How a Smaller Business Should Use Primary Research

How a Smaller Business Should Use Primary Research

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Primary research can really bolster a small to medium sized (SME) company’s marketing plan and yet it is largely overlooked. Secondary or desk research, termed quantitative (quanti) data is more often done when exploring new markets for existing products leaving primary, termed qualitative (quali) data, out in the cold. This tends to be the case for more established SME’s; they grow, expand and with the myriad of other external forces, it is easy to lose sight of whom exactly resides within the database and what it is that they feel. In reality, primary research should no longer be the sole domain of bigger companies. Technology means that smaller companies can reap the benefits too.

First – Get organised with what you need to know.

Know why you’re doing the primary research, have a clear understanding of what it is you want it to show you. In other words – what is the business decision that it is going to help solve?

Secondly – think in terms of a customer journey.

While this concept tends to be far from the minds of an SME, it does help considerably to visualise the point at which the customer takes a decision to find your offering to the point where it is actually purchased, including all the ways a customer may have been in touch with your company along the way – and these may be chance encounters – word of mouth or simply noticing someone else with your product.

Thirdly – get strategic with it

So that you don’t dry up after having done half a job – a key word here is ‘systematic’. Two or three methods below could be combined and implemented over a period of say a year.

Primary research suitable for an SME – in brief

#1 Quick surveys using panels

While traditionally used for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), it can easily be adapted to suit almost any small business from a technology led b2b company to a service company – a School for example or a firm of accountants or lawyers. You can either be part of an omnibus survey where you pay per question or you can set up your own small panel representative of your audience. The panel volunteers are rewarded either with the survey results (which could be interesting to them too) or some other incentive. Depending on the nature of the business, you may give away product samples (typical of FMCG)

#2 Community

A community could revolve around a social platform and Google + is a typical one. The point to note here is that they’re not ‘recruited’ as above, rather more they’re ‘observers’ who choose to comment and contribute to the questions posed. Facebook polls are another example.  A b2b company, particularly a tech, would suit Google + while Facebook polls suit b2c although it is not as black and white as this.  Some b2b’s thrive on Facebook.

#3 On-device research

Specialised apps are provided to customers who wish to take part, to record their purchase intentions with a view to defining their customer journey. This delivers systematic, logical and evidential methodology, helping back up an otherwise common sense or even belt and braces approach to classic marketing campaigns.
So, for example, the panel option #1 combined with #2 on-device research would help with insights for a School, with selected parents and those at the maternity stage being the panellists, with the early stage potential ‘buyers’ using the device and app.

# 4 Kiosk surveys

Popular in the States, kiosk surveys are also seen in the UK in certain stores – PC World has a very basic choose the mood button. For the b2b company that attends Exhibitions, installing such a kiosk on or near to your stand would capture quali data in a conduicive setting.

# 5 Sentiment analysis

This is not a method in itself; it’s more of a control gate. It answers the big question, how can we be sure our quali data is representative of our customers? The key is to weight the respondents depending on to what extent they fit your demographic.

Ultimately, we’re looking for Smart Data; data that shifts from research to intelligence and ultimately to action. The biggest sin is to fail to Act on the intelligence delivered.

Finally, befriend the Market Research Society (MRS), which will steer you on Code of Conduct

Original CIM webinar entitled Innovations in Customer and Market Research by Jean Sutton.  .Article written with content adapted to suit a smaller business by Finkk Marketing.