A marketing plan is not anything more than a hypothesis. It is the ability to learn from them and build on each conversation is what makes a plan plausible.
Marketing Action Research is a step to developing an unbiased analysis of your marketing environment and focuses not just on practical information collection, but on analyzing the information in a rigorous manner. The goal is to feel that in completing the research you become engaged in the market spaces related to your key customers/prospects. In that sense, it’s more than a process that you apply; it is a muscle that you build, and part of the conversation you bring to the world.
The goal of the marketing process is to empower and creatively and intensively research the two or three customer clusters that will determine the success or failure of your sales efforts. You become knowledgeable about what really matters. To me, that’s the foundation of practical and actionable marketing. You then build upon those clusters incrementally and in exploratory methods to form new.
People like to imagine customers/prospects in terms of demographics and how to segment them. This thinking is a numbers game based on cause and effect. The sad part is once, if it ever does, start working for you it changes before you realize much of a return.
Markets have always been complex and socially constructed. In the future, we will have shift out strategic thinking to focusing on context (definition of market based on who our customers are), value creation and cooperation in the area of use, and non-predictive strategizing and experimentation. Paraphrased from the book: SMASH: Using Market Shaping to Design New Strategies for Innovation, Value Creation, and Growth:
That’s because markets are complex systems of exchange for the purpose of creating value. They are socially constructed. An easy analogy is to stop thinking of them as machinery, but evolving ecosystems, biology.
However, markets are not deterministic. They cannot be analyzed, predicted, and processed using cause and effect. This thinking still resides mostly because of a lack of articulated alternative which is inherently difficult in a complex-adaptive world. Markets as a system (Systems Thinking) not a marketing system constantly evolve; partly by random “emergence” and partly by market shaping like an Airbnb or Uber.
Marketing Action Research is an experiential learning approach to change. Research should be an iterative process that takes shape as knowledge emerges. The premise here is that you learn, you do, you reflect, you learn how to do better, you do it better, you learn from that, do it better still, and so on.
You work through a series of continuous improvement cycles that converge towards better situation understanding and improved action. The goal is to refine methods, data, interpretation continuously and to understand deeper the learning developed in the cycles. It is our way of testing and accelerating product/service entry.
This is not a passive exercise. It is co-created with team members and the marketplace. The real goal is understanding and participating in your marketing space. Once you do that you can start with market shaping, next-level Blue Ocean type thinking.