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Market Research Strategies in Uncertain Times

#1 - Now More Than Ever: Why market research is so critical to a firm's success.

By Frances Gretes
June 24, 2009

Editor’s note: This is the first in an exclusive series by industry research specialist Fran Gretes.


Making marketing decisions based solely on intuition or past experience, especially in these uncertain times, is risky and representative of last-generation thinking. The architects of this new century must take a new direction and integrate market research as an essential element into their practice. But, how can they add this labor-intensive task to their operations when they are struggling to keep their firm afloat – and why should they?


It is true that conducting research costs money and time, but by not doing so architects are losing much more in the long run. Also, by relying only on web browsing, as so many architects do in an effort to short cut the process, they miss critical and sometimes more accurate information which could be found more quickly through the use of more sophisticated search tools and strategies. None of these approaches, however, are of much use unless architects know what questions to ask, how to recognize what is relevant, and how to apply the answers.


The quantity of information available is so overwhelming that its value has become diluted. There are not enough filters to make most information useful and not enough hours to efficiently turn it into actionable intelligence. Also, data complexity, speed of change and expanding diversity, boosted by globalization and advanced technology, mean that information quickly and easily becomes obsolete, overlooked, or misinterpreted.


The research techniques discussed in this series will help guide you through this “information tsunami,” highlight ways to apply your new knowledge and streamline the process in order to derive maximum benefit. Each article will address new approaches to gathering, analyzing, and applying market information which will boost the success of your firm.


Market research will help you:


·                    Assess marketing opportunities.

            Forecast research and market overviews help you identify new markets and opportunities.


·                    Develop effective marketing plans.

            Research into markets, competitors, potential clients, and your firm’s strengths and weaknesses will improve your marketing strategies and sharpen your decision-making skills.


·                    Improve decision-making.

Research supports scenarios, a power management tool for formulating business strategies.


·                    Discover new opportunities in advance of your competitors.

            Intelligence-gathering through networking, targeted monitoring of the media, and consistent follow-up will give you a jump on the competition.


·                    Use your resources more efficiently.

            Strategic research will focus your marketing efforts and minimize wasted pursuits.


·                    Identify key players and potential outcomes.

            Research will help you learn who the decision-makers are and who or what will influence the outcome of your new business efforts.


·                    Gain insight into client attitudes and goals.

            By demonstrating in-depth knowledge about a new client, you will make a memorable impression and be able to respond appropriately to their needs and interests.


·                    Analyze the competition.

            A thorough understanding of your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses in relation to yours will aid in short- and long-term planning.


·                    Support investigations with accurate documentation.

A deeper level of research will validate decisions and improve project performance and chances of success.


·                    Strengthen proposals and presentations.

            Research makes your submissions and interviews more distinctive and convincing.


·                    Generate new ideas.

                  Research stimulates thinking and sparks innovations.


Some of the topics to be examined in this series will include:


·                    Finding and developing opportunities

·                    Understanding your client

·                    Exploring new markets

·                    Forecasts and trends

·                    Building scenarios

·                    Fitting into the larger context

·                    Researching and evaluating teams



Fran Gretes is founder and principal of Gretes Research Services, a full-service consultancy that provides market and competitive intelligence and strategic thinking skills to professionals engaged in services for the built environment. You can reach her at


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