Good research starts with a solid understanding of the information needed. I usually ask clients this question:
"If you could only ask your customers ONE question, what would that question be?"
I ask this because it gets you to focus on what you really want to know. You are smart. You know your market, your customers, and your competition. Sometimes you are so close to what you do know, it's hard to simplify what you need to know. That's where I help. Don't do research when you already know the answer, do research when there is something out there left undiscovered.
I've been told I ask really good questions. Maybe. I suspect what I'm better at is helping you discern what you already know.
A client was pitching new dinnerware patterns to Target and needed to know what patterns resonate with Target guests.
Using an online survey followed with In-Person Interviews, we identified the patterns that are most appealing to Target consumers.
I was surprised by how many consumers are "basic white" in dinnerware and will follow restaurant trends in terms of shapes and sizes of plates. If consumers have seen it at a restaurant they like, they find the dinnerware more appealing. However, colorful value is always appreciated by consumers looking to change things up!
Another client asked: "What are the primary needs our target market has when they start the sales process, what makes them look for a solution, and how well do we do compared to our competitors?"
To answer all these questions, we conducted monthly online surveys, based on the wins and losses after the sales process has ended.
I learned that you can assess needs, measure needs, rate the biggest pain points, and all of that but there is usually one thing during the sales process that tips a prospect into becoming a customer. The challenge is finding what that one golden nugget for each individual when they are all presented with the same basic needs.
A client wanted to ask hospital purchase agents what the purchasing dynamics were like with a new medical approach to performing an implant procedure.
Using the ever-handy telephone interview, I found that hospital purchase agents are overworked and bombarded by vendors, the first barrier to getting any response.
A new client had identified their direct and indirect competitors, but wanted more insights into how they stack up compared to those competitors.
I turned to secondary literature and web reviews of over 30 companies providing marketing services to small business owners summarizing core competencies, market approach, strengths and weakness, key developments and strategies for growth.
The biggest ah-ha for me when working on projects like this one is that taking C-level strategy through to execution often appears to be the biggest challenge for companies. The strategy of the company may be solid but if the front line staff can't execute effectively, all the marketing materials, fancy websites and brand promises can't make up for the subpar service.
A motorcycle manufacturer wanted to know how the key functional systems on their new bike were performing once owners had had a chance to break in their new rides.
Using high-touch telephone interviews, I was able to find that motorcycle owners are the most fun to interview!
They are more passionate about their purchase than any other customer base I have interviewed. I was even invited to join their Facebook groups, look at rides they have been on, and I've even been thanked for calling them and asking them how their bike is operating. I am usually the one giving thanks, not receiving it!
A client asked us: "What happens if we change the format of our product catalog to be more magazine focused?"
Talking to their current customers and prospects in person in 1 on 1 interviews. we followed up with a verification of the findings with an online survey. We found that people don’t read. Consumers scan photos, maybe headlines; if something catches their eye, they read more. If not, they flip to the next page.
The CEO for a National Food Home Delivery Company wanted a Net Promoter Score and System (NPS) put in place with customer base…in a very short three weeks.
So we set up an online NPS with current customers.
Right away we found that it doesn’t matter if you sample 50 or invest and sample 38,000 responses; if your company has issues, the same issues are going to rise to the top.
A college/university wanted to know: "Is it too hard for students to find information they need on our website to apply?"
Conducting phone interviews with prospective college students answered their question.
I found that if a prospective student is really interested in your college/university, they’ll jump through hoops to figure out how to apply. Now the question is…what are you doing or going to do to get some students to jump through hoops to apply?