Dive deep for more customer insight.
The purpose of your business is to create customers. In fact, it is the customer who determines what your business is. Obviously customers are crucially important to sales efforts. But don’t we need to understand more about what makes them tick? Don’t we need to know more about the perceptions that ultimately drive their opinions and decisions? Would it help if we could better understand the problems that affect their (purchasing) behavior and ultimately, your relationship? To find answers, first-hand customer research might give your sales strategy a huge leg up in the business of creating customers.
Customers are the businesses and individuals that purchase your products and services and come back to you for more with fewer questions asked. But how well do you really understand their loyalty or their motivations? For example, how many times have you misjudged how much your customers are willing to trust you? What part of your value proposition do they not understand? How many times have qualified prospects blown you off for no apparent reason? What do they know that you don’t know?
Seemingly unpredictable customer behavior keeps us guessing, and making more assumptions, about why they do what they do. It’s no way to run a business. Perhaps some rich new insight could help.
A shorter, deeper dive might be best
There are many different ways to approach research. At the most basic level, I would recommend conducting “primary research” (that which you orchestrate firsthand). Your needs (niche industrial suppliers) are likely to be so specific that I would doubt that you could find relevant existing data in “secondary research” (studies already completed by others).
On the next level there are also two choices, or fundamental ways to approach primary research.
- Quantitative research is useful when you know what you’re looking for and have virtually all aspects of the study carefully worked out before data is even collected. You count lots of responses and construct statistical models in an attempt to explain what is observed. Since most of you work in narrow niche markets you could have a difficult time just getting enough respondents to make the study statistically reliable. Therefore I would recommend the other, more qualitative, approach to primary research. It usually precedes quantitative work anyway.
- Qualitative research is a deeper dive into your customer’s psyche. It creates a much bigger, full-color picture of your target audience complete with the range of behavior and perceptions that drive it. Common takeaways are insights that your subjects are not even aware of themselves.
Many more ways to cut it and finish it
Focus groups are typically associated with qualitative research. You might start with very informal group discussions to generate ideas and then later, move to individual interviews. In any case, qualitative research can be done effectively and reliably with much smaller samples (as few as three to five individuals) than quantitative research that may require hundreds or even thousands of respondents to be statistically reliable.
In-depth interviews, in person, on the phone, or on the web (via Skype) can last for 60 minutes or more. The extra time allows the interviewer room to move around with the subject(s) and probe areas that might not have been planned for. With this approach there are fewer restrictions or assumptions placed on the data to be collected. The process enables a more complex analysis of a persons’ individual experience—in their own words and in their own way. Data may come in the form of words pictures and objects—the results descriptive, rather than predictive.
The moment you wait for
Qualitative research, and the insights that can come from it, is a great way to understand your customer and stimulate growth in your business. I like to measure the ROI of qualitative research in “ahas.” When you know as much your customers know, or think they know, it enables you to serve them very effectively. By the way, how many big ahas would it take to change your game? One or two maybe? When was the last time you experienced an aha moment?
HIT Solutions believes the more your business keeps up with important trends, the more you will improve your product, and improve your bottom line.
Your comments are welcomed.