How's business? If you're an entrepreneur, this can be a loaded question. Sometimes it seems like you've got hordes of people stampeding through your doors, but now you might be feeling like you're in a bit of a slump. If business has slowed down a little, it's time to look at your marketing campaign. Is it geared towards the people you want as your target audience? If you aren't sure, now's a great time to start doing some market research to learn more about your customers.
Why Do Research?
There are so many reasons why market research is a good idea in businesses, but especially in small businesses. Your audience is so much smaller than the likes of Apple or Starbucks, who have access to things like marketing research software and consultants on hand to ask questions. This only means that getting to know your customers is an even bigger deal for you.
Pinpoint Who Your Audience Is
The people buying your product or service are the ones that are keeping your company going, but who are they? Understanding the people that make up your customer base is incredibly valuable information that can help you tweak your marketing strategies down the road.
Figure Out the Issue
If things have been slow lately, there's a reason. But what exactly is that reason? Research can help you identify what's going on an why things aren't as good as they used to be.
Better Service to Your Current Customers
Once you know their habits and why they chose you over the competition, this gives you an edge. You have information and can use it to help make your customers have an amazing experience with your company.
Methods of Conducting Market Research
For the small business owner, finances can be a problem. You don't have the luxury of dropping thousands of dollars all at once on hiring a consultant or investing in special tools, so you need to be creative. Thankfully there are plenty of ways to do this on the cheap that can both save you money and give you beneficial results.
Ah, the classic method of collecting data. Surveys don't have to be long and drawn-out; you'll probably find that most clients prefer it short and sweet. Ask simple yes or no questions, maybe a few short "how can we improve" questions and end it. This can be done any number of ways:
- In-person, such as when customers are checking out
- Via text or email (make sure that you have an opt-in system in place before doing this; it's illegal otherwise)
- Online or on social media: "Click here to fill out our customer satisfaction survey."
If you're worried that people will say no, offer some kind of incentive like 10% off a product. Clients are more likely to say yes if there's a prize for doing so.
One method of research that is easy enough to do on your own is to observe your social media followers. Log onto all your various social media pages and take notes.
- Who are your customers following? What other businesses? Make sure that you're paying special attention here, since this is your competition.
- What keywords are trending? What topics? Do you see a hashtag repeated more than once?
- Are there any news stories garnering attention? Does your audience seem particularly concerned or invested in a movement of any kind?
A person's social media account says a lot about them. Don't underestimate how valuable the information you glean from your clients can be.
Don't let the freakily scientific title scare you off; focus groups can be a great way to get opinions by using a small sampling from your customer base. Enlist volunteers to help you get real-life insight into your current or future marketing campaign. Remember to get legal written permission from all participants before getting started.
Once you have a group put together, ask them how they feel about your products and services. This is your opportunity to ask the tough questions that you couldn't ask on a survey like:
- What do you think about the packaging and logo on the product?
- How much would you spend on something like this?
- What gets you excited about this item? What don't you like about it?
Running a business isn't easy, and if you feel like things aren't going as well as you'd like then you need to understand what's happening. Market research is a great way to help you gain insight into your customer base and develop a strategy from there.