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Consumer Research on a Dime

Posted on September 13 2011 | Author: Crystal Sarantoulias

What you need to know.

Knowing who it is you are targeting in terms of their age, gender, household income, and education can be a starting point to understanding who your customers are. There is, however, other practical consumer information that can be collected that can be invaluable in making business decisions.
So how do you go about getting this type of information?
The simple answer is … ask your customers!

The key to conducting effective consumer research is to keep track of your customers. With their name and phone number or email address, one way to carry out consumer research is to conduct a survey to get at some key insight that can only come from your consumers themselves. This contact information can be collected at the point of checkout or by online product registration.

Surveys can be conducted in person, over the phone or via mail or email, each of which requires a different amount of effort, time and money. Survey host sites such as SurveyMonkey.com are often inexpensive and easy to use.

Telephone interviews are more time-consuming and resource-intensive. However, there is benefit to speaking to someone, as there is opportunity to deviate from the interview guide and get at some insight that would not have otherwise been uncovered in an electronic survey. Hiring summer or cooperative education students is a great, inexpensive way to get some of this type of research done.

The first step in designing a survey is listing everything you would love to know or your objectives for engaging in consumer research. These objectives can relate to the strengths/ weaknesses of the product or service itself, effective marketing outlets, price points … the list goes on. From here, it is best to design questions that are open-ended in nature, where your customers are required to respond with more than “yes” or “no” answers. Next, it is important to test your questions on a few customers to ensure that you are getting the type of information you are looking for.
Now what? You’ve collected this information, but what’s next?

Once the surveys have been completed, the information can be reviewed for common responses and suggestions for improvement. As a new company, you may be trying to figure out what your selling proposition, or “secret sauce,” is with your consumers. Research can provide insight into the perceived value of your product or service and allow you to better develop and execute effective marketing strategies with this in mind.
It is important to remember:

  • Not every customer will be willing to take the time to provide you with feedback on your product or service – and that’s okay!
  • Both negative and positive feedback is valuable as it can be used as the basis for moving forward in your business.
  • Think about what it is you want to learn before jumping into consumer research and avoid these common mistakes.

Crystal Sarantoulias
Market Research Analyst and Independant Consultant


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Why Knowing Your Consumer is an Investment Worth Making

Posted on September 12 2011 | Author: Crystal Sarantoulias

As we’ve learned from my last post, getting to know your customers is one of the greatest challenges facing business owners, especially when starting out with a product or service that consumers are not familiar with.

Collecting information about your consumers, or conducting consumer research, can however be one of the single most effective uses of your time and marketing resources.

So what is consumer research?

Consumer research is a look into what is really driving consumer behaviour and decision making (http://www.ehow.com/about_5057780_consumer-research.html).

Why is consumer research so important?

As a business owner, knowing your consumer saves you money, helps you make informed business decisions, equips you to identify new opportunities before the competition, and minimizes your business risks. Here’s how you go about conducting your own research:

  1. Identify your demographic. Understand who it is that is using your product or service. It can help you get feedback on your product. Both positive and negative insight is critical to further product or service development. True intelligence is most valuable when coming from the end user themselves.
  2. Invest your marketing dollars strategically. Marketing is only effective if it is reaching the right audience – by understanding which outlets are popular among your target consumer group, your marketing dollars can be strategically invested in targeted messaging that your customers can relate to.
  3. Determine how to best communicate with your customers directly. For example, if your customers are mainly using email and online networks as a primary form of communication – spending money on a mail out campaign is not the most effective way to reach your audience. On the other hand, it may be an effective way to get new customers.

Knowing your consumers can shed light on the real value proposition or benefit of your product or service. This gives you strong insight when targeting your marketing efforts. For example, if your product or service helps your customers save time and money, then perhaps you could showcase an online testimonial section on your website where consumers can share their experiences.

Without understanding the value in your product from a consumer perspective, marketing strategies are a shot in the dark.

Crystal Sarantoulias
Market Research Analyst and Independent Consultant



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Posted on 2011.10.18 | Author: Torie

Furrealz? That's marvelously good to know.

Trying to Stretch your Marketing Dollars?

Posted on September 07 2011 | Author: Crystal Sarantoulias

Why your consumers can be your best marketing investment.

Gaining consumer trust can be a difficult task for brand managers. With loads of deception and washed out marketing techniques, consumers today are second-guessing everything they read and see.

So how do you gain their trust?

You need marketing strategies and tactics that really hit home for your consumers. You want your consumers or prospective consumers to feel comfortable and relate to the problem, or unmet need, that your product or service is addressing in the market.

An effective way to do this is to use “champions” or testimonials that will tell your story for you.

A testimonial is essentially a hyped-up reference or recommendation given by a real customer. They give this reference by sharing their personal experience with your product or service. This is important because consumers can relate to other consumers, well, better than they can relate to the perceived, profit-oriented business owner or paid actor/actress.

If your product or service really does provide a benefit to consumers (one should hope!), then have your champion tell their story about their experience with the product.

For example, if your product or service helps consumers save money, then the most effective way to demonstrate to prospective customers that it works is to have them share exactly how much money it helped them save over a period of time or season.

Now, should you offer your champion some sort of incentive? That is up to you. In the case of a subscription product for example – you could offer them a 6 month or 12 month subscription for free. The idea here is that the champion is freely giving their testimonial, and is speaking from personal experience. In other words, they should not be convinced to participate by way of an incentive.

So how do you go about putting together a testimonial?

First, you need to identify that champion. This could be a customer that often compliments your product or service or someone that has taken the time to personally discuss their experience with you.

Secondly, you need to have them agree to share their experience with you. Testimonials can be written or verbal. Either way is effective, as you can easily offer to write the piece from an interview with the champion or record a video of the testimonial. The key to credibility is to always include a picture in the written pieces to make it more personable as well as have the customer sign the piece with their first name.

Finally, post your testimonial where ever you can, including: on your website, in your retail space, on your business cards – anywhere your customers will see it.

For more tips and tricks to getting and using testimonials effectively, check out: http://www.understandingmarketing.com/2010/03/25/new-rules-of-testimonials-in-small-business-marketing/

Crystal Sarantoulias
Market Research Analyst and Independent Consultant



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The Perceived Link Between Price and Quality...

Posted on September 06 2011 | Author: Crystal Sarantoulias

What’s really going on in your consumers’ minds?

From a functionality perspective, there is a clear difference between the quality of one product versus another. What’s not so straight forward is how consumers perceive the quality of a product and more specifically, the relationship between price and quality.
So, how do consumers relate price and quality to value in their decision regarding a product and service? This notion is actually far more complicated than you would initially think.

Although it is common for consumers to assume that the most expensive version of a product is the best quality, there are other factors that are influencing this perception.

While quality can be broadly defined as excellence or superiority, perceived quality has a significantly different meaning. It can be fairly abstract as opposed to focused on a particular attribute, and it can be related to the consumers’ attitude or judgement.
Essentially, the perceived value of a product or service really depends on what the consumer expects to receive in terms of benefits versus what they are going to pay. It’s a trade-off. 

What consumers are willing to pay for your product and what they expect in terms of features is ultimately what entrepreneurs and business owners should try and understand in order to effectively meet their consumers’ needs.

The first step is understanding that there is a perceived relationship between price and quality. The second step is trying to determine the product or service features that consumers value – this will shed light on what’s going on in the minds of consumers and can be very beneficial in determining an appropriate price point. Pricing too high and not delivering quality, as well as pricing too low and leaving an impression of poor quality, can both be detrimental to sales. 

As you can see in this article from the Globe and Mail, perceived consumer value can also help to determine when and if it is appropriate to raise your prices. 

It is important to keep in mind that there’re always going to be customers who think your product quality is terrible, but there will also be those that are extremely happy with the quality of your product. It’s about finding a balance between these two groups – this is your target consumer group. Your marketing campaigns, sales and promotions should be targeting these individuals, the features they value and a level of quality that is worth the price you are charging. 

When making these business decisions, remember to always think as a consumer. Recall a time when you are contemplating between 3 products that essentially do the same thing – a shower head for example – are you more likely to select the $29, $59 or $99 dollar product? What do you look for? What features indicate quality to you? Your customers are thinking the same way when contemplating the purchase of your product.

Crystal Sarantoulias
Market Research Analyst and Independent Consultant


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