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Why and how to do simple research to improve your market odds

You don't need a Ph.D. in marketing research to practice it. Using simple methods you can discover most of what you need to know in order to successfully market your product or service.

For knowledge about the marketplace and your industry, simply read and listen. Read one national newspaper at least once a week, a news magazine or two of opposing editorial viewpoints, the most important trade journals of your industry; attend business meetings, and watch TV news and analysis programs. Search online for pertinent keywords and concepts, and join newsgroups and read their articles. Do all of this with an eye toward how the trends will affect your firm. Open your eyes and ears to what is going on. What could be a more simple method of doing research than that?

For knowledge about your offering, try a simple technique called Attributes Listing. Research means to travel through, to survey; it is careful, systematic, patient study and investigation in some field of knowledge, undertaken to discover or establish facts or principles. Attributes Listing is a way of creative problem solving. It's an idea finding method--a simple research technique. You want to discover everything pertaining to what you offer. Next make a list of benefits. Sometimes these overlap with attributes, but they are the aspects of your product that benefit the customer, not simply its descriptive features.

A research technique that can help in listing benefits is Brainstorming. First, state the problem, such as, "What features of  this product will most benefit my customer?" Then, going around the table each person makes a statement and no one is allowed to criticize or even  analyze the statements made. All ideas, no matter how crazy, are important contributions. Someone keeps a list of the ideas which can be later evaluated and studied in depth.

Next, try a Competitor Analysis Matrix, another simple research technique. Make a grid by putting the names of two to five of your competitors across the top, and down the side you will have your list of attributes which has both your strengths and your weaknesses clearly delineated. Now fill in the blanks under your competition's headings and see how your offerings stack up. Be sure to compare your pricing with theirs and your advertising with theirs as well as all aspects of your marketing program.

Another simple technique is the direct-response split run or more simply, split testing. If you are sending out a direct mail letter to try to get people to call you, send two letters to a random sampling, each with a different lead paragraph or headline. This can be easily done, especially with your own computer. You will see whether one approach has a greater appeal than the other. Then do the larger mailing using the most successful lead in.

Finally, do research on your prospect. One expert says you should know 25 needs of your prospect before ever approaching them--even to set up a meeting. Although you would focus only on three or four of those needs, knowing 25 gives you the edge you need. Discover their needs by investigating their firm and products. Visit their website. Also, much can be discovered at the public library or by asking associates for insights.

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