Once you’ve developed a virtual picture of your customer base and market conditions from online and library research, you’ll want to extend your research a little further. You’ll want to conduct social and opinion research. Use surveys and focus groups to hone in on your customer needs.
Surveys can be broadcast widely or used selectively. Questions can be open-ended, giving survey participants a chance to share their thoughts, multiple choice (with 5 selections), or yes/no. There are a few things to consider in designing survey questions, summarized here from www.surveymonkey.com:
- Create the sequence of questions so they flow in a logical manner
- Avoid leading questions
- Ask one question at a time
- Use simple, clear language
- Avoid making assumptions about respondents’ knowledge
- Make the survey visually appealing with plenty of white space
Focus groups provide immediate feedback and the opportunity for valuable dialogue with the people you expect to purchase your product or service. Focus groups should express their needs in your industry or product area. Focus groups can involve food or a token gift for opinions given, sometimes even cash. A few things to consider include:
- Have a clearly defined purpose – do not frustrate or waste the time of those surveyed
- Think carefully about the environment and location
- Plan how you will capture the information gleaned during the focus group
- Develop clear questions with follow up questions
- Start and end your focus group on time
- Understand how to analyze the results
- Follow up with a thank you card – not an email
Pull results of market research together into a comprehensive report; include a date, summary and key findings for quick reference. You’ll want to be able to refer to this over time and add to it as you continue to develop a profile of your market. Look for economic and other trends, consistent positive and negative responses, identify follow-up steps, and ask yourself:
- Did you refine your understanding of your target market and customers?
- Does your business need to pivot – changing your strategy, business structure, systems, product or people?
By Keith Gordon and Kim Mozingo