Monday, June 20, 2011

A Quick Way to Do Basic Market Research

In many situations, we tend to swing to one extreme or the other of the market research scale. Either we skip this step altogether, or we get so mired down in research that we lose sight of why we’re doing it. Here’s a solution that works well for lots of situations.

One problem with asking people what they would or would not like, buy, or champion is they don’t know. Until the opportunity arises to actually make a purchasing or other commitment-level decision, their views may be skewed.

Given this reality, a great way to accomplish effective market research in many cases is to offer a product or service in a live, but limited, situation. Depending on the nature of the product or service, production may even happen after this test is complete. Let me share a simple example from a real-life test I helped a client with a number of years ago.

This client made organizers for garages that included shelves, cupboards, closets, countertops, and so on. He wanted to ramp up to get into this business in a big way, but wasn’t sure if the market would support his vision. He had completed a couple of jobs on a word-of-mouth basis, but didn’t want to dive in without more substantiating research, so he came to me.

This guy was sharp, and had completed some of his own digging into how to conduct market research. He had a pretty good plan. When we looked at the time and expense of implementing the plan, however, he became discouraged. Then I shared this approach:

We created a half-page flyer describing his product and showing pictures of the two jobs he had completed. We made an easy call-to-action of a no-cost initial bid which included rough plans and put his phone number as the contact vehicle. We then made 250 copies, which yielded 500 half-page flyers. He and his family stapled rubber bands to the corners of the flyers and distributed them to homes that fit his target. In one day of distributing flyers he got two jobs--more than enough to warrant moving forward. (I might note that instead of telling him to go full throttle based on this initial outcome, I suggested he continue to distribute flyers while he completed these two jobs and let the business grow naturally and according to market demand.)

One of the beauties of simple marketing vehicles like this (another one I’ve seen good results from is free online classified ads) is that you can turn the prospect faucet up and down in volume according to need. Just make sure to consider sales cycle time frames and work ahead of your need.

Of course, this isn’t an answer for all businesses. And it shouldn’t be your company’s only marketing activity, even if it works well (because markets and response rates change). But this approach, or a similar one you devise with your team’s help, can turn market research activities into profit centers instead of expenses while taking the anxiety out of wondering if a product or service will be accepted by your audience.

Here’s to your profitable market research success!

Bryan Waldon Pope

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