In my years working with different types of companies, I’ve seen so many start-ups make a lot of decisions based on leaps of faith. “We don’t have money for market research, but I know this will work.”
But there’s a shift happening, and we’re seeing it with our clients of all sizes. Today, there are a ton of free tools that let you collect important data on your own so you can make business decisions based on feedback – not your gut. Let me share an example.
We were working with a client who was about to undertake a major lead-generation initiative that was focused on potential partners. This program would involve a significant amount of money spent on materials, advertising, and other components. The program would culminate in an elaborate event where the sales and business development teams would work hard to "close the deal."
As the client finalized plans for the program and were about to pull the trigger, we asked, “Have you checked the pulse of professionals in this target market to see if this event is something that would appeal to them and that they’d actually attend?” They realized quickly that they were about to execute a program and had no idea if it would work.
So, what happened?
We quickly worked together to put together a Google Forms survey, and then used professional networking groups on Facebook and LinkedIn to publicize the survey – asking members of those groups to forward and share with professionals in the industry we were targeting. We even came up with a prize to raffle off to one referrer and survey-taker pair.
We kept the survey open for a week – and got the information we needed to make some adjustments to the plan and execute a successful event that hit all the right marks.
Note: Not their survey. Just an example.
Another client was interested in more speaking engagements and press coverage, but felt like her repertoire of topics was getting stale. She had built great professional followings on social networks, though, so we leveraged those connections to solicit feedback on new topics.
Working with her, we developed three polls on different topics and helped her shoot them out to her networks on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Armed with feedback and insight into what both her colleagues and her potential customers were interested in discussing, we were able to work collaboratively to develop a new platform that has gotten her a lot of attention and opportunity in her field.
We’ve also worked with clients to survey their customers – using Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, and other tools – for a variety of initiatives. Some wanted a true picture of customer satisfaction, and conducted blind surveys that allowed customers to be brutally honest, which in some cases resulted in major changes that helped them retain their best clients. Others mined their customers’ experiences to develop data points for sales presentations and media stories.
In all of these cases, companies of any size were able to leverage free tools to get data that, in the past, they might have had to pay an analyst or survey firm to uncover. Or more likely, they just wouldn’t have had. The lesson here? Don’t forget to get creative and find ways to get that business intelligence you need. In today’s crowd-sourced world, it is easier than you think!
Got a tool you love that we haven’t mentioned here? Share it with us. We’d love to hear about it!