According to an article by the American Marketing Association (AMA) in 2017, individuals are smacked with 10,000 marketing messages per day – but probably don’t remember even 1%, because as savvy consumers, we’re experts at tuning out marketing and advertising, unless it strikes us personally. From advertisers who scream in their ads, “Buy me because I’m awesome” to marketers who say “content, content, content – oh, and read this, too.” Mainstream and viral forms of media seem to communicate with arrogance, as if we, as media consumers, should wait with bated breath.
If someone talks AT you instead of TO you, do you listen? (Let’s hope the answer is NO!) Marketing is no different. Prospects and customers (and every stage between, before, and after), want to be part of a conversation, not a victim of a marketing rant. Her's how to do it right
SAVE YOUR BREATH FOR THOSE WHO CARE
Not everyone will be a prospect for your company. If you do business right, only a sliver of what you consider your target market will be a prospect. If you make it seem like you sell to everyone, you’re not targeting anyone. Step back, study, and consider who you want to appeal to. Don’t be afraid to pick verticals and be intentional about who you want to target. Prospects may want to find a company they like, know, and trust, but your business also deserves to work with customers you like, know, and trust.
PERSONALISE, BUT DON’T BE OVER THE TOP
Everyone knows there are personalisation tokens in emails that sync up to your contact database, but if you insert too many, you’re practically begging to look like a marketing automation robot.
Remember about saving your breath for those who care? Try personalising emails with information that relates directly to the prospect; for example, include an interesting fact you learned about the prospect, follow up on an event the prospect shared with you, etc. If you show you care, if your empathy is apparent, if you see more than a number or an email address, you’ll set yourself ahead of the competition. You can’t beat authenticity.
EMPATHY WINS. ALWAYS.
Merriam-Webster defines empathy as the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this.
Doesn’t it make you feel good just reading this definition?
Empathy pulls at your heartstrings. It makes you feel alive. It makes you feel appreciated and understood. From a prospect’s perspective, it makes them feel like their challenges and problems matter. Having received empathy is a building block to the foundation of trust. And you know where trust gets you in a relationship – everywhere.
If you can’t be empathetic in your communication and how you handle prospects, customers, and colleagues, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Go beyond being believable – be real.
CREATE CONTENT THAT MATTERS
Your marketing folder is likely chock full of stuff – eBooks, webinars, guides, etc. But do the marketing materials truly matter? And salespeople, this goes for your sales materials, too. Yes, it may have taken a lot of time and money to create that eBook three years ago, but if there isn’t authentic value in the material, don’t offer it to your prospects. There’s no sense in judging their intelligence or wasting their time.
Instead, focus on creating marketing content that’s engaging and packed with valuable insight and expertise that goes above and beyond what your competitors are offering. Invest in quality content writing, killer graphic design, and an aesthetically pleasing layout. (Shameless plug: talk to our team at Leading Results to nail the above.)
Your prospects are testing the waters to see if your company is the best fit, and this is when you put your best foot forward. You can’t know – or even predict – how they find you first, so make sure every interaction with your prospects is top notch.
BE WHERE IT MATTERS
I’m a rock fan, and I thought of the song ‘Everything’ by Everclear, a 90s alternative rock band, as soon as I thought of this blog.
You do what you do
You say what you say
You try to be everything to everyone
You know all the right people
You play all the right games
You always try to be
Everything to everyone
It’s exhausting to be everything to everyone, and it’s exhausting to be everywhere to attract … no one. Remember: if you target everyone, you’re selling to no one.
If you’re intentional about prospecting to your defined target market, be where they are. If your target market reads scientific journals, then by gosh, your company better be finding creative, engaging ways to be seen in scientific circles. The important thing is to avoid wasting your time in spaces your target market doesn’t frequent. You’re wasting time, energy, and resources that could put you in front of the prospects best suited for your company.
Clear goals, a clear direction, empathy, and authenticity win. This form of marketing and communication isn’t just refreshing, it’s how prospects want to be courted. It’s how HUMANS want to be treated.
Does your marketing need humanisation? Contact us – we’d love to chat with you about a marketing strategy and program that will align and resonate with your target market and prospect base.
The rise of smart phones, apps and mobile internet access has made the mobile phone a key battleground in the fight for new business and customers' attention.
Although the pace of technological change gives you the chance to try innovative techniques and ideas, there are still opportunities for more traditional kinds of mobile marketing, like text message campaigns.
One of the main attractions of mobile marketing is that mobile phones are almost always switched on and people usually have them to hand. That means text messages (also called SMSs, for 'short messaging service') are usually read.
Mobile internet is growing fast
What's more, the mobile phone has become the first place people turn in all kinds of situations: to check for directions or to look up the price of a product, for example - indeed, to find any information online. Because people use their phones in these ways, your business can benefit hugely from intelligent mobile marketing.
In fact, the majority of people in the UK now access the internet from mobile devices. This means potential customers are going to try and reach your business via their mobile phones whether you like it or not. You need to consider the experience they have.
Mobile marketing improves satisfaction
For small businesses in particular, the mobile phone offers exciting opportunities to improve customer service and satisfaction. Texting and emailing customers on their mobile phones can be part of a better, more personal service. Sending details of promotions and events can boost business.
If you're more ambitious, you can create your own mobile app. But whatever you do, you need to mobile-optimise your website so that people using smart phones can find what they're looking for.
With the mobile landscape still changing swiftly, don't regard mobile marketing as separate to your other marketing efforts. In particular, it's becoming harder to determine where online marketing ends and mobile marketing begins.
With mobile internet access commonplace, you must consider mobile users whenever you're changing your website or sending a marketing email. (Statistics suggest most emails are now opened on mobile devices, so it's vital your emails are readable on small screens.)
You can't control how or when people use their mobile phones. And as other mobile devices like tablet computers become widely used, the mobile world will only continue to grow.
Using mobile phones to inform your customers
When it comes to mobile marketing, small firms often have an advantage over big brand names because they already have a personal relationship with customers. As a result, contacting them by mobile phone does not appear so intrusive.
Many small businesses can benefit from mobile phone communication. For example, local entertainment businesses such as restaurants can use text and email marketing to advertise special events. And retailers can text details of sales or vouchers timed to catch shoppers in the right place.
Businesses that work by appointment, such as opticians or hair salons, are ideally placed to use text messages or apps to send reminders and to alert customers when it's time to book their next appointment. What's more, they can send special offers and details of last-minute availability.
Mobile marketing targeting
Smart phones offer some interesting targeting opportunities. Most are equipped with location services, which means they can determine their location via GPS.
Your mobile app or website can use this facility to direct customers to their nearest branch, or to display special offers when people are in your neighbourhood.
With the right timing, this sort of targeting is valuable. Contact shoppers when they are on the high street - at the weekend - and you increase the potential for new business. But whatever you do, never send intrusive messages at unsocial hours.
Finally, remember that if you intend to contact customers via text messages or calling their mobile phones, you need permission - just as with all other direct marketing.
If you're marketing to a local audience, there are more tools available than ever to help you. In this blog find out how you can use online services, as well as traditional marketing techniques, to attract local customers.
Appealing to local customers is easier than ever. And it's not just about flyers and local ads; technology can also be used to market at town or even postcode level.
It's just easier to market within a defined geography, for example, in theory I can consult across the whole of Europe, but in practice I keep to my home town and neighbouring counties. I can network locally, I can use local marketing techniques, and there are enough customers in the catchment area to keep me busy. It's about fishing where the fish are.
Get listed in local directories
The internet is an increasingly powerful local marketing tool. As a first step, you can get listed with Google My Business so customers searching Google and Google Maps find your contact details.
Free Index is another free online directory. With FreeIndex, your local customers can add reviews. The more positive reviews you get, the higher up the index you go. Basic listings on sites such as Thomsonlocal.com and Yell.com are also free.
Location-based social networking
Another easy step to ensure local customers find you online is to optimise your website for local searches. At its most basic, this means including your operating area in the keywords of all pages and page title fields, and adding as many relevant backlinks (links from other local websites) as possible.
Increasingly, social media is also lending itself to local marketing. Restaurants, bars and shops, for example, might consider listing on Foursquare, a free location-based mobile app that uses global positioning data to allow people to share information about places to eat, drink, shop or visit. Users can pick up automatic suggestions on where to go from within their vicinity.
Traditional marketing for local businesses
Face-to-face networking can be an extremely effective way of building local custom, particularly for business-to-business customers. If someone has met you, they are much more likely to want to use your firm or refer you.
Networking can also help you develop marketing partnerships with local, complementary businesses. For example, a high-street wedding dress designer and florist may find it valuable to promote each other in their marketing.
Other traditional marketing techniques you could use to attract local custom include targeted leaflet drops, press releases to local media and local sponsorship.
Evaluating response to your local marketing
To ensure you're spending your time wisely, measure the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. Put in tracking mechanisms so you can measure how successful each technique is. Evaluating web-based marketing can be easy using Google Analytics, which is free, but if you do only one thing, ask all new customers how they heard of your company.
As social media platforms have evolved into full-blown communication channels, more brands are relying on these platforms to reach their target audiences.
Consumer attention is scattered across various social platforms, not to mention apps and other online diversions. Brands that hope to capture consumers’ attention and dollars need to keep in touch with how their audiences utilise these platforms. The bottom line is that, as trends evolve on social media, so must the corresponding marketing.
What is going to influence social media users? What does this mean for brand marketing? And what do we need to be aware of to stay current and relevant?
Here are the top 10 social media trends to keep an eye on in the new year.
1. Rebuilding trust in social media platforms.
Social media platforms continue to grow annually -- in fact, Facebook has more than 2 billion active users each month. However, the picture isn’t entirely rosy. Consumer confidence in social media is on shaky ground.
Users are growing increasingly leery of the information they find on social media. And marketers may be contributing to the situation when they fail to properly label paid advertising posts or they bombard a platform with targeted ads that overwhelm users. All of this can leave users feeling distrustful of both the brand and the platform.
Younger generations have little tolerance for marketing that comes off as disingenuous. Brands will need to look for ways to build consumer trust. That means focusing on ways to authentically connect with audiences, and ways to highlight their humanity. Brands need to connect with their audiences on a meaningful level. No one likes being constantly swamped with ads. Even worse is when you’re being marketed to and don’t even realise it.
2. Social media is about storytelling.
Social media’s popularity is rooted in the fact that it allows us to share our life experiences with friends and families. We get to tell our stories through our posts, and we get to see a snapshot of everyone else’s lives through our news feeds. At first, that was through written posts and photos, but video content is increasingly popular.
Social media is adapting, embracing new ways to allow people to tell their stories and share their narrative with the world. Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook are embracing this trend, and it’s changing the way we consume social media content.
This opens the door for brands to share more human stories of their own, which will inspire audiences to try out their product. Storytelling feels real, immediate and personal, but it also demands a mix of more time-intensive video, images and graphics, and requires brands to be more creative and thoughtful in the intent.
3. Build a brand narrative.Along with honing their human stories, businesses are going to need to build a strategic narrative behind their brand. Narratives capture moments and experiences shared between a user and a product; they’re the conversations that are occurring, and they’re often about trying to create a broader, more positive change.
These narratives can be distributed through social media and digital media, and they reflect what a brand’s community is saying about them. If a brand can build a larger story, it will have a better chance of success.
Brand narratives need to be compelling and lead audiences to an action. Evaluate your brand story, and ensure it is inspiring and stands out against the messiness of other social media content.
4. Quality and creativity over quantity.
Marketers often have a knee-jerk reaction to trends by flooding platforms with mediocre and uninspired content in hopes of riding the trend wave. Would-be customers react by tuning out and quickly dismissing sub-par messaging. The threshold for gaining customer attention and trust has grown exponentially. Marketers who hope to gain consumer consideration must be willing to go the extra mile in creating engaging content.
The bottom line is, to have an impact, brands must be purposeful and creative. Less content, if it’s created thoughtfully and is well-positioned, will have greater impact than an abundance of content that is uninspired, heavy-handed or seen as shallow or dull.
5. Put a human face to your brand.
Personal branding is a must on social media. Putting a real, human face to a brand is key in building trust and loyalty, especially for small, relatively unknown businesses. Personal branding gives a business a human element that will naturally connect customers and make the brand seem more relateable. Businesses that learn to foster their human element will have a real advantage over those who hide behind a logo.
One popular trend in humanising a business is to promote the personal brand of the business owner or a high-level leader. This can be done through guest blogging, podcasts and webinars. Giving the public an up-close view of the company’s leader can strengthen its brand reputation.
6. Influencers continue to grow their communities.
Influencer marketing continues to develop and grow on social media platforms.
Influencers are social media figures who have gathered a defined community around themselves. Their large followings (which can range from the thousands to over a million viewers) give them influence over others. They can be incredibly effective as salespeople because we inherently trust the people we follow on social media.
Much like personal branding, when done well influencer marketing gives a human voice to brands. Influencer marketing is less direct than traditional forms of advertising, but it can effectively create authentic ways of connecting with customers.
7. Selfie videos and branding.
The selfie culture continues to flourish on social media, with the popularity of selfie photo evolving into the self-recorded video. These “selfie videos” are drawing high user interest on social media. Like the selfie photo, the selfie video allows users to capture a moment in time, but the video format allows users to communicate in a deeper and more personal way than a photo ever could. Selfie videos tend to be short and feel more immediate than a written post with a photo.
Businesses need to take note: viewers spend hours watching friends’ videos on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. Brands would be wise to look for ways to incorporate first-person “selfie video” content as part of their marketing strategy. Traditional advertising can be off-putting to younger audiences, who are more cautious about their purchases and want a more authentic experience with their brands. The selfie video can help a brand seem more relateable and trustworthy.
8. Segment your social audiences.
While brands talk about their customers and audiences, the reality is that most businesses will have multiple audiences. Segmentation is the process of organising your audience into manageable groups (or segments) so you can tailor your messaging and communications to the preferences of each group. Social media is most effective when you segment your audiences so you can be relevant to the right groups of people at the right time.
Making assumptions about your audience and lumping them all together could limit your ability to reach more people. So the more you know about your audience and the various groups that make up your audience, the better you can adjust your messaging and narratives to fit each segment.
9. Hyper-targeted personalisation.
Customers have come to expect brands to tailor special offers and discounts to their wants and needs. To keep up with expectations, businesses need to step up their game when it comes to targeted advertising. Nearly every social media platform offers some level of audience filtering when you opt to pay for advertising. These options range from simple geographic targeting to advanced filters that refine audiences into highly specific segments.
In the coming year, brands will increasingly turn to hyper-targeted personalisation to reach their audiences. This is often achieved through re-targeting or re-marketing ads. Ever wonder why you’re seeing an ad on your social media site for something you were shopping for earlier? That’s hyper-targeted personalisation at work.
Using “cookies” while you browse online, marketers collect data on users, such as online habits, the area they live in and any other pertinent information. But marketers will need to find a balance between being too pushy and being able to offer personalised advertising that will genuinely interest customers.
10. Know your platforms.
Businesses should carefully consider which social media platforms to focus on, as each platform tends to be used by different groups. For example, over 80 percent of Pinterest users are female, and more than 50 percent of users are from the US. So, if a brand is targeting American women, posting on Pinterest could help isolate that group.
Meanwhile, Snapchat users tend to be younger than those who use Facebook. And career-focused professionals spend more of their time on LinkedIn. Brands that use multiple platforms should use these distinguishing characteristics to decide where to post content and on which platforms to focus the majority of their marketing efforts.
A memorable brand can reinforce your difference from competitors and can help to encourage customer loyalty. But developing a lasting brand involves a lot more than simply redesigning your logo.
What makes a memorable infographic? Her I explain the importance of creating a narrative and using a metaphor to present complex data in a clear and attractive way.
Many infographics are so complicated that I’d rather read a chunk of well-written copy.
But wasn’t the point of infographics to present us with easy-to-read, digestible chunks of information in an interesting and visually enticing format? Yes, information can be beautiful but it also needs to educate readers and remain in their minds long after they forget about the flashy design.
However, done well, infographics are a great way of presenting data. But as everyone jumps on the infographics bandwagon, more and more seem to be focusing on creating complex artistry rather than making a comprehensible resource.
Simplify your infographicsInfographics can be visually stunning but they must convey your message. They need to be educational as well as being aesthetically pleasing enough to share and link to. Here are some simple ways to create effective infographics.
Create a narrative
The best way to create a memorable infographic is by developing a narrative. Create a story within the design that is relevant to your niche and focus.
Prioritise the data
Creating a hierarchy of data will help your readers to visualise which data you deem most important. Bolder, larger fonts and graphics are a simple way of highlighting the key points you want to get across.
Say it with metaphors
Infographics are particularly useful when trying to convey an important message that is difficult to comprehend. One method for explaining the complex is to use metaphors. The element of surprise is always a good way to create memorable infographics. Execute the unexpected by looking for metaphors that people may not have associated with your niche before to help you stand out from the crowd.
Illustrate the obvious
However, some infographics take it too far when it comes to using metaphors. If something is easily explainable, illustrate the obvious instead of confusing the reader further. Don’t shy away from simply translating data into graphics that readers would naturally associate with key terms.
If you're looking to create simple yet effective infographics, there are some fantastic infographic creator websites out there that are completely free to use at the basic level.
Content is at the heart of today’s marketing strategies as businesses use websites and blogs to demonstrate their own expertise. "Content marketing is the only marketing left." Seth Godin.
If you run any type of professional business today you’ll know that, in terms of marketing, the world has changed dramatically. Tried and tested activities for getting client attention just don’t work like they once did:
You are expert in what you do and know that there are clients out there who would really value your assistance. How on earth do you get their interest?
Changed buying behaviour in a web-driven world
In the past five to ten years, the web has transformed buying behaviour. In the past, if a potential client wanted information on your services, they’d call your office and engage you or one of your sales team to get the lowdown on your offering.
Today, their first port of call is undoubtedly the internet. They’ll search on Google, check out your website and expect to sign up to article updates or social media feeds to find out more. They are checking to see who they could best trust to solve their business problem. They expect to find valuable content.
Your clients are in control, and you’d better make sure that the information you put up about your company answers their questions and positions you as the trusted resource they seek.
Today, effective marketing is all about creating high quality content and sharing this across the web. By quality content we don’t just mean information that is well-written or artfully produced. We mean information that is first and foremost of real value to your particular client base.
Educate your clients, show them best practice, tell them what to look out for, give them valuable tips on how to achieve success, demonstrate how you’ve helped others in their shoes, answer their problems, open their eyes.
Creating and distributing this kind of relevant, valuable and compelling information will help you turn prospects into buyers and buyers into long-term fans.
Create the type of information your buyers actually want to consume. Marketing with valuable content is a win-win for your company and its customers - your potential clients get the information they require and you get to demonstrate your expertise and usefulness.
Valuable content will help you sell. It helps your ideal clients find you and makes it easier for them to buy from you. It’s an opportunity to position your company as the place to turn to when the time comes to buy.
A different approach to client communication
If you want to reap the rewards that valuable content brings, you need to start communicating differently. There are different rules of engagement here. The valuable content approach is not about continuing to holler about how amazing your firm is, as we all did in the past. Unthink what you learned about sales and marketing messages.
Your position should be not "look how great we are" (as in a traditional brochure) but "look how useful we are - we have the answers to your problems."
This approach is truly customer-centred. Create content that is genuinely useful to your customers. Make yourself indispensable.
Not easy but essential
Creating and consistently delivering this type of information takes effort. You need to build a deep understanding of the needs of your target client base and of where and how you add value. It also takes time and skill.
Valuable content may not be easy but it is an essential tool if you are going to grow and sustain a successful business in today's web-driven world.
The internet is probably the first place you turn to when you're looking for something. The internet can help you find people, learn more about your market and keep up to date with regulations affecting your business.
Understanding how to use search engines makes it easier to find what you want. It's also worth thinking about how you can check information can be trusted.
1. Recruitment and finding people
The internet can help you find new employees and make other useful connections.
There are many ways to recruit new staff online
Social media is a good way to stay in touch with people
You can use the internet to learn a lot about people
2. Customers, suppliers and competitors
The internet can give you access to a wealth of information about existing and potential customers and suppliers. It can also help you learn about your competitors.
You can get information about other businesses, like new clients or prospective partners
Searching online can give you a sense of what kind of company you're dealing with:
The web is the best place to start any competitor research:
3. Market research and trends
The internet can provide you with an enormous amount of helpful information when you are performing market research. Online services can help you understand and identify your target customers:
You can use the internet to analyse your market and identify opportunities
You can keep an eye on wider trends in society and technology.
4. Laws and regulations
Keep up-to-date with new laws and rules that may affect your business. There is a wealth of legal and regulatory information available online
Government websites will give you the official line on new initiatives, rules and regulations
5. Using search engines
Search engines are the main way people find information online. If you're having trouble homing in on the information you need, there are a number of techniques that can help. Using basic search operators can produce a more specific set of results:
Use the advanced search
Can you trust the internet?
Anyone can publish practically anything online, so it can be hard to verify the information that you find. When relying on data you've found on the internet, you must be confident that it can be trusted.
Get a second opinion: Ask colleagues or contacts what they think of the information you've found. Are they familiar with the source? Have they ever seen conflicting data?
Find the original source: Statistics often get repeated online without reference to the original source or piece of research. Use search engines to try and identify where a piece of information originated.Identify who's behind it
The internet is full of 'sponsored content' created by companies or individuals that have an agenda. This information is often reliable, but it's important you understand what motivations were behind its creation.
If you want to get inside your customers’ minds, you need to do qualitative research.
Face-to-face interviews and focus groups can provide valuable insights into your products, your market and your customers
Qualitative research is about finding out not just what people think, but why they think it. It’s about getting people to talk about their opinions so you can understand their motivations and feelings.
Face-to-face interviews and group discussions are the best way to get this kind of in-depth feedback. Qualitative research can be valuable when you are developing new products or coming up with new marketing initiatives and you want to test reactions and refine your approach.
Reasons to do market researchResearch is an important first step before you undertake many key marketing tasks including preparing a marketing plan, doing SWOT analysis, product development, branding and pricing. Market research should also inform your online marketing strategy - everything from the design of your website to email newsletters, SEO and social networking.
Market research can also help you develop your products and services and make sure they meet the needs of your target audience. For instance, if you run a restaurant and you want to introduce a new lunch menu, you could invite a small group of local people to come and taste the food and give you feedback on your dishes, service and proposed pricing. This kind of exercise would not cost you much but it could provide you with important feedback and increase your chances of success.
Before you go into production with a new line, it’s vital to get your product into the hands of some members of your target market. Is it easy to use, does it do what it's supposed to, is the design appealing? Does it look as if it will stand out next to competing products in-store? Is the packaging working? Is the price right? This type of customer research almost always throws up one or two important issues that can then be ironed out before you launch your product.
Running a research groupGetting clear results from qualitative research can be difficult, however. Some people may be positive just to be polite, while others may be overbearing and dominate the discussion. With focus groups, you are working with small samples of your target market, typically with four to eight people. Or you could conduct one-on-one interviews. By contrast, a survey (quantitative research) might be sent out to a large number of customers.
Choosing the right person to interview people or to moderate a group discussion is vital. Professional market researchers are the ideal choice and it’s certainly important that business owner/managers don’t run the sessions themselves. It’s vital to find an independent person to do the job - that way, they’ll remain unbiased and the people they are interviewing will feel they can speak honestly.
A good moderator will run the session in an unstructured, free-flowing way. Answers should be probed and proceedings should be recorded for analysing later. Body language and non-verbal responses are worth noticing and video is useful to remind the moderator how respondents looked as well as what they said in the interview.
What can qualitative research tell you?
Qualitative research is about getting people to expand on their answers so that you can get more insight into their attitudes and behaviour. It’s all about getting underneath people’s responses to find out what is driving their decisions.
Quantitative research means asking people for their opinions in a structured way so that you have facts and statistics to guide you. To get reliable results, it’s important to survey people in fairly large numbers and to make sure they are a representative sample of your target market
Quantitative research techniques, including surveys and customer questionnaires, can help small firms to improve their products and services by enabling them to make informed decisions based on hard data.
Why do I need market research?
Market research can give you insight into your market, your competitors, your products, your marketing and your customers. It is an important first step before you undertake many key marketing tasks including preparing a marketing plan, doing SWOT analysis, product development, branding and pricing.
Market research should also inform your online marketing strategy - everything from the design of your website to email newsletters, SEO and social networking.
How to carry out quantitative research
Quantitative market research typically includes customer surveys and questionnaires. These can be conducted face-to-face with a clipboard and pen, over the telephone, via post or email, online or via your website.
Survey questions have to be carefully considered so that the results provide meaningful data. Don’t just ask if people know about your business - ask how often they visit, what products they buy and where else they go to buy the same products and why.
Answers on a structured questionnaire are usually closed - in other words, they require respondents to choose from a specific selection of answers and do not allow for the respondent to qualify their answer or elaborate. So a garden centre owner might ask, “How often do you buy plants and gardening supplies?” and respondents would have to choose between five options:
By asking lots of people the same questions, it’s possible to build up a clearer picture of how customers behave. You can then use this quantitative data to guide your business decisions.
You can also use quantitative research methods to compare sub-groups of customers. For instance, if you run a local café or deli, you will probably find that you are catering to a range of different customers, all with different needs - from mums meeting for coffee to local workers popping in for a sandwich, to ethical shoppers that buy your Fairtrade products, to keen cooks looking for specialist ingredients.
It’s worth using surveys to find out about your customers so that you can analyse the results of each group. Make sure you speak to a good number of each type of customer so you get the clearest view.
If you repeat your surveys regularly, you can monitor how opinions are changing and how your new initiatives are being received. Try to keep some of the questions the same so you can make true comparisons with previous research.
Quantitative research techniques
Choosing how to conduct your survey is an important issue. Face-to-face works well if you need to explain anything or show a product to the respondent. Telephone surveying can also be very effective, but it can be hard to catch people when they have time to talk.
If you are sending out surveys by post and email, you may find you have to offer an incentive in order to persuade people to take the time to fill out the questionnaire.
A good time to ask a customer to fill in a questionnaire is when you have finished a job for them. A customer satisfaction survey gives customers the chance to point out any quibbles they might have and also to praise good work. It can be a good way to gather positive testimonials that you can use in your marketing.
At the same time, take the chance to gather contact details and add the customer to your mailing list so you can get in touch with them in the future (make sure you get their permission).
If you want to survey a large number of new prospects, you can contribute questions to an online omnibus survey. These are general surveys that are completed by large groups of pre-selected consumers online. By adding two or three questions of your own to the survey, you can get some useful feedback. This is ideal if you are thinking of going into a new market.
What can quantitative research tell me?
Quantitative market research can answer many business-critical questions, including:
Analysing the results of your quantitative research
Collecting data is just one part of the research task. You have to collate it and analyse it as well. With a complex survey, this can be a specialist task in order to extrapolate all the findings and drill down into the data to see how different groups have responded.
However, a simple survey can be very effective and highly revealing, and small firms can always benefit from asking their customers what they think.
Lisa Hunter is an experienced Marketing, Events and Project Manager. She has over 10 years’ experience working in the IT and marketing industry, delivering strategic marketing support and managing creative projects for a wide-range of clients. In this blog she shares her knowledge and experiences…we hope you enjoy it.