This summer I completed the mini MBA in Marketing with Professor Mark Ritson.

I have worked in marketing for over 26 years now and a lot of what was taught I was already practicing but it was wonderful to hear clear, incisive marketing principals explained and built on with so much sense and so little BS.

I learned a lot.

The most important lesson of all though is that in order to develop a successful marketing plan you have to come to terms with the fact that you know nothing about the target market.

You may have gut feelings, you may have heard anecdotes from customers at shows or in shops, you think you’re in tune with the customer but you have to be open to the idea that you are totally WRONG.

When I say you of course I mean me too. We all are wrong. We are not the customer.

The reason we have to accept this is so that we can see how important and urgent it is to move on and find out who the customer is. We need to embrace the idea that we know nothing so that we take action in researching the market properly, choosing our market segment and finding out how much they are worth and how they behave and think about our sector and the brands in it.

How crucial is this? It’s the foundation of the marketing plan. How can we skip to tactics if we don’t know who we’re talking to and what they want from us? This will lead to wasting the business’s money and time as well as losing opportunities to promote effectively to the right customers.

It is a challenge for small businesses to find the budget for comprehensive research but there are ways to meet this challenge – for example by making research part of your everyday marketing right now. Inviting people to share feedback and insights on simple surveys. Asking government agencies to share existing research. Recording and collating your own findings for analysis.

Research is an investment in the growth of your business and should be respected as such.

For help with your business’s marketing, contact Paula Ronan at