Ask any business owner what their main goal and they’ll almost certainly end up talking about growth in some way, shape or form.
Naturally, business owners want to see the revenue generated by their company grow over time. To make this happen, of course, the business must not only increase the number of customers it serves, but also must increase the quality (and perhaps the amount) of the products or services it provides to these customers.
“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” – Steve Jobs
Now, attempting to grow your customer base or improve your offering definitely shouldn’t be done on a whim. Not only would this almost certainly lead to wasted time, money and energy on your part, but it would also be nearly impossible to determine whether or not your efforts are paying off.
On the contrary, a concentrated and strategic approach to making such improvements will increase your chances of experiencing growth – and will allow you to determine the effectiveness of your efforts, as well.
The first step to take as you begin planning improvements to your business is to conduct market research. In doing so, you’ll have a much more informed idea of the direction you should take in your pursuit of growth.
In this article, I’ll discuss the important role customer surveys play in market research and explain how you can use the results of these surveys to quickly and dramatically improve your business.
Before we dive in, though, let’s hammer out exactly what market research is, what it’s comprised of and why it’s so important.
Market Research: What It Is and Why It’s Important
In the broadest of terms, market research refers to the process of validating a product or service (or an aspect of such) by gauging the level of which your target consumer is interested in it.
To be more specific, when conducting market research, you’ll be unearthing and analyzing information about your customers, your competition and your own company’s performance within your industry.
Market research serves a number of purposes, including (but not limited to):
- Assessing the feasibility of a new business or venture
- Determining a customer segment’s level of interest in a new product or service (or feature of such)
- Assessing your company’s ability to break into a new market
- Identifying trends within your company’s industry
- Fine-tuning your marketing mix and optimizing your marketing efforts
- Differentiating your brand from the competition
- Improving your organization’s overall processes
By gaining an understanding of the above information, you’ll be in a better position to:
- Define your company’s value to its customers, as well as its true purpose for existing in the first place
- Focus your resources and efforts on fruitful ventures that your customers will find helpful
- Set goals and milestones to determine whether or not your efforts have been successful
Essentially, conducting market research allows you to become laser-focused on growth when making any changes to your company’s processes. In other words, you’ll all but ensure the changes you make will make a tangible (positive) difference to your overall business.
Two Types of Market Research
Before we move on, it’s important that we discuss the two main types of market research: primary research and secondary research.
Primary research is that which is conducted by a company (or a contracted party) first-hand.
Within customer-facing primary research, there exists two main branches:
- Exploratory Research: Broad, open-ended discussions with customers facilitated with the purpose of identifying major issues to dig deeper into
- Specific Research: Discussions focused heavily on the issues discovered during exploratory research, with the purpose of making concentrated improvements in the future
As the data and information you collect through primary research is unique (as well as proprietary), it’s inherently extremely valuable. Such data can provide insight into your industry which no other company is privy to – giving you a huge leg up on your competition.
You can also conduct secondary research, which basically consists of digging into data that has already been collected and made public by competing companies and/or third-party research companies. The problem with secondary research is that the data presented may be outdated, irrelevant to your purposes, or inaccurate. That being said, secondary research can act as a springboard of sorts to help you focus your own primary research moving forward.
At any rate, for the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on primary research methods.
Conducting Primary Market Research
As mentioned, primary market research is that which is facilitated internally within your company.
In other words, it requires more than just reading into previously-published data. To generate primary research data, you’ll need to actively engage with your customers.
Some of the most popular primary market research tactics are:
- Product trials
- Focus groups
- Direct observation of customers
Depending on your company’s capacity to conduct such research, you may choose to utilize more than one of these tactics. Naturally, the more strategies you implement, the more complete of a picture the information you glean will provide.
No matter which of these techniques you use, you should always aim to supplement the information gathered by providing your customers with surveys relating to their experience (both with the given study, as well as with your company overall).
Using Surveys to Supplement Market Research
The main purpose of conducting surveys is to give your customers an additional opportunity to provide more information and/or clarify statements they may have made, or actions they may have taken, during the initial study (as discussed above).
The advantage of using surveys is that you can tailor your line of questioning in order to elicit the information you’ve determined to be important for your current purposes.
(This is why it’s essential to have defined a purpose for your market research before doing anything else with regard to your future initiative.)
The survey types we’ll discuss in the following sections each provide valuable information about your customers and their interactions with your product or service (and your brand as a whole), as well as information regarding the industry in which your company operates.
Again, if you have the capacity to do so, we suggest utilizing each of these surveys to help inform the changes you intend on making in the future.
(Note: If you need a quick and easy way to survey your customers, Fieldboom can help. Sign up free.)
Customer Experience-Focused Surveys
As we alluded to earlier, the main way to facilitate growth within your company is to focus on improving the services you provide your customers.
In order to do so, you’ll need to get an understanding of where your company currently stands in the eyes of your customer. In turn, you’ll get a better idea of what you’re doing right, as well as where you might need to make some improvements in the near future.
Let’s take a look at the most common surveys used when conducting market research.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
A company’s Net Promoter Score assesses its customers’ willingness and propensity to recommend the company’s products or services to others within their network.
Net Promoter Score surveys focus on a single question:
On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our products/services to a friend, family member, or colleague?
Note: Check out our article on Net Promoter Score for more information on how to calculate your company’s score.
Though not essential for calculating your company’s NPS, you can certainly ask follow-up questions in order to clarify a response, such as:
- Why did you choose the rating you chose?
- What could we do that would cause you to increase your rating?
- Who did you think of when you read the initial question and why?
Keep this last question in mind during the next section on surveys focused on your industry.
Although your NPS alone can tell you whether or not your customers absolutely love – or hate your brand (or are indifferent to it, as the case may be) – the follow-up questions you ask are much more important for the purpose of making concentrated improvements to your company’s processes.
By asking your survey respondents to clarify their answers with qualitative information, you’ll be able to focus specifically on the problems that may be stunting your organization’s growth.
Customer Effort Score (CES)
As discussed at length in the Harvard Business Review article titled “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers,” consumers give their money to companies because they want an effective and efficient solution to a problem they’re currently facing.
In other words, they pay others to do the heavy lifting for them – making things easy on themselves in the process.
Your company’s Customer Effort Score, then, tells you just how easy (or difficult) you’re making things on your customers. Naturally, the easier it is for your customers to achieve their goal when using your products or services, the more likely they’ll be to return to your brand the next time they’re in need.
Similar to NPS, Customer Effort Score asks a single focus question:
On a scale of 0-10, how much effort do you feel you needed to put into (a specific engagement with the company)?
Again, the answers your customers provide will either tell you that things are going well or that there’s room for improvement – but not much else. To dig deeper, you might ask questions like:
- What part of the engagement went the smoothest?
- What part of the engagement was most frustrating?
- What could have made the engagement more pleasant?
The answers to these questions, of course, will provide some direction for you as you work toward improving your company’s customer-facing services.
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)
Of the survey types we’ve discussed so far, customer satisfaction surveys are the most straightforward.
In contrast to NPS and CES surveys (in which a customer’s level of satisfaction is derived from their responses), customer satisfaction surveys ask customers point-blank:
How would you rate your experience with our company?
(Note: Rather than providing a numerical scale, you’d want to provide response options ranging from “very satisfying” to “very dissatisfying.”)
Now, despite the straightforward nature of the initial question, it’s important to note that responses can be skewed for a variety of reasons. For example, given two customers who receive the exact same quality of service, the “easy-to-please” individual might report being “very satisfied,” while the more “difficult” customer may skew toward a neutral (or even slightly negative) response.
For this reason, you’ll again want to ask some follow-up questions to provide some context for the initial response, such as:
- What was the most satisfying part of your overall experience?
- What did you wish we had done better?
- What surprised you (in a positive or negative way) about your experience with our brand?
Once more, these supplemental questions can provide valuable insight into what your customers actually expect from your company – as well as how well you were able to meet these expectations.
While each of these surveys provide valuable information in their own right, analyzing all of the data gleaned through each of them can paint a much more complete picture of your customers’ experiences with your brand.
Market- and Industry-Focused Surveys
In the previous section, we discussed the various surveys you can use to gauge your customers’ satisfaction and experiences with your company.
Here, we’re going to talk about two types of surveys you can use to get a better understanding of who your customers are (as consumers and as people) and what they aim to get out of engaging with your brand. This, in turn, can help you validate ideas you’ve brainstormed for new products and services (or new features of such).
Market Profiling-Segmentation Surveys
As you probably know, marketing your brand to a specific, niche customer base is generally much better for business than “spraying and praying” to a mass audience. Not only does doing so ensure that the people you market to actually want to hear from you, but it also allows you to fine-tune your offering to these specific individuals.
Of course, you need to know who these people are before you’re able to create marketing campaigns and other initiatives that resonate with them.
By delivering market profiling-segmentation surveys to potential customers, you’ll be able to gather information that will help you develop customer personas and profiles. These profiles will include information related to your customers’:
While each response you receive will likely be unique in at least one way or another, there will certainly be a number of similarities between them, as well. You’ll want to take note of these similarities in order to create a profile of your archetypal customer.
Take a look at the following sample customer profile:
For a company selling beauty products or similar services, this profile has pretty much everything you’d need to know about a target persona in order to create a marketing campaign that grabs their attention and convinces them to make a purchase.
Without this information, said company is liable to waste valuable time, money and energy creating marketing campaigns and other initiatives that, unfortunately, go largely ignored by the company’s target customer base.
Conjoint Analysis Surveys
As we’ve recently discussed on our blog, conjoint analysis surveys are used to simulate the experience of shopping for a new product – allowing you to discover exactly what it is your customers are looking for.
Though conjoint analysis surveys come in a variety of formats, they typically call on the surveyed customer to compare two or more products (of a similar nature) by assessing a number of the products’ features, as well as their prices.
Check out the following example:
Here, customers are asked to choose between three different laptops. Each product is made by a different brand, has unique strengths and weaknesses in terms of processing power, RAM and monitor size and is offered at a unique price.
After making a choice, the customer would be presented with the same question – but some of the specs of each product would be different (for example, the screen sizes may all be listed at 17 inches). The process is then repeated until enough data has been collected to show which feature(s) a given customer cares most about.
(In the example above, let’s say a customer continues to choose the laptop with the most processing power – regardless of changes to other features. This, of course, would make it clear that processing power is the determining factor for them in terms of purchasing a new laptop.)
The purpose of conjoint analysis surveys, then, is to determine which of your product’s features your customers care most about – and which they find rather superfluous. By identifying this information, you’ll be able to focus on optimizing the parts of your product that matter (rather than wasting time on the ones that don’t).
Even when not assessing your target customers’ experiences with your company, you can still learn a lot about them by conducting surveys related to their buying personas. In fact, the more you know about who your customers are as people and as consumers, the more equipped you’ll be to optimize their experience with your company.
The more you know about your customers, the better you’ll be able to serve them.
By actively taking the time to learn all you possibly can about your them, you’ll place yourself in prime position to give them exactly what they’re looking for. Sometimes before they even know they’re looking for it!
Additionally, the simple act of reaching out to your customers and asking them to share their feelings and opinions proves to them that you truly care and that you’ll do whatever you can to provide top-notch service to them at all times.
In summary, creating and delivering surveys to your customers can be the first step toward forging a loyal, trusting relationship together. If you don’t currently have a way to quickly and easily survey your customers, Fieldboom can help. You can sign up free.