When many corporations think of market research, they imagine expensive and elaborate studies. Large swaths of data, focus groups with one-way mirrors, telephone call centers with scripts, and a lot of time and expense. While all of the tools mentioned above are valid ways of conducting quantitative and qualitative research, market research does not need to be that complicated. Sometimes a lighter approach can be less daunting and yield good results that can still help guide a company.
B2C - Simpler is better:
When I was handling the marketing for a large cabinetry company selling through the big box retailers I used to make it a point to visit at least a few stores a month just to get a sense for how things were going at the store level and the process the consumers were going through to make their choices. I would watch and often carry gift cards or coupons with me that I could use in exchange for the customer spending a few minutes with me to run me through their experience. There was nothing elaborate about the way I approached these customers, but the insights I gained were important to the brand and yes, store intercepts like this qualify as qualitative research (no one way mirror required).
If you are working with a B2C brand there are a variety of ways to gain insight into the consumer experience without incurring high cost. Although, there is a time and place for larger studies to give you a more representative sample of your customers as well as highlight any regional differences. Work with your sales team to find opportunities to get in front of the end-users and learn more about why they chose (or didn’t choose) your product.
B2B Dinner is on you
If you are operating in a B2B environment than you are probably working with the 80-20 rule – 20% of your customers are currently giving you 80% of your business. Spent a little quality time with them to find out what you are doing right and what you need to fix. I have yet to meet a customer who was shy about articulating what I and my company could do better to keep and grow their business.
Formal market research is a wonderful thing that can yield terrific insights into the customer experience and their preferences, but in the absence of it there are many ways you can conduct informal or anecdotal market research to keep your pulse on how your company is doing.