One of the first things that we learn in marketing is that while what we do has an artist’s hand, there is more science than art. We need facts to operate from in order to draw the right conclusions and those right conclusions are turned into works of art, if you will. Facts are our friends and opinions are…well we all have them.

Dismiss yourself
It is completely natural to think that as managers, as business owners that we have a firm vantage point in order to draw a proper market research conclusion. We have been in our business for years. We have spoken with our potential and current clients. We know the marketplace. The problem is that unless we are someone that has the ability to purchase our products or services then we are dealing with opinions. You must dismiss your own opinion if you are not part of the target audience. These opinions lead you down roads that have very little explanation and they ignore the needs of your clients.

Decisions we face
Research is done for a variety of reasons. What markets should we attack? What locations should we open new offices? Why do our clients buy from us? Why do our clients buy from our competitors? How can we drive our target audience to our firm? Are our clients happy with us? Are our clients getting what they need? Too often, we think no news is good news or that we have a firm grasp on what is needed, but consider the fact that most of our clients actually like being asked their opinions and think they have something to provide us in the form of value. They have a keen intellect and they are willing to share it with you. Why would you not ask them? They can steer you in the right direction and feel like that they were pivotal in helping you.

Understanding our audience
When you determine what efforts are needed, the first question is why. That question is answered with understanding your audience. There are many vehicles that you can use to get feedback and they do not have to cost a lot of money. From focus groups to surveys to electronic research and more, we are trying to understand our audience in order to make informed decisions. Do you know where your clients are planning on opening offices? Do you know that they just went with your competitor and just as importantly, do you know why? We seek to understand their likes and dislikes, their reasons for doing business with firms like ours, their input on how we can do better. This sounds like a little thing and many times it can be, but the effect will provide value in both the non-measurable and the measurable ways. ROI is calculated from success and success is born out of understanding our audience. People do business with people they like is one of the things we hear early and often in our careers. Do they like you? Don’t guess.

Surveying. Ask the right questions.
Surveys are one of the easiest means of receiving feedback and these days surveys are even easier. The tools like Zoomerang and Survey Monkey are among these tools. They are inexpensive and very easy to use. Building a good survey is harder than using the tool. You have to think about what information you want to get and make sure that you ask them in a drill down approach. You need to be able to work in a linear progression in order to be able to take action on what you learn. Many years ago, I saw a survey that asked a loyalty question for a firm and the answer was 93% loyalty. That is a pretty good number, but it actually drew the wrong conclusions. They were finding that very few people were loyal to them. The next survey sought to uncover the real answer since this seemed inherently wrong. The question was reworded to measure loyalty for that firm and its competitors. Interestingly, 93% was still the number for the firm, but loyalty for the competitors ranked high in the 70 and 80 percentiles. The short answer was that, only about 8% were strictly loyal to the firm. You need to understand how to ask the questions, but surveying is a strong piece of the research pie.

Focus Group. What is this really?
Focus Groups can be conducted very formally and informally and both have their merits. Clients and prospects will agree to be a part of this and you can put them in a room with a moderator and people behind two sided mirrors. You can also take 10 prospects or clients to dinner and have a good discussion, but you have to be more careful. In the dinner situation, you do not want to lead the answers, only the questions. You have to explain to them that you want their opinions to the questions and you are going to be careful to not answer, to not share your opinions, to not lead their answers or anything of the sort. I have seen this work incredibly well and I have seen it done poorly. The moderator has to get people talking, but then avoid being defensive of the answers or sharing their thoughts. Once again, we want their opinion.

All of these approaches will give you solid information in order to make informed decisions and steer your company in the right direction.

Now it is my turn to ask, how are we doing? What do you need? How can we help you with your questions? Our business is certainly designed to drive revenue, but we are also here to be able to answer your questions. What can we answer for you? We won’t charge you for asking or for the answer.

Five Market Research takeaways:

  1. Dismiss your own opinion.
  2. Determine what decisions you face.
  3. Understand your audience.
  4. Surveys – Ask the right questions.
  5. Focus Groups can be done easily.