Q&A: Make time to research
Cynthia Lee of Hamilton, Queensland asks:
I love the freedom my business offers and things are great. So, I’d like it to stay that way. Recently, I was searching for one improvement my company could make to its performance. Then it struck me – market research. Honestly, the last time I focussed on this was three years ago when I launched. It’s time for a relook. Problem: I don’t have the money for this. Do you have any suggestions for conducting market research inexpensively?
Kenelm Tonkin, Chairman, Tonkin Corporation answers.
Congratulations. Most entrepreneurs are so entrenched in the daily grind that market research is neglected. Start by conducting basic web research on your direct competitors and rivals with substitutes. Do not spend aimless hours on this. Time is precious. Do enough to develop a framework. Then frequent chat rooms dedicated to your target market. Ask open-ended questions – how, when, where, why, what, who. Join LinkedIn groups and engage people. Be generous with your time and knowledge, and you will receive information ten times more valuable. Then try online survey sites. Craft your questions carefully to reap maximum insight. Investigate the old-fashioned approach: send a personalised survey in the mail. Offer a reward for responses and make it easy to reply. People love the personal touch. Now, these ideas are useful. However, the face-to-face, direct approach is bound to be more revealing and faster for you. For instance, why not go for the jugular and buy a competitor’s product or service. Analysing your experience will teach you more than you realise. If you cannot afford a posh market research firm, commission university business students to run customer tests, surveys or defined projects instead. You will save a princely sum and offer them valuable work experience. Then interview your competitors’ staff. Amazing gems may be unearthed. A winning idea is to meet with prospects who nearly purchased from your company. Meet ten of them. Learn why they did not buy. However, the best idea for inexpensive, high-impact market research is to call your customers and ask how you can better serve them.