Why It’s Important to Build Consumer Research Into Your Small Business Strategy

Small business and consumer research

Gleaning consumer feedback and competitive information to track results and grow your small business.



Small business owners and managers often think that the only things they need to keep track of are financial results.  But there are many other parts of your business you need to monitor on an ongoing basis. 

Since my background is in consumer research, I will not focus on production or cost of goods and overhead that would vary enormously depending on what type of industry you are in. 

If you are a realtor or a carpenter, if you own a beauty salon or a convenience store, if you run a restaurant or an upholstery shop, you all have different realities for how you make money, your need for employees and inventory, but you all need customers.

Small companies rarely have the resources to conduct formal marketing research or to hire firms that offer analytic support

You essentially have to be your own research guru and build into your company a culture of whatever you want to call it.

Some common descriptors include:

  • Marketing research
  • Metrics
  • Analytics or, simply put, a…
  • Customer focus

How do you become your own consumer research expert?  By giving the issue a job number – it is part of your ownership/management duties. But don’t groan, this is important and it’s fun. 

How do you start?  First, you can start talking to your customers.  This shouldn’t be a problem. 

You do this every day. 

I’m not talking about grilling people or taking them through a survey.  I’m talking about a pleasant conversation that evidences just how interested you are in them and how you may serve them. 

Or, even better, you can simply keep your eyes and ears open and discretely observe and listen in as your customers chat or peruse your offerings. 

I don’t mean you should actively spy on them or eavesdrop, just watch and listen.  During these casual discussions, observations and listening opportunities.

You can try to glean various bits of information, including:

  • Customer feedback on whatever they buy (or don’t buy)
  • You can ask (or try to figure out) how your customers learned about you
  • Try to figure out what might have brought customers your way
  • Try to figure out who they are – visitors or locals, younger or older, Latinos or Asians, Gay or Straight, Hipsters or Hip Hopsters
  • Try to identify “influencers” – those customers who bring others with them.  They may be the key to your ultimate success.  Keep them happy.
  • Any and all information you gather may help you tailor your business, help you pick between one promotional tool vs. another, help you decide what inventory to keep or discard.  This will be helpful.

Next page- Documenting observations & Considering your competitive landscape


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