Many facets of IT II
Cost-conscious tips help research for better sales
Clarify your research
objectives, and decide on a reasonable budget.
By M. Shahbaz Alibaig
Aug 07 - 13, 2000
Invariably, businesses employ two methods for bolstering profitability.
Strategy No. 1 is to reduce costs. This often is an
easy albeit reactive way to meet the targets set by the company's
Strategy No. 2 is to increase sales in a manner that
boosts the bottom line.
However, success in growing sales volume often lies in preparation
finding out what perceptions potential customers bring toward one's products or
Two ways to accomplish this research are through surveys and focus
groups. Luckily, you don't need a Ph.D. in marketing to take advantage of either.
Surveys don't have to be expensive, formal or time consuming to offer
value. A simply structured survey enables you to get feedback from your customers.
Here are some cost-effective tips on conducting surveys:
Telephone interviews: This is an inexpensive and fast way to
obtain small quantities of impersonal information from your customers.
Keep your questions simple and brief; most people don't like to spend a
lot of time on the phone answering questions.
Direct mail interviews:
If you want to increase the base of your
survey, this method is effective.
Your survey can be simple as a postcard or as elaborate as a cover
letter, questionnaire and reply envelope.
I recommend that the questionnaire be kept within one page, and ask no
more than 15 questions. Use Yes/no" or Agree/disagree boxes to facilitate responding
easily. It should not take more than five minutes for your customer to fill out the
Customers hesitate to fill out questionnaires that take longer than
Fax, e-mail interviews and Web survey forms: The technology of
today allows us to find information faster than ever before.
Many of the same principals that apply to direct mail also apply to fax
and e-mail surveys. However, never send an unsolicited fax or e-mail that is more than one
Give clear instructions on how to respond, and be appreciative in
advance for the data you get back.
Web forms on the Internet allow you to get data from visitors who come
to your Web site. In addition, creating Web forms is easy; most of the new Web designing
tools allow you to design forms and surveys using built-in templates.
New software called Survey Pro allows you to create all types of
surveys that can be used via direct mail, fax, e-mail, and even through Web sites. This
tool allows people to create survey forms that automatically create a database to store
All you need to do is enter the data once you receive it into the
database forms created by Survey Pro.
Next, you can use the many analysis tools and graphs to create your
Focus groups: Bringing people together is an effective way to
get in-depth information, generate new ideas, test new concepts or products, or simply
measure your business against perceptions about your competition.
These groups usually consist of eight to 12 individuals brought
together to discuss a particular subject. Sessions usually take between one and two hours,
and are always taped or recorded.
When conducting focus groups, hold the session in a central location,
provide name tags, encourage an open ended flow of ideas and provide a neutral
Whether you use the survey approach or opt for focus groups, keep
several tips in mind.
Clarify your research objectives, and decide on a reasonable budget.
Staying on target is important, and a budget will help you keep the
scope of the project in sight.
Decide whether you will do the research or hire a professional. By
doing some homework in advance you can accomplish this task on your own. However, if you
feel uncertain or simply do not have time to run the operation on your own
you can contact market research firms or individual consultants in the Fox Valley.
Ask for relevant information and stay consistent with your questions.
Ask questions that will give you the information you need. Also, stay consistent with your
questions. Ask the same questions to all the customers, this way you will get consistent
Test market your research. Before surveying a large audience, test your
survey and its results from a small test audience. This way you can identify your mistakes
and correct them in advance.
No matter what market research you conduct, none of the feedback will
be worth a hoot if you disregard the responses and don't apply what you learn.
After all, the real excitement in doing market research comes from
making a genuine revelation finding something you didn't expect or hadn't