I am the sort of person that asks for directions when I am lost. It’s a simple decision for me because I trust that local residents will help if in fact they know their way around. As a market research analyst I apply the same ideology when guiding clients. I hear business owners often wondering why customers seem to choose one option over another. My solution to this and other such quandaries is to simply ask the customer.
Today I engineered a three step process for applying basic market research skills to an everyday business model. If these steps seem extremely simple, it’s because they are. Remember, it’s easier to stop and ask for directions than take a 40 minute detour through a part of town you never expected to visit.
Step one: Observe your surroundings - While ordering soup at the local shopping mall I noticed that some people were grouping around the front counter looking at the food they wanted to order. In doing so there was no distinguishable line forming in front of the server. While waiting for my turn to order, a few people who had been waiting before me left and walked over to another food vender.
Step two: Develop ideas - I had the thought that maybe these lost sales were the result of frustration. Other people in line were being helped before them even though they had been waiting longer.
Step three: Validate and refine ideas - Completion of my process requires asking customers why they made a certain purchase and/or why they decided to go elsewhere. It is, in essence, free consulting advice. In the time it takes to have a 30 second conversation, a business owner can learn extremely valuable things that he or she had not previously considered. If my hypothesis was correct and the customers left because of the line, then a quick fix could be applied. However, more likely than not the customer will divulge through conversation an array of reasons for not choosing to eat at the soup shop which could be used to inform the decision maker.
Simple research as described above is extremely effective for any company that wants to be innovative and keep a finger on the pulse of its customers. From there, a professional market research analyst can develop tests and procedures to qualify and quantify feedback on a mass scale. Market research tactics have been used by some of the most successful companies in the world to pin down important issues and create initiatives to resolve them. Think about it, if companies like Coca Cola and Virgin Mobile aren’t too proud to ask questions when they need some direction…why should anyone else be?
Please post a comment if you have feedback on this topic or market research in general.
- Lee Sumner, Research Analyst