In this highly integrated world, personal time and business often overlap. So I am going to start this month's blog off with a personal story.
I will admit that it has been 20 plus years since I have taken a college class. But I decided to entertain myself and take a French class at my local community college. Class started last night. I am getting over my ego being a little bruised - I can be the parent of 90% of the students in the class - how that happened I will never know .
So I sat next to the one guy who looked like I could NOT be his parent, his name is Bob. Anyway, we got into a conversation about books for the class, Bob hadn't purchased yet. So I told Bob, the books cost $240; I personally was a little outraged at the price of the book. Bob was incredulous. So Linda, my other neighbor ( I could be her mother) said, 'gosh, I saw the price at the bookstore, and I bought the book on Amazon.' This was news to me. I had no idea that I could purchase my college textbooks on Amazon. In my day, you went to the bookstore, paid the money and called it a day. Of course in hindsight with Linda's poke, I said to myself, 'but of course you can, you dummy.' Little known fact, Barnes and Noble runs most of the country's college bookstores.
So what's the point of exposing my stupidity to you, the topic of this month's blog, market research. Had I done a little market research, I would have learned about Amazon. I will admit, I did do a little market research, but from the wrong audience. I spoke to my colleagues; after all, many of them have college age children. So in my market research, I talked to the same people I talk to all along, I didn't reach out to a broader audience to find out what was going on in the market.
So here is your opportunity to learn from my mistake.
- Market research is important
- Talk to current customers, but also new customers and prospects
- Reach out to a broader set of demographics. Make sure you talk to younger people, people in the middle and the older set - they all have different perspectives
- Ask the right questions, I think this is the hardest thing about market research. We ask the questions that we know, rather than thinking a little differently and asking a question from a different angle to get an answer that will surprise you
- Market research is qualitative and quantitative, decide what you need. Qualitative is reaching out to a small sample to get a more in depth interview. Quantitative is a large group that statistically makes up your market. (Quality vs. Quantity) Typically, online surveys, as an example are quantitative. Sometimes qualitative research is exactly what you need - as in my case with school books
- Get help if you need it. Don't know how to set up a survey, and you are a Staffing Industry Analysts Corporate Member, call us, we can help you. We do survey's all the time. Or hire an experienced market researcher, they can help you as well
When to perform a survey
There are lots of different reasons and times to perform surveys here are a few and recommended timelines:
- New product introduction. This is where you want to do a qualitative survey. You want to reach out to customers and prospects to test the market to see if your new idea is sellable. You want to make sure that you are providing what the customer needs and wants, rather than a product or service that you can build. I had an ex-boss who used to like to remind me that often customers don't know what they want, and you just have to give it to them. That is often true, however, if you understand the customer's needs and you deliver a product or service that solves the customer's needs, you will be in good shape
- Customer satisfaction. This is generally a quantitative survey. You want to understand from the most customers how satisfied they are with your products or services. I would recommend surveying a portion of your customer base quarterly, so that by the end of the year, you have touched your entire base
- Marketing messages. We have talked about this a number of times. This can be qualitative or quantitative depending on the market you are in. Sometimes a focus group is exactly what you need. A qualitative study of a group of people talking about the different options that you can communicate to the market. Sometimes, quantitative works, let your direct marketing tests do the work for you. I would recommend doing some type of marketing message test, every time you change your message
- Using surveys as a point of interaction. Use mini polls and survey's on your website to take the pulse of the market. These lend themselves to being somewhat quantitative, but they really are just a quick snapshot of life at the moment. Change these polls regularly, so you have a constant check on the market
There are lots of reasons and times to do market research. I hope that I have encouraged you to reach out to an audience that you would otherwise not normally talk to. Now that school is starting, check to see if books are available in other places, beside the school bookstore!
Until next month.