The idea of small businesses doing marketing research has been viewed as a luxury. Too expensive, too much time needed and answers arriving too late to matter. Well, with apologies to Blue Oyster Cult and Saturday Night Live, good planning combined with the tools of social media now make it possible for every business to have, “More Cowbell!”
With growing challenges to squeeze out revenue in the big box/online world, research is something that everyone should consider. Like any tool though, an entrepreneur should know how and when to employ this method. Adam Morris discussed this very subject in the “Why Lead Now” blog.
The classic survey does take time since you want statistical and empirical accuracy. But, as Chris Pitre, Social Media Strategist of Idea explained via Mashable last week, there are new effective ways to tackle research through social media “Crowdsourcing.”
Of course, there should be caution exercised regardless of the path chosen. Crowdsourcing, like any social interaction, creates doubt in real-time. Poor planning in this format, like any endeavor, leads to poor outcome. A wide array of opinions combined with no baseline and soon you aren’t sure what the questions were to begin with.
The same goes for traditional studies. When the infrastructure of the research is not built correctly, we get infected results. This give steam to the old adage, “Statistics should be used the way a drunk uses a lamppost – for support, not illumination.”
I managed a research project for a small business client that has proved to be very valuable in day-to-day situations. Before we reached out though, there was work to do:
1. CSI – If you hope a survey is going to identify your problems for you, it’s time to sit down and wait for the room to stop spinning. Sure, outside forces exist. But, crimes against businesses are usually inside jobs. Own your business, don’t just run it. My client addressed glaring operational issues before the marketing research came into it.
2. Make Assumptions – This is the infrastructure step. Some of the things you think are important might be the opposite for your customers. My client and I built consensus with other parts of ownership in regard to the differences between their personal bias and the way customers seemed to be using the business. And that leads to…….
3. Keep It Simple – There is no “meaning of life” answer for your business. Thinking a survey will cure everything will leave you disappointed. I think unrealistic expectations like these is how research gets a bad name. Develop a laser focus on your targets.
Finally, make sure all of this comes from a strong operational plan which will help you develop an overall marketing approach for your business. I have discussed the importance of planning in the blog before. That will let you know where getting help for a survey, study, focus group, Crowdsourcing, etc. fits. The tools are there…..don’t be afraid to find the truth that can set your business free.