How to Conduct Free Marketing Research. How to Find Out What the Customer Has in Mind
Business and online-business
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The first thing you need to realize is that you are not your client. That is why your opinions and your tastes will hardly ever be the same as the likely reactions of your customers. In order to obtain accurate information you will have to talk to people and test your hypotheses and assumptions.

For example, if you want to find out about your customers’ problems right away, post the “CEO phone number” in a prominent location and ask to call with any service issues at your company. We guarantee that in the first three weeks you will learn quite a lot of interesting things about your level of service and the quality of work of your employees.

Marketing agencies often offer to conduct customer preference surveys. In real life, it makes no sense for a small business to throw away huge budgets on surveying random people. Girls and boys with questionnaires who stop random passersby cannot possibly collect accurate information. As a rule, people say one thing but do something quite different.

An experiment conducted by Sony is widely known. When Sony was putting out new players on the market they asked potential customers which color was better – black or yellow. Most people chose yellow. When they were leaving they were offered to take a player as a gift. What do you think? Nearly everyone took home a black one.

That is why you should not waste time and money on information that you know will not be accurate. Even if the employees who do the research work scrupulously (which is not an easy feat to achieve), do not fill out the questionnaires themselves and do not suggest convenient answers, even then – “people lie.” What you will learn will not be the clients’ real motives, but how they perceive themselves. You will simply see the pretty image they have painted of themselves.

You will be better off using a more creative approach. Not that long ago, for example, a food manufacturer contacted an advertising agency. The agency offered long-term, expensive market research with surveys and focus groups, which would cost several thousand dollars.

We advised that the client do the simple thing – send its own sales representatives to the counters with its products in stores across the country. The employees were instructed to turn on audio recording on their phones and ask the customers, as naturally as possible, questions like, “My wife/mom sent me to buy (company products) and I don’t know what to choose. Could you help me?” Then ask why this product (the competing one) and not another, why is it better. The audio recordings collected in the course of two days were sent to the marketing department, transcribed and analyzed. As is often the case, the opinions of advertising and marketing specialists about customer motives were a far cry from reality.

On the basis of the information processed, the manufacturer made an advertising campaign and had a 23% growth in sales! All, because the advertising used arguments that were truly important to the housewives and made them choose whose products to buy. The research conducted on their own did not cost a penny. It also turned out to be more honest and effective than the traditional way suggested by the advertising agency.

If you need to test two or more headers for an article or an ad, allow your potential clients to choose for you. Post the ads with these headers on Google AdWords and see which will have more clicks.

It works the same with website pages: create two different pages, with different phone numbers and e-mail addresses and add up how many responses you get with the same amount of traffic. Leave the page that works better on your website.

Single out two or three test groups of your clients when you do a mailing to your client database. First send different letters to clients from the first part of your database; for example, 5% of your clients will get mailing No. 1 and 5% – mailing No. 2. Trace the traffic and number of orders after the mailing. The other 90% of the clients should get the letter that brought in more sales.

Remember one simple principle of independent research: pay less attention to what people tell you, look at what they do.

If a customer is always unhappy, but continues to buy more and does so more often, most likely you have asked the wrong questions. Vice versa – if your friends praise your product or service, but do not want to buy anything, most likely they simply display their good feelings towards you. You can tell when a product or service is in demand by the simple question, “How would I buy it myself?”



1. Talk to people and test all your hypotheses and assumptions.

2. Let your potential clients choose for you.

3. Pay less attention to what people say, look at what they do.

Date of publication: 23 January 2018
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