In business, it’s super frustrating to hit a stagnant period in your company’s growth. You may be looking at your current marketing and sales model, scratching your head, wondering why growth has stopped (or plummeted). You’re sticking to your same tried-and-true tested formula. It worked in the past. What changed?
Here’s the most likely answer:
Your customers have changed.
Perhaps it’s their preferences or tastes, perhaps they decided to go with a competitor, or it could be that they had a bad experience with your customer service. The point is, you won’t know the reason your customers are leaving (or understand why you’re not attracting new customers) unless you seek to understand your customers and get a current pulse on the marketplace.
And … cue marketing research
When you hit a point of stagnation, it’s actually a good thing. Your customers are telling you something – that they’ve changed – and by not doing business with you, they’re tacitly imploring you to figure out why. It’s your opportunity to dig in deep and figure out who your customers really are and what’s going on in the marketplace.
This is the point in which you need to bring in marketing research. Do yourself a favor, and hire a third-party for this task. An objective, experienced crew of researchers will be well worth the investment because of the experience they bring to the table.
But can’t we just send out a survey?
Unfortunately, marketing research isn’t as simple as just sending out a customer satisfaction or product feedback survey. Likely, a survey will be a part of the process, but to really understand customer perceptions, opinions, and taste, you need an approach that uncovers more than data and numbers can. You need qualitative research.
Qualitative research includes techniques such as in-depth interviews, focus groups, or even ethnographic studies. If you’re worried that your customers will be unwilling to participate, a little hidden gem about qualitative research is that customers actually enjoy giving feedback through interviews (often we have to limit our interviews to a specified time limit because customers will indeed talk all day). The beauty of qualitative research is that your customers want to help you – they like to express their opinions and be able to influence your strategy, and it’s an easier format for them to talk about it with an outside researcher than it is for them to fill out yet another series of close-ended survey questions.
But does marketing research actually work?
Qualitative research is one of the most transformative marketing research techniques out there. Why? Because you’re selling to real people — not just a “demographic” — and real people have problems they need solved, and they have opinions on how products can solve their problems. By conducting meaningful, strategic interviews with your customers, qualitative research delivers rich, actionable insights that will help you see blinds spots, improve your product, and tweak your messaging to match your customers’ preferences.
After you go through the marketing research process, your deliverable is a comprehensive report, which pulls out the key themes from customer interviews. The report offers insights on where customers stand, what the competition is doing, and guides you in how to address the issues your customers brought to light. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to transform your business. Truly.