TOPIC: UNDERSTANDING YOUR MARKETPLACE AND YOUR COMPETITION
RESEARCHING FOR ANSWERS
What is research?
Research is everything you do to find out about your customer, marketplace and competition that will enable you to build a clear picture of what is most likely to sell well. Research can be surveys, asking questions, listening, the observation of trends, mystery shopper trips, surfing the internet, attending conferences and events, your own experience of life, reading articles or becoming a member of an association.
Why is it important?
The more you know about your potential client, competitors and your potential marketplace the better placed you will be to make decisions about the best positioning and packaging of your products and services. Research can help you to find out what your ideal target customer is most likely to buy. It can enable you to package your products and services to fit with demand rather than the other way round. Research can help save you time and money. You can get answers from research that could have taken years of trial and error to find out.
What makes research work?
It works when it is pre-planned and when you have a clear outcome in mind. You need to be very clear on the reasons for the research and what specifically you are looking for. You should choose the research method that best suits the outcome you want. You may run a survey online that enables you to question large numbers of people and provides full analysis in report format, or you may think asking questions one to one is a better way to get the answers you need from a smaller test selection of people. Whichever way you choose, you will need to compare like for like. Ask people the same questions and compare answers. Look for both similarities and differences. Look for patterns and trends. Deciding on a way of recording and analyzing the data is important. A simple self-created spreadsheet may well be enough to record some basic research data.
Learning from the competition
Take the time to find out. Call up some of your competitors posing as a customer and ask some questions. Find out what they are doing, what they are offering, what their sales process is and their prices. Listen to how they are presenting their service. Look at their websites.
Learning from your customers (existing and potential)
The people who use your product or service are the best people to give you feedback. Ask questions when you get the chance. Listen to the responses. Ask for specific information as opposed to general comments. Pay attention to the questions you get asked. Often this is an indication of what they need. Observe the decision-making process of your customers. How long do they take? Understand what is either motivating or preventing them from buying.
CUSTOMER RESEARCH – SPECIAL RESPONSE CHECKLIST
- Discuss what it is that you need to find out and write it down.
- Create some questions that make it easy for customers to answer with specifics (multi-choice, most or least important, order of importance are helpful when creating surveys).
- Keep the surveys brief – no more than ten questions is best.
- If you are asking questions verbally no more than five questions is best.
- Decide how you are going to record the information to be able to compare like with like.
- Pay attention to your results and adapt as necessary.
This information is invaluable for use creating the positioning and packaging of your products and services. It is essential for developing your unique selling proposition which is covered later on in this book. Marketing messages that target customers’ desires and motivations can be created with minimum fuss and wastage. With information about the customer, you are able to speak their language.
Think research and learn
EVALUATING YOUR COMPETITORS’ PROPOSITIONS
Evaluating your competitors’ propositions is all about studying exactly how they are positioning and presenting themselves. It is about exploring what they are doing and seeing for yourself where their strengths and weaknesses are.
Why is it important?
This is important because your competitors are in your marketplace and you will no doubt come up against their propositions when you take your service to market. It is useful to understand exactly what they are offering to see whether there is anything you could learn about and/or do better or differently.
Your challenge will be to find out. It takes time to study your competitors and it needs to be done in a systematic way to get the best out of the exercise.
How to check out your competition
You can be a real customer. You can visit their premises and read their advertising and promotional literature. You can visit their websites. You can subscribe to their newsletters. You can call in as a mystery shopper.
EVALUATING YOUR COMPETITION – SPECIAL RESPONSE CHECKLIST
These are the questions you need answers to:
- Who do you consider a competitor?
- What are they selling?
- What is their unique selling proposition?
- What is their competitive edge?
- How much do they charge?
- What marketing literature do they use – what is it like?
- Where are the weaknesses?
- What is their website like?
- What are they not offering that you could?
- What questions would you like to ask as a potential customer?
- Would you use this product or service?
A useful way to summarize this information and compare notes at a glance is to create a spreadsheet and compare like with like.
Think evaluate the competition and get the edge
LEARNING FROM OTHERS IN YOUR MARKETPLACE
All successful business owners have been through a learning curve to enable them to get to where they are now. You may be just about to start that journey. There are many sources of learning for you if you know where to look and are prepared to go out there and ask for the information you need.
Who can you learn from?
Depending on what you want to know the sources are endless.
Find a number of potential role models, people who are currently doing exactly what you want to do and doing it well. When I wanted to get a book publishing opportunity, I asked a number of published authors about their experiences and how they went about getting a book deal. I am now doing the same for other information products that I wish to produce. Model the best.
Read books about the ‘real story’ behind businesses that have achieved phenomenal success in the marketplace. Most you will find started from humble beginnings. Read about Sahar and Bobby Hashemi in their book Anyone Can Do It – Building Coffee Republic From Our Kitchen Table, Richard Branson and Virgin and Anita Roddick and The Body Shop.
Do you know any entrepreneurs? They make their ideas happen. Most entrepreneurs you will find have had a number of failed experiences before their big break took place.
Marketers and specialists
What about successful marketers who will also have plenty to share? These are specialists in the particular areas of expertise that you know you need to make your business a success.
Other business owners
Somewhere in the country there will be other businesses just like yours which are successful. They may be willing to share their secrets with you as long as they see that you are not a competitor. Many people like to help.
There are marketing ideas around you everywhere you go. Notice what has an impact on you. Could you adapt that idea in any way to work for your business?
What can you learn?
You will need to be clear about what it is that you need to learn before you embark on your quest. Here are some suggestions.
- Systems and methods.
- Problems that you might come up against and how others found a way through.
- Marketing ideas.
- Typical mistake to avoid.
- Suppliers of services you need to make your business a success.
Why is learning important?
Why reinvent the wheel? If what you want to do is currently being done successfully somewhere then it can save you enormous amounts of time, energy and resources if you can find out where and learn from the person who did it. It can take a long time to work it out for yourself. There is so much information available and so many ideas that you can benefit from that you don’t need to feel alone with the thoughts in your own head and a blank piece of paper.
Be careful to choose the right sources and people to speak to. Some people may put you off with too many negative experiences. You need to be selective about what you take on board and what you let go.
What can help you to learn?
To start with accept that it is okay not to know all the answers. An open, inquisitive mind is the best place to start from. It is useful to have a structure to your quest. Know what you want to find out. You also need a plan to do something with the information as you get it. Remember ‘what you don’t use you lose’.
LEARNING FROM OTHERS IN YOUR MARKETPLACE – SPECIAL RESPONSE CHECKLIST
- Write a list of all the things you want to know.
- Write down some questions you want answers to.
- Decide how you are going to find this information.
- Find out who are the best people to speak to.
- Who do you know who could help brainstorm?
- Decide on the best sources of the information you need.
- Make a plan.
- Decide how you are going to keep a record of it.
Questions for your role models and similar successful and respected businesses
- Looking back at your success what was the most important thing you did?
- What were the biggest challenges you faced?
- How did you overcome these challenges?
- How did you build a successful marketing system?
- What is most important to set up initially?
- What works best for you?
- Looking back, knowing what you know now, what would you pay most attention to?
It is important to take what learning you need from your role models and do something with it as soon as you can. Take other people’s ideas and make them your own. Use their experience to stimulate ideas for your own business. Make it a goal to practice life-long learning.
Think role model and learn from what already works
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