One key element in all of this is to write down your observations.
Date them because there may be seasonality issues (the holidays, summer vacation season, cold weather vs. warm, etc. If you could, setting up a spreadsheet for all of this would be ideal, but if that isn’t your cup of tea and don’t have a youngster around to help you with tech stuff, keeping a notebook would be a good place to start.
A lot of entrepreneurs try to keep all of this in their heads.
Don’t do it. Write it down. Share it with your spouses, partners and staff. Re-think it. Archive it.
The real danger is being too selective in what you remember. Very positively focused entrepreneurs will filter out all negativity. People in a rough patch might only see the negative.
Try to stay neutral and see what is really out there, not what you want or fear to see.
The more obvious stuff includes keeping track of which of your sales and promotions efforts are effective and which are not. If you try a specific promotion, a local mailer or you buy into a coupon mailer or whatever you can afford, keep close tabs on what your return is.
It’s all about ROI.
You will always be in the process of refining your business, refining your sales and promotions efforts, and you will also refine and become more sophisticated in your own research efforts.
Eventually you’ll have to consider your competitive landscape including:
- Who is your competition
- Are they people who do the same thing you do
- Are they doing it the same way
- What promotions are they running
- How do their products or services compare with yours?
- Sometimes people might have alternatives to your category – what are they?
You do all of this not to undermine others, but to refine your own. Learn from others, but don’t copy.
Keep your own touch, your own style, your own personality. The last thing you want to do is to start a grudge match. Business isn’t a zero sum game.
When another restaurant moves onto your turf, don’t fight them -- imagine building a restaurant row. Keep up, don’t fight.
It is very important to impart this culture to your employees. Part of this is training, but a LOT of this is listening to your employees.
They are often more directly in the trenches than you are.
Listen to them.
As your company grows, this process will grow with you. Eventually, you may be able to hire some professionals to help you with your marketing analytics. And if you have older data to share with them, that will allow them to do an even better job for you.
Have fun with this. It’s interesting. This is your business. Study it. Protect it.
About the author
Carlos E. Garcia, born to Mexican immigrant parents, grew up in East Los Angeles and attended Pomona College, UC Berkeley and National University (BA, MA and MBA respectively). He has over thirty years of experience in the field of US Hispanic consumer research, twenty one years at the helm of his own company, Garcia Research. Most recently SVP at GfK: Knowledge Networks, where he headed up their Hispanic research efforts. He's gone full circle and now back at the helm of Garcia Research, a Hispanic market and Multicultural-focused research firm.Website