For many potential or current businesses, market research may seem a long term goal or something they plan to do in the future, but can't seem to get around to. But after many years in marketing, I cannot stress enough the value of a good market research study. Even though you may think you know what your target customer needs and wants, how do you know for sure? A good market research study takes the guess work out of the assumptions you may be making about your current or prospective customer.
For a new company, market research assesses the need for the product or service and can identify the best audience. It can also test the positioning statements and services that most resonate with your target audience. A well designed market research study can save a countless amount of time and cost associated with giving the wrong message, or rolling out the wrong product. For an existing company, there are many more benefits of performing market research, even if things are going quite well. A good research study:
Identifies business delighters and pain points
Clarifies what is most important to your customer
Reveals where you get most of your clients - the most important marketing channels
Unveils issues or problems you may not be aware of
Reveals potential new opportunities or business lines
So let's say I have your attention and you want to perform some market research, how do you get started? The first low-hanging fruit is to start researching the free information that's already out there. For instance Pew Research is a free website that has lots of information on social trends, demographics and current events. And, you can log onto the US Census website for information on geographic and demographic trends across the U.S. The link to both is on the bottom of this email. Quantitative Survey Research The most common surveys are quantitative research. This is a survey questionnaire sent out via email. We've all gotten them. Here are a few tips for quantitative surveys:
Email the survey to a representative sample of your customers - ones that are your targeted audience or existing customer set
Survey questions should be no more than 10 questions, or take 5 minutes to fill out. Generally surveys that take too long have low completion rates.
The only questions you should include are ones that will help you make a decision. Examine what you really need to know. Don't ask questions you will not act on.
Ask questions randomly and don't ask leading questions. Questions like: "How much extra would you pay for this added service" may sound like a good question, but it's actually not helpful. The customer may not be willing to pay for the existing service, much less for an added service.
Qualitative Research Qualitative surveys include focus groups and phone surveys. They provide a deep dive of customer feelings and behavioral drivers and are often used for emotional drivers and "gut" feelings about the company. See below for tips on conducting qualitative surveys:
Get objective feedback. Have the survey conducted by a 3rd party, not the company itself
A phone survey should not be more than 10 minutes. You don't want your customer to become irritated by a long phone call
Delve into the drivers of behavior. Ask deeper questions, for Instance, "Why is this a delighter?" or "Explain a time that something upset you."
To conclude, every company who is in the launch phase, or has been in business for more than 3 years should conduct some kind of market research. And, the most important follow-up to research is, of course, to act on the findings. Please reach out if you would like to conduct a market research study of your business, or for advice on how to conduct market research that is valuable and action-oriented.
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