Guest Post: This is the second guest post by Jennifer Kaplan who teaches a market research course at Marymount University in Arlington, VA and is a partner in the marketing consultancy, Greenhance LLC. — Leah
So you want to get consumers to tell you what they will buy, when they will buy and why they will buy? Market research is the way. With a little time, and little to no money, you can gather consumer information that will connect you more directly to your customers.
Step 1: Sign up for a no-cost account with a company like SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang or QuestionPro that let you create free online surveys using their web servers. You can use a template (some are free, some aren’t) or you can easily create your own. If you’ve never written a survey it will pay to take a quick online tutorial.
Step 2: Develop an email list. Start with the customers and contacts you already have. If your list is small, don’t worry. It may not give a complete picture of the marketplace, but it will provide you with important baseline information.
Join listservs, like Yahoo! Groups, where your potential customers hang out. Be upfront about why you want to join and disclose the name of your business. For example, when researching children’s clothing customers, I tried to join a dozen listservs for local moms, letting them know I wanted to post a link to a survey. Most declined, but one group, MomsInTheCity let me join and post an invitation, thus bumping up response by 25%.
Your invitation should include six key items:
1. Why you want people to respond to your survey;
2. The name of your business;
3. How long the survey will take;
4. Any incentive for answering;
5. A link to the survey; and
6. A thank you.
Step 3: Marketing green is different from traditional marketing so your survey will need questions not covered on templates:
• Do you make an effort to support businesses that use green products and/or environmentally friendly practices? This will tell you how much your customers value your green.
• How important are [specific attributes of your product or service] to you in your purchase decisions? By listing (one at a time) the attributes that make you unique, you will learn how valuable each is to customers.
• How likely would you be to purchase [specific products] at X price?
Once you understand the value of your greenness, you can move on.
Step 4: Define your objectives.
• What specific business question(s) you want to answer? Do you want to know how satisfied customers are with current offerings? Should you introduce new products?
• Write down a list of the concrete decisions you want to make based on the information you gather. Add more line extensions? Expand your online presence?
• Ask yourself: what information is needed to 1) answer your questions and 2) make those decisions?
Step 5: Outline the Survey.
• Outline the questions areas you want to cover. You may want to ask customers how familiar they are with your industry as an introduction and then move on to the specifics.
• Organize questions from general to specific; start with industry questions, move to company-specifics and end with demographics.
• Make sure each question directly addresses your objectives. If your objective is to determine whether to introduce a new line of organic chocolates don’t ask respondents how they feel about current energy policy.
• Complete each topic before moving on to the next.
Step 6: Draft Questions. There are a number of dos and don’ts of survey design:
• Be simple and concise
• Ask only one question at a time
• Avoid jargon or terminology
• When listing things, include all possible answers or include an “other” option
• Include a “prefer not to answer” option for sensitive questions, such as income
• Use an odd-numbered range and a “not applicable” answer if using a rating scale (“…on a scale from 1-5…”).
If you want to know what is truly important to your customers, market research will give you the information. Armed with that knowledge, you can give them what they really want.
Image Credit: Hilde Vanstraelen from www.sxc.hu
Read more about green market research:
The Changing Face of the US Consumer
The Ethical Consumer and the Blue Light Special
Five Ways to Attract Green Customers
Natural Marketing Institute, Nielsen Value LOHAS Mart at $209 bn