It may seem odd to put those two phrases together, “Consumer Research” and “Small Business.” Consumer research seems like such a big business tactic (and it is), but that does not mean that there is not a version of it that small businesses can use for their own advantage. This is the last “chapter” in a series that I have been doing on Marketing: a Misunderstood Word.
I saved consumer research for last because, like most small businesses, it is something that I tend to ignore. However, this does not mean that we should ignore it. In fact, to do so can put our businesses in great peril.
In a nutshell, consumer research is simply the process of understanding your customers. Big business spends millions of dollars every year studying consumer behavior. As small businesses and entrepreneurs, most of us don’t have those kinds of resources. But that’s OK because, with just a few simple tips, we can learn how to turn our own marketing into a science just like the big corporations.
The three legs of consumer research for small business
The keys to this whole process are to keep it simple, don’t recreate the wheel, and use the research that is already out there. When it comes to understanding our customer’s behavior, there are three things that we want to pay attention to.
Buyer Motivation. There are a ton of books, online articles, and even courses that you can take to learn about the psychology behind why people buy. Understanding the basic and general reasons behind consumer buyer behavior will help you learn how to better price, merchandise, and sell your products or services. One great website that I love to follow is called Social Triggers. Sign up for the newsletter and you will get all kinds of amazing articles and videos, many of which address the topic of buyer motivation.
Consumer Perception. Every industry has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to how people perceive the industry that you’re in. Understanding people’s concerns, biases, needs, and problems will help set yourself apart. If you know what people think about your industry, good and bad, you can position yourself outside the fray. By paying attention to the pitfalls that your competitors fall into, you can avoid those, while highlighting the positive aspects of your industry. By understanding the general needs and problems of your customers, you will always be ready to meet people where they are with a product and presentation that speaks directly to the issues that concern them.
Target Market. This is a big one. It answers the question: who is most likely to buy what I have to offer? Traditionally, a target market has been focused on geographical and demographical data; however, this old school definition of the target market is out of touch with the reality of today’s internet global world. The best way to understand your target market is to study your actual customers. You can do this through observation, surveys, even contests to learn what common characteristics, needs, wants, and concerns your customers have. A more applicable definition of a target market for today’s world really has more to do with shared ideas, needs, problems, and concerns than it does with any sort of demographic element. Understand what matters most to your customers and speak to that.
Consumer research is really all about understanding who your customers are and what speaks to them. Once you know what is important to the customers you already have, you can use that info, armed with the additional knowledge of your industry’s overall perception and some basic understanding of buyer psychology to set your business apart.