Do your homework! The importance of research to inform your marketing campaigns

It’s never been easier to get your word out.

Digital technology and social media have made it almost effortless to communicate your brand and publish your own content.

But, for too many brands, effortless translates to low-effort. 

The temptation to go down the ‘spray and pray’ route of marketing can be too great.

Churning out high volumes of easy content (spraying) in the hope that something will strike a chord with someone somewhere (praying) is a one-way ticket to marketing failure.

You might have got a lot of likes on that motivational quote you shared on Instagram last week, but are those likes converting into meaningful conversations? Are those photos of your team’s away day at the beach resonating with your target audience? Is that blog post you recently published communicating your core message?

Do you have the toolkit and insight to answer those questions?

‘Spray and pray’ campaigns typically reach larger audiences but with lower returns. Why? Because they contradict three basic rules of successful marketing campaigns:

  1. Understand your target audience
  2. Attract your audience with relevant, high value content
  3. Repeat.

It’s the digital equivalent of sign spinning. Many people might pause a moment to take a look, but what percentage of those people actually follow the sign to your shop?

Far better to visualise your target audience, use data and research to understand their wants and needs, and post your sign through their front door.

Get to grips with step 1 and your marketing will start yielding tangible, exponential results.


“The odds of hitting your target go up dramatically when you aim at it.”  Mal Pencoast

Understand your audience

Before embarking on a marketing campaign, it is essential to equip yourself with an understanding of your target audience and how you can help them achieve their goals.

Your product might be fantastic, but without understanding your target audience you’ll never get the results your product deserves.

In Marketing Research and Information Systems, I.M. Crawford gives an example of an agritech business with a brilliant product that failed to do its research:

“Not many years ago an agricultural engineering company developed an improved rice milling machine. The machine was introduced into Thailand where existing rice milling machines were of a design which resulted in a high percentage of brokens (broken kernels). The new rice mill produced a negligible percentage of brokens.”

Sounds like the product would sell itself, right? 


“The agricultural engineering company went through the expensive and time-consuming process of importing the machine into Thailand. They set up extensive distribution and servicing facilities only to be surprised when the mill failed to gain acceptance.”

So, what did they miss? 

The company simply didn’t do their research, assuming their objectively ‘better’ product would be lapped up by consumers and being baffled when it wasn’t.

Crawford continues:

“In Thailand, smallholders take their rice to a miller. Since they do not have sufficient cash to pay for milling their rice they get paid in ‘brokens’. The miller then sells the ‘brokens’ for animal feed. The more effective milling machine simply did not fit into the Thai rice processing system. The company’s assessment of the market was hardly objective. They saw the ‘brokens’ as a problem which their product solved. The prospective customer did not see it as a problem at all.”

Whether this anecdote is true or not, it’s a neat illustration of the need to understand your audience and their needs, and tweak your proposition accordingly.

At Astley Media we worked with Exeter-based data and software specialists Software Solved to help them get their word out.

The campaign aim was simple: increase awareness of their service offering and their excellent track record.

At this point it would have been tempting to dive straight in and shout about how great Software Solved are across all possible channels (they really are brilliant) and assume that would do the trick.

Keep spinning that sign.

But that wouldn’t cut the mustard in the new world of digital noise, competing messages from competitors and short attention spans. Time to do some research.

We looked into their core audience, and the audience of their competitors, to understand how to connect with target customers as efficiently and impactfully as possible.

This process takes time, but the dividends are enormous.

A lumberjack with a felling axe

“If you ask me to cut down a tree I’ll spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln

After assessing all the communication options, we agreed on direct mail, LinkedIn and email campaigns as the most effective options. 

Key topics for campaigns were chosen based on the audience. The better we could pinpoint the audience, and what they would engage with, the more people we would have considering Software Solved for their next IT project.

Less spraying, more sniping.

This approach will typically get less superficial engagement than the easy method, but will result in exponentially more meaningful connections and, ultimately, sales.

Attract your audience with relevant, high value content

The catchily-titled 2021 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends: Insights for 2021 report, produced by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, revealed that 73% of the most successful marketers “nurture subscribers, audiences”, while only 38% of the least successful do.

This is what we at Astley Media call building your tribe, and it’s essential to marketing success.

The Astley Media team

“Building your tribe is all about how you turn people who like what you do into people who love what you do and people who love what you do into advocates for your brand.” Extract from Astley Media’s 5 Steps to Marketing Success

Customer journeys are not straight lines. Modern audiences want to feel a part of something, to engage with companies as part of a community and engage in meaningful conversations before making a sale. 

As Stephanie Stahl, general manager at the Content Marketing Institute, says:

“Don’t expect [your audience] to connect with your thought leadership content and follow you neatly down path to purchase. But you better be sure to have great content for them whenever and wherever they decide to check in with you. Can they count on you?”

The South West tech sector is a truly vibrant community. Starting conversations and engaging with key players in the sector is a richly rewarding experience, and will not only boost your brand image but provide inspiration too.

Get to know the sector and its leading thinkers. Attend events like the Bristol Tech Festival (coming up in October) and the Tech South West Awards (in late November). Networking is a great and timeless way to better understand the people and organisations who might be interested in your product or service, and even provide channels for you to market it.

Enhance your standing in the community and leads will come to you.

At Astley Media we have worked extensively with the team at Plymouth Science Park to develop their brand and marketing strategy.

The relationship began with a discovery session in which we undertook ‘stakeholder mapping’, building an understanding of who key stakeholders are, and researching how to best communicate with them. 

This insight guided the rest of the strategy, providing clear themes and topics for content, messaging, tone of voice, the use of platforms, events, and much more.

The team at Plymouth Science Park has a fantastic approach to supporting the tech sector and wider business community, not just within their campus but in Plymouth and the wider South West as well. At Astley Media we have helped them to launch and run live workshops, several podcast series, impactful social media campaigns and other initiatives to position the park as an authoritative player in the tech sector, and a passionate voice for collaboration and deeper connections across the region.

Fay Davies, Business Development Manager at Plymouth Science Park, said: “I very much enjoy working with Astley Media and really appreciate the innovative support and guidance they have provided us here at Plymouth Science Park. They have really taken the time to listen and understand our business, our strategy and most importantly our aspirations both for the science park, the city of Plymouth and the wider South West region. I would highly recommend not only their excellent PR and marketing skills but also their honest, approachable and hardworking team. We have found them absolutely excellent to work with!”

Our research

At Astley Media we specialise in helping forward-thinking brands in the tech, education and government sectors get their word out in a precise and impactful way.

As the marketing partner for Tech South West, we have helped to research, develop, and market several in-depth reports of the South West tech sector.

Our most recent example is the Startup Scene Report, which we produced in partnership with Tech South West to map the landscape for early stage tech companies in the region and identify areas where the scale and quality of opportunities for growth can be improved. 

The findings of the research not only provide insight for the whole tech sector to make use of, but will help Tech South West to shape their strategy as they seek to better support the sector, and to improve the support and opportunities afforded to tech startups in the region.

Final words

So that’s it, then. That’s why doing your homework is key to marketing success.

The conversations start here.

Get in touch with us at to let us know your thoughts. We’d really love to hear from you. And, if you’re in the area, pop over and say hello to us at the Tech South West Awards on November 25, where we will be present as Supporting Partner.

Any questions?


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