Blasting out client surveys might seem like a cost-effective approach to discovering what makes your audience tick and whether your company is a good fit for that audience. But relying on surveys alone to piece together the ideal client can distract you from the bigger picture.

You need to constantly reexamine your clients and your brand to perfectly communicate your company's unique selling proposition and ensure it appeals to your target audience. If not, you could be muddling your value or—worse—speaking to the entirely wrong audience.

As a B2B marketer, you have a 5-20% chance of selling to new prospects, a study by Marketing Metrics has found. Are you doing everything possible to understand and reach them?

Why Brand and Client Research Rely on Each Other

To effectively communicate your value-add, you need to constantly revisit your brand. By digging into every aspect of it—stakeholder interests, current and potential client discovery, competitive analysis, and the big idea—you can discern what separates your company from the rest.

But brand research reveals only part of the picture. Intensive client research provides insight into what current clients like, what former clients hated, and what potential clients are looking for; you can then hone your messaging to appeal to those various groups.

It might seem redundant to distinguish client research when it's a subset of brand research, but failing to see it as an equally important category is exactly why marketers so commonly overlook it.

Doing robust brand and client research will benefit your marketing efforts in three ways.

1. You'll capture an unbiased 360-degree view

Brand research provides context for client research. You'll not only better understand what you think about the brand but also how your clients, former clients, and potential clients perceive it.

Though interviewing past clients might feel uncomfortable, you want to know why they left so that you can identify gaps in your overall brand to improve retention. After all, acquiring a new customer is 6-7 times more expensive than to keep a current one, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs.

2. You'll discover a better product-market fit

Too many marketers wrongfully assume they're targeting the right audience. But if extensive client research proves otherwise, the question should become, "Can we provide what this audience wants, or do we need to tweak the message to attract different clients?"

Say your prospects want superior service. The only way to understand how your company measures up is to speak to current clients. But you also need to consult your team to determine whether you're capable of delivering what clients want; if you can't, you either need to find a target audience that wants what you have or revamp your culture.

When you deliver a service your target audience craves, it makes the sales process much less cumbersome. Your sales team can spend more time building relationships and closing sales—and less time wooing leads that don't want your offering. Better yet, your salespeople can spend less time trying to win new clients to replace the ones you've lost.

3. You can maximize your company's potential

If you inspect your brand through the lens of brand and client research, you'll know the best way to present it. You'll understand what it stands for, the ins and outs of the product or service you offer, and how it soothes the pain points or needs your target audience faces.

Armed with such details, you can create more targeted and compelling messaging that speaks to your competitive advantage and highlights how you can improve the lives of potential clients.

Combining Client and Brand Research for a Hyper-Targeted Approach

This type of in-depth research involves a long, exhaustive process. By enduring a little pain, however, you'll uncover data that could get your company on track to growth.

Here are four ways to get started.

1. Map out your game plan

The companies you work with are constantly changing, so you should also regularly conduct brand and client research to anticipate trends alongside the needs and wants.

To reinforce the importance of this research, start by writing your goals. Doing so will also prepare you to communicate the purpose behind the project to your team.

Next, outline your process, the key team members involved, and the resources they'll have at their disposal.

Set a realistic end date, and determine which data points you want to measure in advance.

2. Rally excitement around the project

Researching your brand could rub your team the wrong way. They might think something's wrong with the company and that you're trying to poke holes to determine what it is.

Accordingly, position the research as an opportunity to re-evaluate the company's capabilities, your brand, and what it stands for. Be transparent about your goal of homing in on prospects' needs, too; your team will be eager to help.

3. Keep an open mind

If you're conducting client and brand research without external help, you run the risk of giving in to your assumptions about who your clients are, what your brand stands for, how others perceive it, and the service you can truly deliver.

One fast-growing company continued using its original marketing approach but couldn't push past a certain percentage of market share. My agency conducted brand and client research for the company and discovered its messaging and unique selling proposition supported only one market. After refining its message and spreading the word, it's now a top industry player.

As you work through this process, invite all perspectives, ideas, and possibilities, and address them from an objective standpoint. Don't hesitate to rethink your branding, audience, and service. Doing so is how every great company stays relevant.

4. Put it all together

Once you have a holistic view of your ideal client and brand, start devising messaging that will speak to the big idea that binds these elements together. Infuse a fresh design and flawless copy, and you'll create a message your audience can't resist.

Most important, have fun with this approach. Think of it like any new adventure. Sure, there will be plenty of challenges and tough times along the way, but in the end you'll have a stronger, more focused brand and vision.

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Your Marketing Strategy Hinges on Both Brand and Client Research: Here's the Why--and the How

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image of Joshua Conran

Joshua Conran is a senior partner at Deksia, a branding agency that's been combining business intelligence and award-winning design for the past decade.

LinkedIn: Joshua Conran