publishing, fall 2006).