Conduct Market Research to Get Your Products and Services Right
Asking our clients for feedback about our products and services is something we often overlook. I used to be nervous about asking my clients for feedback because I was afraid they wouldn’t have good things to say. But I found that asking for their feedback on a regular basis was a good thing. They felt that their comments were of value to me, and they gave suggestions for ways I could grow my business by modifying a service or offering them an additional one.
Conducting market research on a regular basis by getting feedback and conducting surveys of both your potential target market as well as your current clients will help you focus your marketing efforts and design targeted solutions to meet very specific needs.
Most would agree that gathering feedback from customers and prospects is a good idea. However, the typical reaction of small business owners to conducting market research is “I don’t have the budget and/or expertise”; or, “I’m afraid of what my current clients might tell me that I don’t want to hear.”
Conducting market research should be an ongoing activity in your small business. Market research will help you gain a better understanding of your clients and potential clients as a group, and learn more about them and the challenges they are facing.
If you combine that knowledge of the demographics and psychographics – the identifiable characteristics and the key needs and challenges – of your ideal potential clients with your market research results, you can focus your marketing efforts and design very targeted solutions to meet those specific needs.
Survey both current and potential clients on a regular basis to get the information you need to make key decisions about your product and service offerings. You can use surveys, questionnaires, or feedback forms to collect data in an organized fashion that you can analyze and draw conclusions from. These can be in-office, mailed out to clients, emailed, or online surveys at your website.
For the most effective feedback, call your current clients on the phone with a prepared list of questions, or write to ask them for their comments and suggestions. Ask them if they would be willing to help you in your decision making. You could also organize a focus group or a virtual advisory board and ask them for very specific feedback on your new service and product line ideas.
If you stay current with your clients needs, they will tell you what they need from you to serve them better. It may be related to the way you offer your current services, or it may be new products or services they suggest you create to meet their needs. This can take the guess work out of creating new services.
Examples of three types of surveys are:
New product or service concept feedback
Ask customers and/or prospects about their level of interest in new service and product ideas. Ask them to prioritize various options. What other new features/services/products would they like to see?
Customer satisfaction survey
Ask your customers what they think about your products and services. You can also track the level of satisfaction over time.
Website content/usability satisfaction
Post a survey on your website to ask visitors their level of satisfaction with the information presented. Perhaps you have added some new pages or revamped your content – it’s a great way to get immediate feedback as to how useful users are finding your website, and what they would like to see added or changed.
Some examples of questions you might ask in your market research survey are:
- What problems or challenges prevent you from achieving your goals?
- How do you find out about professional services that are available to you?
- What do you consider when contracting with professionals for their services?
- What appeals to you about the professional services you are considering or have previously engaged?
- What could I change or improve that would increase the value you are receiving from our work together?
- Is there an additional service or product I could offer you that would increase the benefit you are receiving or that would meet a specific need?
Create your own list of research questions based on your business and your client types. This list can then be used repeatedly to collect critical client data.
If you devise a systematic method to get feedback from your marketplace and keep this information up to date, it will take all the guess work out of creating new product and service lines. You will know that there is a market for your new ideas before you roll them out, and you will keep your current clients very happy by meeting their most important needs.
Devise a method to survey potential clients about their needs. Design a questionnaire or survey to have in your office or to mail or email, or to post online.
Plan to systematically ask your current clients for feedback on a regular basis, either by phone or email. Ask them for 10 to 15 minutes of their time to help you improve your business. Be sensitive to their time constraints, and limit your questions to no more than ten.
Start asking your customers and prospects directly what you need to know…you may be pleasantly surprised at the results!