How can small businesses find out what their prospects and customers want? | The Marketing Network
How can small businesses find out what their prospects and customers want?

Research does not have to be expensive. It will help you to understand “customer” behaviour to influence future behaviour to make SALES or

·      To raise donations

·      To get elected

·      To change society’s views or society’s behaviour, e.g.: To stop drink driving, To curb violence.

There are many tools available to small business owners to better understand their customer needs; their fears and hopes, expectations and attitudes.

Market Research
Here are some major sources of ‘big picture’ macroeconomic research that will cover everything from market trends including supply and demand factors to market demographic and psychographic segmentation:

·      Census Data from Australian Bureau of Statistics

·      Ibis World

·      D & B

·      Roy Morgan

·      Nielsen

·      Trend Watching

·      Springwise

 

Marketing Research on the other hand is more micro in it’s approach and provides insights into the factors a small business is more in control of –
how changing elements of the Marketing Mix (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) impacts CUSTOMER BEHAVIOUR. Marketing Research can be both Qualitative and Quantitative, it is a form of applied sociology and there are numerous methodologies.

 

Research does not equal success.
For example, the failure rate for new product introduction in the retail grocery industry is 70-80 percent.

Reference:
LM&W used statistics from the U.S. Commerce Department (Annual Survey of Manufacturers M3 Report, 1994), Fortune’s Top 100 U.S. Companies listing, the 1994 Deloitte & Touche study of costs for new product introductions and promotions in the grocery industry, Supermarket News reports and New Product News reports. The survey was conducted in September 1996.

Why is it so?
I
n 2002 Daniel Kahneman of Princeton was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. His work, for the first time, recognised and admitted that it’s the power of emotions and a person’s psychological makeup that are the key determining factors in buying behaviour. And predicting human emotions and hence behavior is the greatest challenge for marketers. 

Consumers JUSTIFY their emotional behaviour.
RESEARCH now tells us that more than 90% of all human decisions are driven by emotions and that we use cognitive faculties to rationalise those emotional decisions to make them acceptable in the eyes of the people we want to be accepted by. Psychologists call this “introspective illusion”.

So how do you influence emotions?
You need to COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY.

This means ENGAGING your AUDIENCE.

To do this we need to BE DIFFERENT.

So Research HOW to be DIFFERENT!
Analyse your Current Customers

·      Who is your typical customer? 

·      What do your customers value about your business? 

·      Why do they buy from you?

·      Do you know how to best satisfy the needs of your customers? 

·      Have you ever asked them if you could be doing more to make them happy?

·      What do they feel about your category?
E.g.:

– All banks are bastards
– All “tradespeople” are unprofessional
– All Real Estate Agents are liars
– All Accountants are boring

You need to ask your customers the right questions, then listen and observe.
Here are some of the low cost and free tools you can use:

www.surveymonkey.com

www.linkedin.com (Polls Tool)

http://www.google.comalerts

http://www.socialmention.com/

www.twitter.com

With the web now being an integral part of the evaluation and buying process, Keyword Research (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal) can provide critical insight into the behaviour patterns of your customers and prospects. In the “4 Hour Work Week” a best seller by Tim Ferris, there are some great examples of low cost “real world demand testing” versus traditional research that we can all learn from, using Pay Per Click Advertising in order to literally test demand and the viability of a product / service idea.

Today we are able to quickly and easily test different elements such as:

·      Different Target Audience with Different Keywords

·      Different Offers and

·      Various Creative executions.

 
“You can’t plan the future by the past” – Edmund Burke, Philosopher

If a thought is original, then there is nothing like it to easily judge it against, research is may not help at concept stage. Great brand ideas should frighten you!

Incremental improvements would not have brought many of the “game changing” Apple products like the iPod or the iPhone to market! Customers could not comment on the new innovative products until such time that they played with them in focus groups or other more realistic scenario tests!

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION that differentiates your business and engages your customers requires CREATIVITY, which is:

·      the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns or relationships

·      creation of meaningful new ideas, forms, methods and interpretations;

·      originality

Research can however provide your business with brilliant insights that spell runaway success.  Here are just 2 small examples:

1.     An advertisement from an Air Conditioning and Heating Company hits the nail on the head by tapping into the fears and frustrations that exist in its category: “We install the same units and charge the same prices as everyone else. The difference is that we’re actually going to show up when we said we would. Always on time, or you don’t pay a dime. Seriously. If we aren’t there within the exact hour we told you we were coming, you pay nothing. Whatever you need is FREE. No charge. Sorry we were late. We are really sorry. One Hour Heat and Air understands that time is money. Your time. Our money.”

2.     Observation of changing demographic trends and understanding of their needs led to the idea that an ageing population means a rise in “sandwich” families, those with children and elderly parents to look after. Tricare to the rescue: childcare, elder care and pet care in one happy space. And nobody minds the noise!

 

Getting to know your customers:
The information you capture about your customers should be your most valuable asset, in order to allow you to gain insights that will translate into new and better ways you can communicate with them and offers you can make to better satisfy their needs. To do this you can segment your customers by:

·       Sales Cycle

·       Purchase Frequency

·       Value of transaction

·       Product / Service

·       Location

·       Demographics

·       Attitude

You can also find out WHERE you can reach your customers most efficiently:

·      What are they watching?

·       What are they reading?

·       What are they listening to?

·       Which websites do they visit?

·       Where do they network online and in the real world?

 

You need to know your customer metrics:

·      How many unique Visitors to your website per day/week/month?

·      How long do they stay there?

·      What is their typical journey through your website?

·      What is your COST PER LEAD in every medium you use and define what action constitutes a lead?

·      What is your CONVERSION RATE in every medium you use?

TEST, TEST, TEST your communication otherwise you are flying blind, wasting your hard earned money on marketing that is not accountable. You can test the 3 major elements of any marketing communication:

1.     Target Audience

2.     Offer

3.     Creative

·      Test one element at a time to consistently LEARN and then REFINE to improve results.

 

Get to know your competitors:

·      Who is the competitors’ typical customer?

·       How do they reach their customers?

·       Use Benchmarking Tools, which you can often get from various Industry Bodies

·      Why do Prospects buy from your competition? What do they value most?

·       Question lapsed customers

·       Question “defectors”

·      “Mystery shop” from your competitors and yourself!

 

Most importantly have a process and a system, after all the definition of research is: “diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications”.

 

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