Perhaps the most important aspect of a business' strategy is its market research. This is defined as a coordinated effort to obtain information about markets or consumers. Basically, market research helps companies determine what customers want, need, think, and how they behave. Accumulating and analyzing this kind of data lets companies identify their target markets and create plans for advertising their products and services successfully. It's very common for companies to gather this information via customer questionnaires, interviews, and focus group testing. Most of these techniques are inspired by those of social scientists such as political scientists and sociologists. Companies also need to know what their competitors are doing so that they can stay on top of the current trends and borrow any good ideas. Larger companies can afford to hire in house market research teams; everyone else will want to hire a local market research firm to optimize their performance. These firms conduct extensive studies on current customers, prospective customers, employees, and so-called 'lost customers.' Using this data, they can identify and track the factors that influence consumer's loyalty, awareness, perception, and retention (in the case of employees). They may also assist startup companies with branding campaigns. These are advertising initiatives that are not designed to sell a specific product, but instead bolster consumer awareness of the company and lead them to make positive cognitive associations with its name and logo. Local market research firms might offer their expertise in the field of new product development in addition to the other services mentioned already.