How to do your own research to increase profits and improve your competitive advantage.

Market Research is one of the most useful tools to find out what your customers and prospects really want, need and care about.  Often perception may be different to reality, and this might by why profit margins are under pressure and sales have declined.  Market research helps businesses better understand their market sector, the changing needs of customers/prospects, and competitor activity/weaknesses. It is an essential element of marketing planning, and helps small businesses improve the effectiveness of their marketing investments (whether that is time attending a networking event or money spent on advertising). 

One of the best ways to know the needs and requirements of your prospects is by understanding more about your existing customers and why they buy from you.  However, I’d recommend you start with your most profitable customers because I’m sure you would like more of these!  According to industry research, a prospect with a similar profile to an existing customer is eight times more likely to buy from you than a random prospect.  By understanding your ideal buyer better is a start, and more sophisticated B2C and B2B customer profiling are available from organisations like Experian (basic analysis can be free)!

According to Penny Wylie, a CIM member and owner of Action Point Marketing Solutions, the essential questions you should ask include: how did you hear about us, why did you buy from us rather than another business, and what other products/services would you be interested in getting from us?  These three questions will help any business decide what marketing is generating leads, and key messages the organisation should convey to customers.  In addition, don’t forget about the prospects who didn’t buy from you and remember to ask them why they made a different decision.  As well as asking customers directly, you could do an online questionnaire using services like www.surveymonkey.co.uk, or email an auto-responder once a customer has purchased online with a key question. 

In regards to market/competitor intelligence and further support then the Hertfordshire Business Library (based in Welwyn Garden City) has excellent resources available including COBRA (market sector intelligence), FAME (company records), Market Line (research on large businesses and industries), and Mi Ventures (free business advice).  Want to know more? Then read ‘Market Research in a Week’ by Judy Bartkowiak available from the CIM Bookshop or online. Good luck!

Kelvin Golding

Regional Chairman

Chartered Institute of Marketing.

“One of the best ways to improve your sales conversion rate is to understand why customers really buy from you.”