It's all about knowing and understanding your market. Sounds easy? Many businesses are confident about their market but in times of unexpected change (like the one we are now experiencing), they still adhere to the same old rules. Small businesses, in particular, have little or no room for error. The end result is that sales will inevitably decline. It will also become infinitely more difficult to rebound and recapture market share.
Conducting market research surveys is a no-brainer. It helps you make more informed decisions, based on concrete data instead of seat-of-the pants intuition. It's a formidable tool for businesses of all sizes, especially for start-ups. It helps them stay on top of their profession or industry and serves as an integral part of the strategic planning process. Embracing this mindset, however, requires unusual persistence in trying to fully understand the nuts and bolts of one's business combined with an unquenchable thirst for additional knowledge.
Most successful businesses find research invaluable due to the following five key reasons:
- Helps them spot emerging trends
- Identifies their perceived strengths and weaknesses, avoiding costly mistakes in the future
- Helps them better understand their competitor's perceived strengths and weaknesses
- Evaluates ongoing advertising and marketing efforts
- Serves as the primary source for new product ideas and potential new markets Market research is affordable. Websites like www.surveyol.com require minimal investment. They also make it incredibly easy to create an effective, targeted survey. Surveyol offers templates that provide you with a series of effective questions and eye-catching designs. Customization to make these templates specific to your needs is a relatively simple process. Finally, professional analytical tools are available to pinpoint issues and trends, helping you draw logical conclusions that will positively impact your business.
Before proceeding with the research, your short-and-long term objectives must be defined. Three basic questions should first be addressed:
- What am I attempting to accomplish with this survey?
- Is it too general or too specific to meet my objectives?
- Should the research be targeted solely to my existing customer base or is it beneficial to prospective customers as well? (The latter will result in list rentals or other methods in obtaining the appropriate prospect names.)
How should the overall survey be constructed? The following decisions must be considered:
- The survey should be short and to the point. Long, probing surveys only tend to suppress response rates as many lose patience and abandon them.
- Will the survey be mailed under your brand name and logo or will it be blind? (You may receive more candid responses if it is blind; on the other hand, branded surveys generally increase open rates since they recognize your name. The tradeoff is feedback that may not be as honest and frank.)
- How well do you know your customers? How many demographic questions are necessary (e.g., age, gender, marital status, occupation, annual income, location, education level, etc.) for you to be comfortably secure in this knowledge?
- Should your survey be modified by customer segments?
- Long-time multi-buyers (2+ years)
- Long-time one-time buyers (2+ years)
- New multi-buyers (12-23 months)
- New one-time buyers (12-23 months)
- New-to-the-file buyers (0-11 months)
- Do you incorporate a Net Promoter Score (NPS) question to measure customer loyalty?
- Do you ask specific questions related to a new product concept to judge its viability?
- Do you test new marketing messages to see if they register and if the general tone and imagery is understood by your customers?
- Should you offer an open-ended question that will provide a wealth of anecdotal information that can be sifted through at the end phase of data collection?
- Should you offer a short expiration date to drive an immediate response or leave it undefined? (Note: Most of your responses will be received in 7-10 days regardless of this decision.)
- Do you offer an incentive (i.e., discounts, gift certificates, prizes) for completing the survey? (Such incentives always increase response rates—and, perhaps, sales as well!)
In closing, market research should become an indispensable part of your total business strategy. The results will provide you with the essential information needed to compete in today's marketplace and ensure you have the data to constantly innovate.
About the author:
Rich Nelson has been a senior marketing executive for over 35 years. The key focus throughout his career has been helping small to medium size businesses succeed in an ever-competitive marketplace.