How well do you know your customers?
Too often, we hear stories about relationships where one partner was blind sided.
“I just didn’t see it coming,” they say of the break up.
When you’re running a business, the last thing you want is to find out your customer is unhappy right at the point where they’re walking out the door.
So how can you make sure you stay one step ahead? Asking your customers what they want and how you can service them better is a critical part of any customer retention strategy.
After all, how can you realistically make any decision about the future of your business, if you’re not basing that decision on what’s important to your customers? They are the ones that will determine whether you’re still in business next year – or in 10 years’ time.
But it’s not enough to just ask the question.
Doing market research only to let the results sit on a shelf gathering dust is just about as effective as not doing it at all.
The fastest growing businesses are using this feedback to drive their decision-making. Ensuring you’re making evidence-based decisions, rather than relying on intuition, will help you align your internal strategy with your customers’ needs and wants.
Taking a leadership position
When times get tough, market research is often the first budget to get cut, but that is not the time to stop talking to your customers. Quite the opposite – in a testing business environment, it’s more important than ever to take a leadership position and show your customers that they remain at the heart of what you do.
Truly successful companies are using market research to determine not just existing customer needs but to explore the gaps in the market that exist in either their own product or service offering or that of their competitors.
They’re identifying aspects of their industry that are ripe for disruption. They’re uncovering hidden needs in their customer base, and then segmenting their customers to determine which customers are best suited to target and what strategies they need to adopt to win and retain the customers in their chosen segments.
They’re using market research to drive customer intimacy and business growth.
So what is the key to success when undertaking a market research project? Here are five tips to make sure your market research project runs smoothly:
- How does this fit into the big picture? Before you start, be sure to ask yourself where this particular project fits into the broader business objectives. Is the research integrating with other strategies and research being undertaken by the organisation? Are you re-inventing the wheel or really building on past learning? What synergies across the organisation can you seek, for example between product offer, marketing, communications, branding, advertising, CRM, initiative programs, technology etc.
- Clear objectives and expected outcome – Make sure you determine at the outset exactly what it is you’re trying to achieve. Is this about measuring the impact and effectiveness of a programme? Testing a new product or service? Tracking the customer journey? Having clearly defined, written objectives and understanding among key stakeholders about what outcome you are looking for will make sure the research focuses on the right areas. Different uses and users within the organisation often demand different requirements that need to be integrated at planning stage.
- Appropriate methodology – Choosing the right methodology and sample is a critical part of the process and will depend on your objectives. Is this an exploratory exercise, in which case qualitative insights might be most appropriate, or do you need to establish a performance benchmark for the business using quantitative data?
- Who is responsible? Determine who is responsible for what, and how research interventions will be measured and quantified. Appropriate resource capacity will maximise the utility of the insights and ensure accountability for each stage of the project.
- Take action – Use the insights to drive change in your business. Make sure you have a clear implementation plan, thinking through exactly how the research will be used and by who (reverse engineer to specific needs). Research is always “interesting’ but only becomes important when it transcends this to become actionable intelligence that is used on the ground consistently over time, not just as a one off. Persistent follow up of the research as an evolutionary process rather than a static one is key to success.