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When Should You Do Market Research?

By: Susan Dunn

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at and for FREE ezine.

The bad news is: All the time.
The good news is: It isn’t that hard.
“Market research” may sound like a complicated concept, but it’s something you do all the time. It’s just a matter of becoming aware of it, and orienting it toward your product or service. Most people, once they get the hang of it, love it. In fact many of us can’t stop doing it!

We are all consumers as well as sellers. All day long we are bombarded with sales messages, by the marketing of others. Paying attention to what gets your attention is the first step.

With hundreds of emails coming in daily, which one gets you to open it? With all the billboards you see on the way to work, which one catches you eye? When do you tune back in to an ad on the radio? What TV commercial do you sit and watch instead of channel surfing? Which ezines do you actually bother to read? Which ones do you read every single word?

This all becomes market research when you stop and ask yourself the question “why”? Why with all the billboards out there did that one catch your eye? What’s different about it? You are as capable of answering this as any ad genius out there. It could be the beautiful babe. The unusual font. The color. The protusion over the top (like the chick-fil-a cows).

Next time something “catches your eye,” or “holds you spellbound,” or “keeps you nailed to your seat,” break the spell and think. Analyze. Figure out why. Someone has gotten through the fog with you, and this is invaluable information.

There are three aspects to market research:
  • The target market
  • Your website and collaterals
  • What others are doing

Target Market

Target Market means the people who are going to buy your product or service. Rarely is it “everyone.” For instance, if you sell baby clothes, the obvious market would be mothers, but fathers buy for their babies as well. And what about grandparents? Did you know that the biggest buyers of teen CDs are seniors? They are buying them for their teenage grandchildren.

Periodically go over your records and see who is actually buying your products. Get as much information about them as you can. You can do this by asking for the information on PayPal, by sending a feedback satisfaction form after the sale where you ask for this information, by offering something free where you garner this information, and by various other methods.

If you sell a service, such as coaching, when someone finds you, be sure and ask them how they found your name.

At the same time, ask your current and past purchasers where else they go, so you can go to those websites and see how those people are selling.

Studying your target market and their preferences is particularly important when you aren’t in it. By this I mean, if you are selling something to teens, and you are middle-aged, you are trying to discover what appeals to teens, not to you.

If you’re a Generation X-er marketing to Baby Boomers, your taste will be different, but you’re not selling to you, you are selling to them.

Keep reading about the age group you market to.

Your Website and Collaterals

“Collaterals” in marketing means your promotional materials – your website, brochures, flyers and things like that. You need to consider them always works in progress. Marketing changes even more rapidly these days, and particularly on the Internet.

You should review your website at least every 6 months. We expect to see changes on a website. Very few of them are static. Changing the look from time-to-time shows that you’re a “happening” place. This indicates, especially in the area of services, that you’re keeping up with the times – new information, new ways of addressing problems, new!  Not old!
The marketplace is changing, and consumers want you to be too.

What Others are Doing

You need to be constantly aware of what others are doing, about the internet in general, but also about your competition. Peruse other websites continually. You’ll find new and better ways of saying things, new terms, new services, new programs, and you’ll also see their pricing.  This is the only way you can stay competitive. By looking at a cross-section, you’ll see what’s “in”. When you see something that’s jarring to you, you’ll know not to do that.

You can read rules for instance, about not having a long load time for your website, and consider yourself special, but the first time you’re in a hurry and go to a website that takes “too long” to upload and you impatiently give up and go elsewhere, you will have learned the most valuable lesson you can.

Or when you happen to be in a quiet office and go to a website and suddenly there’s music blaring out. Be a mindful consumer sometimes and see what it’s like from the other side.

Next time you get irritated with someone’s website, stop and analyze why. Too many graphics? Font too small or too hard to read? Too busy? Unappealing colors?

If you sell services or products related to relationships and dating, check out all the websites you can to get the feel, the look and the terminology.

Do market research all the time. It’s just a matter of paying attention to what you see, hear and feel. If you really get into it, you can become almost obnoxious about it. Conrad Hilton’s wife said she couldn’t stand to travel with him because he was always criticizing what he saw when they were in a hotel. It should be like that, where you have to remind yourself to turn this critical eye off, not on. There’s a lot to learn out there in a changing scene, and it takes constant attention.

© copyright, Susan Dunn, 2004

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