You can hire marketing researchers to study your market, and read studies that others have made in your industry to understand which marketing techniques are most effective. You should also consider yourself as a sample of one and pay attention to your behavior as a way of injecting some common sense into your marketing plan.
Ask yourself questions like these:
- Do you pick up the phone when a telemarketer calls at your home? At your office? When you find out who is trying to sell to you, do you think more or less highly of that brand?
- What do you think about companies that show up high on organic web searches? Is it different that they way you consider those that purchase ads from search engines? What about those that have ads and also score high in organic search results?
- How many pages of search results are you willing to read before giving up? How many products or companies do you need to find before you consider you have researched the competition? Three options, ten options? More?
- Do you use consumer rating websites to search for scores of products or companies?
- Who do you ask for referrals for products or services? Friends? Colleagues? Experts? Do you search online for a referral?
- How much of your evaluation do you do yourself with online resources? At what point do you contact the vendor? At the beginning or near the end of your search?
- How long does your purchase process take? Does it often take longer than you expect?
- How much importance do you place on a company's website? What do you look for? Recent updates? News? Are you put off but what looks like boilerplate stock photography and text? Are you impressed with videos, animations, and special effects?
- Which marketplace websites do you visit to research a product or service? Do you read reviews on Amazon.com or service partner descriptions on a site such as Microsoft's?
- Do you purchase online or do you need to talk to a person or meet them before you can finalize your purchase? Is standard pricing sufficient or do you need a custom price quote?
The answers to these questions vary significantly by industry. Tech products usually offer detailed information line, for instance, and consumers are likely to make their purchase online without talking to someone or requesting custom pricing. Enterprise products and services, on the other hand, tend to be expensive and complex enough to justify further communication and a more customized, personal touch.
Once you have answered these questions yourself, take them to others who will be candid with you. Decide how these considerations apply to your industry and target customers.
An unexamined marketing plan is not worth following, so trust your experience to refine your plan.