Although marketing trends can be tough to keep up with, tried and true fundamentals really haven’t changed all that much. Perceptual mapping has been used in marketing research for decades. As such, it’s a valuable tool with the proven potential to help you out-market the competition.
What is a Perceptual Map?
In its simplest form, a perceptual map is a graph showing how certain brands and their products or services are perceived by consumers. The data for many perceptual maps stems from customer and industry surveys.
For example, your business could conduct a survey to determine how clients view three competing companies in terms of product quality and pricing. When you plot the results of this survey on a graph (with product quality on the horizontal line, for instance, and price on the vertical line), they yield critical – sometimes surprising – information about where various firms stand in the eyes of consumers.
Not only do the brand attributes that can be measured and plotted vary widely, perceptual maps are easily skewed toward a specific industry. That means you can design a customized map to provide the necessary data for improving your company’s selling strategy and market position.
How Can a Perceptual Map Help My Business?
Because perceptual maps offer insight into the minds of your target market, they also offer certain clues as to which brand features influence customer buying choices. Business owners are often surprised by the gap between what they perceive to be driving success inside their industry, and how clients view those same factors.
Let’s say you believe a certain level of quality is so important to customers in your particular niche that most of them will pay more for a superior product or service. Then you create a perceptual map, only to learn that not only are some competitors generating more revenue than you, but they’re also doing it with inferior products. What will you do with that information?
The point is that by discovering where you and other companies sit in relation to one another, you have the opportunity to slant your selling strategy in a way that makes your business more competitive, and that fills any obvious voids in customer delight.
Perceptual mapping can contribute to your understanding of:
- how well your current marketing approach is working,
- whether you’re achieving your marketing goals, and
- how you can take advantage of your competitors' marketing efforts
A perceptual map is a practical and highly visual way to analyze your product or service positioning in the marketplace. And while it won’t replace your sales or customer data, it will let you leverage that information to see where you might benefit from trying something new.
How Do I Create a Perceptual Map?
A handful of basic steps is all it takes to introduce the concept behind perceptual mapping. Let’s take a look at those steps with the notion of introducing - and successfully positioning - a brand-new product or service:
- Decide which of your product’s or service’s features will influence potential buyers the most. Price, convenience, some other desirable benefit?
- Identify and research the main market competitors associated with your product or service.
- Design and conduct a simple survey that lets consumers rank the product features identified earlier for each of these competing businesses (a 1-5 rating system works well).
- Use this data to plot your perceptual map.
- Use the map to determine where you should ideally position your product or service for optimal performance. Are there gaps in the consumer market that aren’t being properly serviced? Does your business have the capacity (the connections, the capital, or some other competitive advantage) to sell an equitable product for less?
Collecting quality data is crucial for creating an accurate perceptual map. While it can be a very useful marketing tool, it can also be a misleading one if used in isolation or if based on unrepresentative information.
Here are a few tips to help you get the most from perceptual mapping:
- Make sure you only ask survey participants to rate product or service attributes that are relevant to their purchase decisions.
- Keep your market research short, clear, and simple: complicated questions – or too many questions – only confuse respondents, and can lead to survey fatigue and imprecise answers.
- For best results, get as many survey responses as possible across your target market.
Perceptual mapping is extremely useful for defining and redefining your marketing approach. When performed regularly, it’s also a great way to keep tabs on your industry and benchmark your business against your competitors.
Photo Credit: Canva