If you are a small business, you must have a plan to conduct continuing research with your clients or buyers. If you do not know why they choose you, how they navigate your line of products or services, and what will keep them coming back, your business results will be sub-optimal.
As the head of an Atlanta marketing consulting firm who has been hired by many of America’s biggest corporations during the last 15 years, I design in-depth market research projects for my clients. And while focus groups, in-home or in-store interviews, and quantitative surveys are extremely useful for gathering the vital information that will help companies make smarter marketing decisions, you can get valuable results, now, with a few straightforward approaches.
The first- – and perhaps most difficult- – thing you need to do is to approach your business, your industry, and your audience from a fresh, unbiased standpoint (this is the reason why many companies find it especially valuable to bring on an external resource). After many years of being in the same market, many business owners develop strong viewpoints in regards to what works and why. The problem is that they’ve developed a collection of filters that only confirm what they are expecting to see, and they become blind to data that challenges their pre-conceived opinions. The only real way to fight this is to recognise it and to consciously work against it.
The second thing is to pick out your research priorities. What is the most important thing you want to find out more about your customers or buyers? What piece of vital information are you missing about your product or service offering? What’s the one thing you’d most like to know about why your customer base behaves the way it does?
When you have clarified what you want to understand, work on distilling it down to the simplest, concise set of questions you can. Discard lingo and confusing terms and describe everything like you would if you were in the fourth grade. Use basic ‘who ‘, ‘what ‘, ‘when ‘, ‘why ‘, ‘how ‘, and ‘where ‘ questions whenever it’s possible. Here are a few questions to get you started:
– Where did you hear about us? Who else did you check out? Why did you ultimately decide to go with us?
– What did you like best about your experience? What’s they one thing that would have made it better for you?
– Why did you pick out this product (or service)? How did it catch your attention?
– When you tell your friends about us, what will you focus on?
The best way to ask these questions is casually, on an one-to-one basis. Smile lightly when you talk, and use a neutral tone that will help folks understand that you appreciate their honest, candid feedback. Don’t interrogate; keep your questions to 1 or 2 at a time, unless the individual you are talking with cares to share in more detail. Listen intently. After each encounter, take a minute to quickly jot down a summary of the feedback you received- – do not depend on your memory, which will skew the results because you will end up processing the feedback through your filter of biases and preconceptions.
As a small- to mid-sized business, you may not have the giant market research budget top companies enjoy- – but by employing this straightforward process on a continual basis, it’s possible to get the type of information that can help you make better, more informed decisions. Begin today!
Marie Elwood runs Increased Results, a marketing consulting firm in Atlanta, Georgia that concentrates on customer insights and new product commercialization.