How to Conduct Customer Research


Good market research is the foundation of your marketing pro­gram and business. You have to know your customers and your competition well. Know when your competitors are offering your prospects sales or new and improved products and ser­vices. Since your customers’ needs and wants are constantly changing, keep up with your competition and know exactly what your customers want at all times through market research. Here are some inexpensive ways to conduct market research:

1. Make regular visits to your competition. Observe their lo­cation, facilities, operations, service, products and clien­tele. Stop customers outside the store, on the street, or in the parking lot and ask them why they bought at that par­ticular store or business. Not everyone will be willing to talk to you, but if you’re pleasant, patient, and ask the right questions you can get a wealth of information. You can solve many of your marketing difficulties by merely observing your competitors’ operations and talking with their clientele.

You can also gain valuable information by studying your competitors’ advertising. Look in local newspapers and magazines and see where your competitors are adver­tising. Scrutinize their ads—the headlines, body text, illus­trations, ad style, tone, size, and offers. Look for patterns. An ad that has run unchanged for many months is prob­ably working. Changes mean something was ineffective, so a better approach was developed.

2. Get on competitors’ mailing lists. This is an effective and free way to keep track of what your competition is doing. If you are afraid your name might be spotted by a com­petitor, use the name of a friend or another family mem­ber. Occasionally buy your competitors’ services or prod­ucts to determine how they manage active accounts.

3. Determine levels of customer satisfaction or dissatisfac­tion. You have to solicit feedback continuously from your customers by preparing a short, cost effective question­naire that they fill out before they leave your store. You can even mail it to them, but if you do, include a free gift or some special discount offer for their time and effort. This will dramatically improve the number of responses you get back. Keep this questionnaire short, no more than 15 questions, and specifically related to your business.

Here are some questions you should ask your customers:

  • What did you like best about our product or service?
  • What can we do better?
  • Why would you not use our product or service again? Also ask for additional comments or complaints.

Other questions, such as those below, will help you to deter­mine where to advertise to reach your customers and prime prospects.

  • What newspapers do you read?
  • What radio stations do you listen to?
  • What TV stations do you watch?
  • What magazines do you read?
  • What type of work do you do?
  • What is your favorite type of food?
  • When is your birthday? (You can use this information to send birthday cards to your customers. But be sure never to ask for the year of their birth, only the day and month.)

Questionnaires cost very little to print, mail, and distribute. Nevertheless, the information you get from your questionnaires is the essence of a successful marketing program.

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Related posts:

  1. How to Create a Marketing Profile
  2. How to Handle Customer Complaints
  3. How to Write a Marketing Plan
  4. How to Access Your Target Market
  5. How to Start Compiling a Customer Mailing List

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About the Author: Bruno Silva is an entrepreneur from Portugal with over 15 years of experience in Online Marketing. He is also a blogger and writes on variety of topics from online marketing to designs, cars to loans, etc.

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