give your business the edge

How to Use Market Research to Give your Business the Edge

This week we’re delighted to welcome back guest author Derbhile Graham to the HowGMW blog. Derbhile recently completed Module 5 of our signature program, “Get Strategic, Get Results” which looks at the importance of effective market research, and how to use it to give your business the edge. Here, Derbhile shares her thoughts on the process and exactly what it means for her business.


I’m delighted to be back in the How Great Marketing Works saddle for Module Five of the Get Strategic, Get Results program, which is all about research. I’ve always thought of market research as a form of voodoo, something that requires a mix of wizardry, mind-reading skills and a bit of luck to get it right. And I’ve always felt paralysed, not knowing where to begin. Module Five makes the process of market research a lot easier. It showed me that you don’t need voodoo to understand your marketplace; you just need to know where to look and what you’re looking for.


So, what did I learn? Here’s a flavour of what the eight steps of the module taught me. As you’ll see, it was rich in learning opportunities. And I’ll be applying those lessons to my brand new business, Derbhile the Celebrant, which will offer weddings, baby-naming ceremonies and vow renewals.


Step One: What’s Your Question?


The first step on any market research journey is to know the answers you’re looking for. To do that, you need to frame a really clear, focused question. Without that, it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning in information. I started this module with a clear research question in mind, and that meant I focused only on the information that would answer my question. When I arrived at an answer, it was important that I listened to that answer. It may not be the answer that I expected, but if I pay attention to it, it will take my business to new places.


Step Two: Which Trends Matter?


When you’re working from home, like I am, it’s easy to sink into a burrow, looking only at factors that affect you. This step encouraged me to lift myself out of that burrow and look around at the wider world, at the trends in thinking and behaviour that my potential customers are following. This was very relevant, because the whole field of celebrancy has been born as a result of  a trend away from organised religion towards more individualised spirituality. This step was also packed with market research resources to help me determine whether these trends are being embraced by my target customers.


Step Three: How Many Matters?


This step gave me a much-needed reality check. I may be passionate about my new business, but passion doesn’t count for anything unless there are people who want to buy my services. This step doesn’t just tell you to think of how many customers will avail of your service. It encourages you to choose which customers are worth spending time on. These are the customers who are most excited about my offer, the customers who will keep coming back and keep spending or will refer you to their friends.


Step Four: Who Influences?


You hear a lot of talk these days about people who are influencers, who have massive followings on social media. A recommendation from them can set you up for life. This step shows you how to attract the interest of these all-powerful beings. We tend to think of influencers as people who can do things for us, like generate referrals or promote our brand. This step encouraged me to think about what I could do for the influencers. After all, they’re still ordinary people with needs, and I may be in a position to meet those needs.


Step Five: Look for the Differences


Understanding your competitors is a big milestone along the road to understanding your marketplace. This step showed me that my competitors are not a threat. In fact, there are ways that I differ significantly from them, and this will help me stand out in a crowded marketplace. It gave me a framework for evaluating these competitors. It took a lot of exploration, but it was worthwhile, because I made the heartening discovery that while my offering may be similar to that of other celebrants, the way I deliver it is different. I will use this difference to attract my target customers.


Step Six: Find the Gap


This step encouraged me to use the differences between me and my competitors to find a gap in the marketplace that I could fill. We have a powerful urge to be the same as everyone else, and when we look at our competitors, we seek out similarities so we can reassure ourselves that we’re doing things right. This step enabled me to resist that urge and embrace what’s different about me. This opens me up to gaps in the marketplace that no-one else is filling, and I can tailor my offering to fill that gap.


Step Seven: Outside Matters


We’re living in an increasingly globalised world, and there are forces in the world that matter more than we think. We’re so caught up in running our businesses that we’re only dimly aware of them, yet they can impact greatly on our businesses. This step encouraged me to look at the bigger picture, and when I did so, I saw that I am in a position to take advantage of major social changes in our attitudes to family, marriage and faith. I can also identify negative forces and find solutions for potential customers before these forces can become a problem.


Step Eight: This Is Your Sweet Spot


For this final step in the module, I put together all the insights I gathered to help me find my sweet spot – the perfect position in the marketplace for my business. When you have reached this sweet spot, the offering that you have created aligns with what your customers are looking for. When I find my sweet spot, I know that what I offer exactly matches with what customers both need and want. And this will keep my business strong for the future.


And what have I done differently?


I Realised How Much Trends Affect my Business


As I mentioned, the field of celebrancy has grown as a direct result of changes in the way people approach ritual in their lives. While they have moved away from church ceremonies, they still have a strong need for ritual in their lives. Using the research tools provided, I identified two trends which I believed might impact my business: the rise in registry office marriages and the desire among consumers for authenticity. With those insights, I framed a research question: how can I leverage these trends to demonstrate to customers that I can deliver the ceremonies they want?


I Took the Time to Understand my Marketplace


The worksheets in Module Five gave me a framework for dealing with the realities of my marketplace, my customers, my influencers, and my competitors. It also alerted me to wider forces within the marketplace which would have a bearing on how customers looked at my service. I identified statistics which showed me that there is a demand for what I offer. I found ways that I can be of use to influencers, by way of referrals and promoting their services. And I discovered one important difference between me and my competitors. Not one of them mentioned the word authenticity. And authenticity is the pillar on which I plan to build my business.


I Discovered What Makes Me Different


I evaluated five other celebrants in my local area, and from that research, I discovered two gaps or points of difference that I can exploit. The first is that some of the celebrants don’t offer vow renewals, but I do, and this means I can tap into a growing market of older couples who see vow renewals as a second chance to have the ceremony they always wanted. The second gap is for couples who don’t want sentiment. They want down-to-earth ceremonies that allow them to truly express who they are. I can offer them an alternative type of ceremony: quirky, humorous and above all, truthful.


I’ve Drafted my Sweet Spot Statement


This module encourages you to draft a Sweet Spot statement, a statement that demonstrates the perfect alignment between your offering and your marketplace. It also shows that you understand the needs and wants of your customers and can cater to them effectively.


Here is my Sweet Spot statement:

“I offer authentic ceremonies that enable people to celebrate the most important events of their lives in a way that truly reflects who they are. My ceremonies are aimed at people who have turned away from traditional religion, but still have spiritual beliefs and have a strong need for meaningful ritual. These customers want ceremonies that are unique to them and that are tailored to their beliefs, tastes and values. Because I am an independent celebrant, I have complete flexibility to deliver that goal for them. These customers have a craving for authenticity, and the ceremonies I create for them will give them the opportunity to tell the truth about who they are as people and about their love for each other and their families.”


Module Five represents the end of the Strategy Development section of the Get Strategic, Get Results program from How Great Marketing Works.  I’m looking forward to getting stuck into Module Six, when I’ll put the knowledge I’ve gained about my customers and my business into practice.


To learn more about our signature program, “Get Strategic, Get Results“, just Click Here.  It’s a Map, a Companion, a Strategy, a Process and a Training all rolled into one…. And more…. It Will Help You Grow Your Business. Why not test drive the program with our free 14-day trial, and discover exactly how it will help you build a marketing process that sets you up for business success. 



Derbhile Graham
Derbhile Graham - Creative Writer

Writer doesn't do Derbhile Graham justice.  Derbhile is a creative soul in love with communication in all its forms. She holds a Masters in Journalism, is a former Toastmaster and is also the author of a novel, The Pink Cage. She is the founder of Write Words Editorial  a writing service for businesses.

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