Know Your Customers Deeply.


Having a competitive advantage over other businesses targeting the same market as yours is a basic, survival must: many choose to develop long-term relationships with their customers, in an attempt to create such competitive advantage.


Knowing your customers is crucial, and it is quite a different thing from knowing their buying behaviour. It is every marketer’s dream to have real, up-to-date information about consumers: their preferences, opinions, attitudes, beliefs, interests, education level, behaviour are the base of understanding their needs.


Businesses often employ Marketing Research to determine the consumers’ degree of acceptance of a new product, and the reason behind this is the fact that launching a new product without a real demand would involve much more costs than actual market research. In addition, a failed product launch is not only damaging for a business’ finances but also its image and reputation.


Any marketing research upon consumers’ profile should address at least the following questions: Who makes the market of a product?


  • A company active on any given market must ask itself who its customers are:
  • Are they mostly young people, or perhaps elderly?
  • Women or men?
  • What would their income levels be?
  • What are the preferences and interests?


This is a basic demographic information that can be a starting point in creating a customer profile.



Buying Research


Why do people buy?

Many businesses ignore the reasons why their customers choose one product or another. While we all know that impulse buying is a reality, most purchases are still made on reasons of ‘benefits, value, and satisfaction’ – this is the conventional thinking and buying decisions way most people consciously and subconsciously do on a daily basis. Hence, we should ask ourselves “Why certain products are more popular among consumers and are perceived as being superior to others?” and “Why do some companies or brands care to make a great product, not just a product?”


What do people buy?

Is there a certain product consumers seem to prefer? Can we detect a trend of migrating to a given product? Will the market accept new products or changes in existing ones? These questions could offer a perspective on the mechanisms triggering buying decisions; the answers could indicate just how open to changes customers are.


Who takes the buying decision?

It is critical to know who is actively involved in the buying process, as the users of a product are not necessarily the ones to buy it. For example, food items destined to children are normally bought by a parent, which means the advertising messages should be aimed at parents and not at children. Identifying the real decision makers is an important part of any consumer’s research study.


How is the buying decision taken?

What are the reasons followed by consumers when making a buying decision? A marketer should remember that these reasons are likely to be influenced by a variety of social, cultural, economic factors.


When do people buy?

Some products are requested and are offered only in certain periods of a year, as demand can be driven by social or cultural factors (think of seasonal holidays, for example). Consumers’ lifestyle might also dictate the day or week when shopping is done.


Where do people buy?

Identifying the preferred location for people to buy is yet another important task in researching consumers’ behaviour. Where do they buy from? Supermarkets? The corner shop? New, creative venues can be employed, such as e-commerce web sites.


Marketing research relies on other sciences as well, such as psychology or sociology. Being able to develop the products consumers need, and then market them in accordance to the consumers’ behaviour lay the basis for competitive advantages and shape the strategic decisions a business must make.



Researching and Developing Your Business Idea:


Chances are if you think your idea is original, it is not. You will need to do a lot of research to make sure that nobody else is currently doing what you are doing. Even then, you will have to consider that somebody, somewhere, is also thinking the same thing you are, and at that point, it is a race to see who can get the patent and/or copyright first.


  1. Modify an Already Good Thing:

I personally do not prefer to go this route, but even if you do not have your own idea, you can modify someone else’s pre-existing idea. For example, many people like popcorn but want butter on it. Originally, the only way to get butter flavored popcorn was to literally heat butter and then dip or spread the butter over the popcorn, and this required putting butter into a pot or bowl and melting it over a stove or in the microwave.


Eventually, popcorn makers had built-in repositories to place butter so that as the hot air passed over the popcorn kernels, popping it, it also heated the butter so you did not have to dirty a separate dish. Then, someone came up with the idea of coating kernels of popcorn in a butter spread so that they butter themselves as they pop.


Of course, the idea was very messy and unusable in hot-air popcorn poppers because the butter would drip down into the machinery, so instead, a foil bag was provided to contain the buttery explosions and, as it turned out, double as the bag you could eat the popcorn out of (assuming you didn’t then pour the popcorn out of the bag and into a bowl for eating). Always think to yourself, what is the next logical step? What doesn’t change the product itself, but might make it faster or easier to use?


  1. Avoid Impractical Ideas:

If you stumble upon something that has a lot of potential, be sure to evaluate how realistic and practical it might be. For example, you might come up with the idea to manufacture something, but there ends up not being a market for it. You might think kids will love your particular product, but then parents don’t end up buying it, or you have limited success but your product gets known as a fad at best.


  1. Do Market Research:

The best thing you can do is actually get out there and talk to potential customers. Never be afraid to ask them what they want. At the same time, you will get a general sense of how many people out there might be interested in such a service.


  1. Find a Niche:

Let’s face it; you are not going to be big. You don’t have a lot of capital, nor do you have a big advertising budget. You don’t already have a million customers so you can’t price your product less and still make a profit because you’re still getting a little bit of money from each customer. What you can do, however, is find a niche market. You might know what industry you want to work in, and that’s about it – now’s the time for you to narrow your options and cater to a specific type of customer.


  1. Get It on Paper:

Once you have an idea, it’s time to flesh it out into the most basic elements – products or services, suppliers, customers, and work. For example, if your idea is to provide web design for small businesses, then this is where you need to sit down and figure out what suppliers you might need (web hosting, for example), and what services you’d be providing for customers. Think of it as inputs and outputs. The next step, of course, is to determine a price that is profitable.




Research Tools:


Here are some links to useful research tools for small business trends in Canada. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada – ISEDC put together some tools to make your job easier in research, planning and developing a great business.



You can also have a look at the followings related to CIPO – trade marks, patents, copyright, etc:




How to Select Your Product Line – Researching Your Market:


Determine If Your Product Will Do Well:


You need to find out if you can compete with a product before you decide to sell it. There are some questions you can ask that will help you determine if it’s a good choice for you:


  • How much demand is there? Use tools like Word Tracker or Terapeak to see how many people are searching for your product. You want items with a consistent, median demand.
  • How much competition will I have? You can find your competition the same way your customers do—type the name of your item into a search engine and sift through the results. If the market is flooded, be willing to keep looking—there are plenty of product markets out there with enough room for you.
  • Can I be competitive? Consider your competitions’ retail prices and their shipping costs. They may offset the one with the other, so it is important to look at both. Compare them with your own wholesale and shipping costs, and determine if you will be able to charge competitive prices and still make a profit.


You can also look at your competitors to see what the successful and unsuccessful ones do differently. Pay attention to their advertisements and auction listings to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. The more familiar you are with your market, the better equipped you’ll be to succeed in it. Further, there are many other ways to test a product in the marketplace. Everything from physical to digital tools to interviewing and so forth.



Market Research and Focus Groups:


Market research plays two roles in the communication processes of any business system.


  • First, it is part of the marketing intelligence feedback process. It provides decision makers with data on the effectiveness of the current employed techniques and provides insights for necessary changes.
  • Second, market research is the primary tool for exploring new opportunities in the media marketplace.


Segmenting, questioning and evaluating the targeted markets are the steps to acquire the necessary knowledge regarding the publics’ preferences, tendencies and interests in relation, for example, to contemporary political news.


According to scholars, research can be viewed as playing three functional roles; descriptive, diagnostic, and predictive.


  • Its descriptive function includes gathering and presenting statements of fact.
  • The diagnostic function serves as the explanatory step in the process.
  • Finally, the predictive function uses the researcher’s descriptive and diagnostic research outcomes to predict the results of the proposed strategy under study.


As an applied research tool, the focus group research technique has to test a hypothesis on high-involvement decision making, or public information processing, understand the tendencies of the public and of course evaluate the tested hypothesis.


Thus, before organizing and conducting a focus group, the first step for the moderator is to define the subject of research, formulate an understandable hypothesis, prepare the setting, and recruit the focus group participants.


After these steps are completed, the moderator is ready to lead an in-depth discussion on the particular topic or concept. The goal of the focus group is to understand what people have to say and why. The emphasis is on getting participants talking at length and in detail about the subject at hand.


Unfortunately, some of the very strengths of such a focus group can also become disadvantages. For example, the immediacy and apparent understandability of focus group findings can mislead instead of inform. The small size of the participating group can also be misleading and not represent adequately the real public opinion on the issue, directing the moderator to accept simple findings as overall truths.


As the focus group research is data-driven, with findings and conclusions being drawn directly from the information provided, the whole method can be characterized as inductive in its approach, minimizing the originality of the findings to a mere description of the public opinion based on the available facts.


Finally, the premises where the focus group is conducted, the demographics of the participants, the moderator’s thinking on the issue, the lack of adequate facts, or the behaviour of some of the participants in the group discussion, can cause the focus group research results to be false and the whole process to be time consuming and cost-ineffective.


Concluding, a focus group by definition is an informal research procedure that develops qualitative information instead of hard data. More specifically, it can identify the range of attitudes/opinions of its participants. Such an insight can help the moderator formulate hypotheses and questions for a later quantitative survey.






Researching a Franchise:


There are a lot of good franchise opportunities out there, but for every good one there probably five or ten bad ones. If you want to invest your money wisely in a franchise opportunity that is likely to give you a high return on investment, then this article was written for you.


Specifically in this article, I will show you strategies on how to research a franchise opportunity to evaluate whether or not it will work for you. Read his article, and put the steps into action to research any franchise opportunity before entering into a franchise agreement. Not all franchises are created equally. Besides the obvious franchise fee difference, different franchises have different rights they offer to the franchisee. Knowing what your rights are can be the difference between finding a killer franchise opportunity, and finding one that is guaranteed to fail.


What kind of rights do you have when it comes to the hours you can operate, the suppliers you can purchase from, the number of employees you must staff, and how you can spend your advertising dollars? These all affect how you run your business. If you don’t have flexibility in these areas, sometimes it can be impossible to make a franchise work. This is because different locations sometimes require different needs, and if you don’t have the ability to meet those needs, you’re out of business.


Second, customer support for franchise opportunity is critical. Will they offer free training and ongoing support for you, after you purchase a franchise? When you go to them with questions, will you get answers in a timely fashion? Many times, success comes from whom you know, not what you know. If you know you can go to people who have answers to your questions, then you know you have a good franchise opportunity on your hands.


However, just because somebody says they will provide ongoing support doesn’t mean that they will. The last thing you can do to research a franchise opportunity, is to contact people who have purchased the franchise opportunity. Interview them and find out if the franchisor delivered on what they said, they would deliver on.


Also, asked them for their experience and if they had a choice, would they purchase the same franchise opportunity again? You’ll find out things by talking to people who owned the franchise opportunity you are interested in, that you otherwise would have never found out until after you have invested your money.


You can never do too much research into a franchise. This is possibly the most important financial decision you will make in your lifetime, and you don’t want this to be the one that you make the wrong decision. In conclusion, by following the guidelines in this article you can do good research on any franchise opportunity, and be able to evaluate whether it is a wise investment or not.


Learn more about Franchising in Canada, please visit the CFA – Canadian Franchise Association.







Why The So What Factor is Critical to Research:


The “so what?” factor… What?

Did you know that researchers have found 75% of your customers prefer blue socks to red socks?

Interesting (possibly)… but do you remotely care?

Unless you sell socks or red dye, you would be justified to ask, “So what with the blue socks and the red socks, how does that possibly help my business?”

In doing so, you’ve applied the “so what?” factor to research.

The “so what?” factor enables you to get precise data. This data enables you to act and make informed decisions. Moreover, this data is different from the research reports gathering dust in your bottom drawer because it increases the profitability of your business.


  • Why the “so what?” factor often gets overlooked during the research process,
  • So why does so much research simply end up stuck in a drawer gathering dust?


Research is about discovering answers and learning new things – it is interesting, satisfying and often very valuable. However, in the process, it is easy to lose focus and attempt to answer every conceivable question. The result is very little actionable information and exhausted research participants.


Alternatively, as with the red socks and blue socks, you can get hung up on reporting the interesting-but-irrelevant and thereby overlook the most meaningful, actionable and therefore valuable information.


It is only by rigorously applying the “so what?” factor that you can ensure your research stays profitable and dust free. When do you apply the “so what?” factor to your research process?


The “so what?” factor can and should be applied at every stage of the research process, from deciding whether to undertake a research project, to prioritizing the actions you’ll take based on the results.


This can be broken down to six key stages:


  1. Justifying/commissioning a research project:

This is the time to ask what is the research needed for (e.g., the overall strategic goals) and what your organisation is able/willing to do about the findings. If you are not ready or able to take any action based on what you learn, there is little point in undertaking research.


  1. Planning the research project:

Here we get to specifics – who to talk to, what to ask, how to ask it. At this stage the “so what?” factor is about defining the practical details of the research. If you are planning a survey, for example, apply it to every question you are thinking of asking – if the question cannot be absolutely justified, do not include it.


  1. Conducting the research:

Good researchers are trained to apply the “so what?” factor during the live process of research. They may consider the motivation of an interviewee, probe to discern what focus group participants are really saying or carefully steer conversation to keep it relevant.


  1. Analyzing and interpreting the data:

Data analysts apply a mathematical “so what?” factor; known as statistical significance, in order to determine the degree to which a value is greater or smaller than would be expected by chance. Even if you are not a trained analyst, use your critical faculties to ensure you are comparing like with like and that your insights have appropriate context and are relevant.


  1. Presenting research findings:

If you present your client, boss or team only with things that have passed the “so what?” factor test – they’re far more likely to be awake and interested because their own critical filters will see relevance and so be stimulated to start making connections. Also apply the “so what?” factor to your graphs and charts by asking what function they really serve (beyond showing you’re great at Excel).


  1. Actioning research findings in an organization:

The final stage is implementing actions based on the research. Appropriate “so what?” questioning is essential to help priorities those actions and to assess whether they had the desired outcomes.


By applying the “so what?” factor to the six key stages of business research, you can be sure that not only will you avoid wasting money on unnecessary work that gathers dust, but you will be able discern information that is important and profitable and banish those irrelevant red socks and blue socks forever.









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