In a G.K. Chesterton book, the central character finds maintaining a strong and vibrant relationship with their wife is essential. He reenacts every step of their courtship.
Are your customers still as excited about your products? Your customers have remained “married” to you. Are they still in love or just waiting for someone better?
You can only answer these questions vaguely and sporadically if you are like the majority of tech professionals that we know. If that’s the case, how likely will your customers continue to use you as a supplier? We’ve found that getting to know them intimately is the only way to satisfy customer needs.
Market Research Isn’t Enough
Getting information from market research, sales staff, or complaints is good. It’s like eating restaurant food every night: it’s not the best way to get information, as the sporadic forms of customer feedback I described only give you snippets of information, not an overall view. You can think of it as knowing how many people have irritated you. While this is valuable, it’s not the same as knowing how many customers you have delighted. Market research is insufficient to provide you with the needed information. To run a successful business, you must critically understand your customers’ wants and desires.
Businesses waste time and money trying to develop new ideas, only to discover they have the wrong idea or missed an opportunity. They may also ignore a problem until it becomes too big to handle. After seeing some of our clients waste years and millions, I recommend that you create a plan to know your customers. Find out what they love about you (or what would make them crazy for you). This is the most cost-effective thing you can do. It won’t get better with time.
Market research used to be too expensive and challenging for companies to do more than once a year. This is no longer the case. The development of online research technology has made it easy for companies, from startups to global brands, to know what their customers think in fine detail and update as often as they need.
The insights that are acted upon and incorporated into your products and services help to create customer communities who rave about you and your products. Have you ever tried to steal someone’s iPod? What about substituting a cheaper brand for your son’s Nike? Nathan’s Famous, is it possible to replace it? You’re not going to believe it! Why is this? Love, baby.
A New Market Research Process
The process of conducting market research was long and tedious until recently. The method of working on a market research project was arduous. You had to choose a vendor, complete several rounds of questionnaire design, wait until the study was conducted, and then wait again for the report. The entire process could take anywhere between six weeks and three months. It costs up to $30,000 or more.
The new survey hosting companies allow you to complete much of this work faster and online. You can invite your customers, instead of paying people to call them, to fill out a survey on a website. You can create the study online, grant immediate access, and monitor live updates as the results come in. Among survey hosting companies, zapsurvey.com is one. Other options include keysurvey.com and surveymonkey.com. You can find others. Check carefully to ensure the company can handle your needs. You should choose a tool for survey creation that is easy to use and has a comprehensive FAQ. Also, ensure you can get the company’s support if you need it.
With these tools, you could run a survey for a few hundred bucks with thousands of respondents. The total time from start to finish is approximately two weeks. In an extreme case, we ran a study in only five days.
The incredible cost and time savings allow companies to use research in new ways. Now, even small businesses can conduct tracking studies like the U.S. Presidential Campaign. Imagine receiving weekly updates about your customer’s satisfaction levels and intent to purchase again. You can monitor the impact of a direct mail campaign or get an instant read on a competitor’s product announcement.
Online survey services can be compelling but cannot solve your problems. Keep in mind these five key points:
Companies typically conduct research on traditional attitudes, such as brand awareness and purchase intent. It’s important to know what your customers think, but it is often more valuable to find out their frustrations and problems. You can use user problems to increase your value and loyalty.
Make yourself uncomfortable. Customers will be happy to tell you what they think about your customer service, your channel and your products. You can ask the same questions of your competitors and see where you are behind. Ask yourself what the competition could do to exploit those weaknesses and stop them before they start.
Create a customer list. You need to add customers to an online survey in order for it work. You will need to have a list with email addresses and registered users. It’s important to keep a list of registered customers for marketing, but you should now treat it more as a tool than a mere marketing tool. The registered customer list is often used by companies to make up for a shortfall in sales when the quarter comes in lower than expected. “Quick, let’s send out an email promotion.” If you bombard the list too much with promotional and advertising messages, your customers will stop reading them. To make a survey successful, you need to get their cooperation.
A mailing list can be very expensive. Rent one from a list management company like eRewards or Greenfield. Renting the list can cost as little as $15,000 for each survey and even more depending on who you are looking for. Renting a mailing list can also add a week to the survey time.