Business, Volume 6, Issue 9, June 2004
your customer, grow your business
Barbara Bix and Melissa
you know that while companies consider market research
to be expensive, they can’t afford not to
well, market research can help companies drive sales
the most promising prospects
• determining the products and services that customers need
• identifying how to attract customer attention.
firms optimize their market research investment with
careful forethought by specifying their information
requirements first; then, they determine the most
cost-effective methods to obtain this data.
with customer data to find your best prospects
your internal marketing research to create a “best
customer profile” and target companies with
Segment customers by common characteristics such
as location, size, industry, and products purchased.
Note the shared characteristics of the groups that
were most profitable.
Look for patterns that yield information about buying
behavior. What events trigger purchases? Is demand
secondary research to understand your competitive
can purchase industry reports that describe the market
size, share, and trends. Use this research to determine
the opportunities for growth--at the expense of your
primary research to understand customer needs
that you have specified what information you need,
you can obtain it efficiently using a variety of
primary research methods.
advisory boards may be the least expensive way. Gather
your customers together to obtain direct feedback
on new product development, desired features, and
changes in service. Their perceptions yield selling
propositions that you can use to attract other promising
beyond customers, as their needs and wants may differ
dramatically from the needs and wants of individuals
and firms that you do not currently serve. Broaden
your questioning to the world to ensure that you
don’t miss more promising prospects.
one-on-one conversations with a mix of informed observers
such as industry experts, employees, customers, and
those that you would prefer to do business with—but
who have never purchased from you. Design open-ended
questions and follow the respondent’s train
of thought, rather than push for answers to your
questions. You may get ideas and leads that would
never have occurred to you. Ask questions such as:
me about a typical day
• What’s your largest unresolved problem?
• What is your current solution?
• How would you improve upon your current solution?
then sit back and listen. Based on what you learn,
you may be able to adjust your offering or message
to get a better outcome next time.
in the process, use structured focus groups to refine
decisions and understand preferences on items like
pricing, packaging, and messaging. Give the group “forced
choice” situations and ask them to discuss
why they made their choices. Their responses will
guide the efficient development of products and services
features and programs to communicate the value of
those products and services.
market research results into your business
feedback and observation can direct you to increased
sales opportunities. Use this information to:
your success with your current customer base to
attract new prospects
• Position your company against the competition
• Create marketing programs and sales tools that really speak to customer
needs, not your product or service benefits
• Identify and then measure new product development opportunities against
the size of market they would create, and identify how closely new products/features/services
fit with your company’s strategy
and leverage your market research to drive sales,
provide your customers with what they really need,
and grow your business.