Thursday, May 15, 2008

Market Research - Quantitative (Part 3/3)

Dear Wingman,

I’d like to learn more about how I can find or conduct any research to get a better understanding of my customers and my competitors (I own a computer and electronics shop).

-Terry S.

So previously we discussed market research, informal research techniques, and qualitative market research. Now we get to the meat of market research, quantitative market research – hard data that can be numerically calculated.

While you can ask the same questions in both qualitative and quantitative studies, quantitative research requires you to survey a larger number of people in order to obtain statistically reliable information. The larger your sample size, the greater your accuracy, but be sure to get at least 30 randomly selected respondents, preferably 100 or more.

A well designed study involves developing the right pool of respondents, asking proper and well-stated questions in the right order, utilizing the right communication vehicles. Of course a professional marketing or market research firm may be able to help you along with setting up and executing the research study, though you can still conduct quantitative studies on your own. Small budgets, small sample sizes, and non-random samples mean a less accurate, though still reliable set of results.

If you maintain a large mailing list, you can send surveys to customers’ homes or businesses. Direct mail campaigns typically have a low one to two percent response rate, though it may be higher depending on the relationship you have with your customers. To maximize your response rates, keep your surveys focused and simple, and offer your customers something in exchange for their participation, such as a valuable coupon for those that complete the survey. If you have a web-based business or a strong online presence, you can more inexpensively collect data from web-savvy customers. Many affordable web applications offer basic marketing research surveys that you can use at a relatively low cost.

In closing, understand that customer habits shift over time, making it important for you to continually be in touch with them. Don’t view your results as the end of the process; it should be an ongoing component of marketing strategy. By staying on top of what customers think of your product or service, you can fine tune your marketing strategy to keep up with your customers’ changing needs.

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