Roberta Guise, M.B.A.
Guise, MBA, works with experts, small business owners and
professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen
their marketing edge. A marketing consultant and speaker, she owns
San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. You can reach her at
www.guisemarketing.com/articles for more articles and tips
to help you with your marketing challenges and increase your
you wrote the benefits section of your brochure, web site or sales
letter, did you make assumptions about why clients buy from you?
If you didn’t first survey your best clients to hear what they
value most about you, you probably made assumptions, and those
assumptions could be off target.
many people the thought of doing research sends shudders down the
spine. "Too costly!" they think. "Too time
consuming. Too difficult. And what if the results are bad?"
fact, effective research can be simple, doesn’t have to take
much time, and can provide you with priceless information for
running and promoting your business. And if the results are bad
– you’ve been delivered a golden opportunity to keep a client
happy or even prevent a disaster.
change for us and for clients, and because the speed of business
is accelerating, situations can change quickly. What you know
today may be different very soon, so it’s important to keep up
with your research. If you adopt a research attitude, both you and
your clients will benefit. The bottom line is this: You can
never know too much about your customers and prospects.
your research with current clients. They have an opinion about
you, and there’s an added bonus: they may know a few things
about your competition too, which they’ll gladly share with you.
By asking clients a few questions about their business and about
how they perceive your company, you’ll know where you need to
improve or change your services to them, and you’ll know how
best to promote your business to your different target markets.
that brochure and Web site? If you really want your message to
resonate so prospects want to do business with your firm, choose
words that clients use to describe why they hired you. You'll
trigger their "Aha!" Button.
easy. Survey a few current clients; ask for an informational
interview with a few prospects. Here’s what you’ll find out:
know what services they want.
What you want to do for your clients may not be what they want
right now (even though they might need it). You’ll be able to
make sure that what you offer is what they want and intend to buy.
perceptions of your business will align with how clients perceive
You may think that returning phone calls or responding to e-mails
within 24 hours is being responsive. To your clients, waiting 24
hours to get a question answered might seem like an eternity. Get
your clients’ definition of responsiveness, and see if you’re
on the same page.
can identify a new target market.
Target markets are commonly characterized by geography (location),
or industry, or size. If you’re looking to reach a new type of
customer, try this: Strike a different path and look for prospects
by business culture, by reputation for being ‘green,’ by their
support of social causes, or that have a diverse employee
be clear on how you stack up against the competition.
Find out if any of your clients has worked with your competition
or interviewed them for a project. They usually won’t hold back
and will tell you what they think, good and bad.
example, an engineering consultant client of mine wanted to know
the best way to position and market her company. Her competition
was primarily large firms with vast resources and geographic reach
and she was a solo practitioner. I queried her clients on issues
of firm size and capabilities, and how that perception affects
the decision to engage her services
clients use the internet in their business
kinds of information they would find valuable on this engineer’s
got plenty of answers and the client received an unexpected
benefit — two customers called right after their interviews with
are other important questions you can answer with research. They
are your most profitable customers and prospects?
the best way to reach prospects?
do they perceive your services and products?
can you profitably satisfy their needs and wants?
do your customers read, do for leisure? How do they use the
new target markets could you be pursuing?
the market you currently serve growing, stable or shrinking?
is your primary competition (you and your customers or prospects
may have different answers!)
can’t afford not to do research, because what you don’t
know definitely can hurt you. You could be wasting time and money
offering your services to prospects who don’t want or understand
what you do, or don’t get how they’ll benefit. Or you could be
putting your resources exactly where they’ll do the most good,
and now’s the time to do more of it.
make research a habit. You don’t have to spend a lot of money
newspapers, trade and business publications
the internet to glean information about specific companies
and to be on top of industry trends
federal, state, local and trade resources for data on the economy
and target markets
your competition to see how they promote their companies and do
trade associations of industries you’re targeting and get
active in leadership roles
perhaps most important of all, talk to your current customers.
They’ll appreciate that you value their opinions and will
reward you with information you can use in your business
exercise that can help keep your body in shape, marketing research
is a tonic for keeping your business healthy. It will help you
fine-tune and focus your growth, and make your marketing efforts
effective, targeted and rewarding.
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