Market research focuses on understanding your customers.
There are a variety of tools to help you do that. Yet one of the most overlooked tools that offers a great deal and costs very little, except for time, is conversation.
Conversation is great in terms of getting to know your customers as individuals. What are their motivators, desires and drivers? What do they like and what do they avoid? What are their beliefs and what are their goals?
You can use this basic core information to build on your other market research results. It helps you do specific targeting of individuals and groups, something that technology has difficulty capturing.
Understanding customers at that level takes something more than what a survey often can gather. Even if you want to use a survey for gathering some of this information, you often run into two obstacles:
- Developing the right questions
- Getting customers to divulge such information because it is often private and hard to put into words
It goes back to understanding customer behavior. Often behavior is driven emotions or desires such as ‘a feeling of comfort’ or a smell that reminds them of home or something that just makes it ‘easy,’ ‘fun’ or ‘exciting.’ Those things are hard to quantify or capture in a survey. Conversations are a great way to get to this level of understanding.
Yet gathering this information is not done easily. It takes time. To do it well, be prepared to:
- After the conversation, take notes of what you heard. Don’t depend on your memory.
- Remember that this information depends on its depth and richness, which comes from building that data through time. It is a lifetime of conversations and building trust and relationships.
- Analyze what you get. Conversations don’t help if you don’t critically look at what the information is telling you.
- Maintain confidentiality. Conversations may lead to information that people do not want divulged. Tell people how you will use the data and that you will not disclose specifics but only use the information in a generic sense to help you better market your products.
Having conversations is a great way to learn about your customer. It gets deeper, giving you greater insight as to what the customer wants. And it has a great secondary benefit of building a relationship, something that will continue to pay off.
So get started today. Have a conversation
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.