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The quality of the business decisions you take is dependent upon the quality of the information you have.
The profitable development of a company can only come from the continual attempt to match the company's capabilities with customer needs. In order that a company can be sure that this matching process is taking place effectively, it is necessary for some type of information flow to be organised between the customer and the company.
I have been involved in the production of a large number of market research projects over the years and one thing has always been true - I have always learnt important pieces of market information that have enabled me to make wiser business decisions. As a consequence market research has always provided excellent value for money.
Market research need not be expensive; even a small
focus group can produce invaluable information. And many people (customers) are
more than willing to attend such an event simply because you have demonstrated
a clear interest in hearing their views.
Most people like to share their opinions with others!
Market research can be either quantitative or qualitative.
Quantitative. This is designed to produce
quantitative numbers on customer behaviour, attitudes or needs. For example the
research might clarify that 35% of customers preferred option X, 48% preferred
option Y, and 17% were not interested in either option. To acquire data like
this you would generally require a large number of customers
Simple telephone survey?
Qualitative. This is designed to produce qualitative information on customer behaviour, attitudes or needs.
the research might give you a much clearer insight into the way a customer
considers the purchase of a certain product.
What he knows about the product category.
How well he understands the advantages of the product.
Misconceptions of the product.
The production of this research might involve the use of a focus group where only six to eight people are sat around a table and invited to discuss their views on your (carefully chosen and controlled) questions.
One of the topics I discussed elsewhere in this web site is the appropriate pitching of sales literature for customers. As the owner of a small business, I have absolutely no doubt that you fully understand how your products work. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to produce sales literature which assumes that the reader has the same level of knowledge and the same level of enthusiasm for your products as you do. In my experience this shared level of knowledge and enthusiasm is rare. Likewise if you are the supplier of a product with technical aspects your are quite likely to be technically orientated and as such will believe that its these technical aspects that are of greatest interest to your customers; whereas the customer is much more interested in how easy the product is to use, its instruction booklet, and your company's support packages.
This was exactly the circumstances I encountered in my work with a leading installation company of electronic security equipment. The company was, as you would expect, dominated by very clever engineers who were always striving to make available to their customers the most recent "gadget" because they assumed their customers were as technically orientated as they were. My research with their customers said something quite different. Their customers believed the current service delivery was very poor in some areas (especially the support services for the more complicated "gadgets") and what they wanted most of all was a simpler security system that was easier for them to use and that was supported by a rapid and efficient engineer call out service.