Following our previous piece on the downside of Internal Market Research, we’ve had some feedback from SMEs regarding the logistical and cost limitations of small to medium enterprises regarding market research.
While larger organisations can often afford a set research budget that allows for customer feedback and market analysis throughout the year, often smaller companies aka SMEs are faced with the difficulty of not being able to afford research.
However, SMEs need to be researching their customers on a regular basis in order to remain competitive in the midst of bigger organisations. Their advantage is often providing a more bespoke, intuitive product or service than their competitors – something that comes from understanding the environment in which they are operating and the customers they are serving.
So the real challenge and opportunity for SMEs operating in the market today is to stop seeing research as a hurdle and start being clever and creative with it, in order to keep having conversations with their customers that strengthen their business – here’s how:
#1 SMEs should kow their target audience
Any sort of research requires an understanding of who the target audience is. Believe it or not, this is one arena in which SMEs have an advantage over larger organisations for the simple reason that they are naturally closer to their customers. Start listening to your brand’s audience.
#2 SMEs should know what they want to achieve
Define research objectives based on the questions that are arising in your business. Research isn’t a magic wand but it will provide insight into the specific areas that you identify as being knowledge gaps, this is something you will know better than an external provider.
#3 SMEs should know their business objectives
What do you want to achieve in terms of business growth? How will research inform the way forward? These are questions you need to ask in order to have a solid strategy that informs the research exercises you engage in. As mentioned in our previous piece, it’s important not to confuse research objectives with business objectives.
#4 SMEs should get Creative
Head Qualitative Researcher at Interact RDT, Cyndi de Vries suggests, “Take an informal approach to customer research, much of the research that will help you grow your organisation will stem from customer conversations. So host a gathering, or a dinner and invite key clients or prospects to hear what they think.” She went on to say, “For B2C business, get on the ground and seek out your target consumers in the spaces they are comfortable in. Just a simple chat or a short questionnaire is sure to harness insights without breaking your budget.”
#5 SMEs should keep their finger on the pulse
An essential part of research that is often overlooked is observing the environment you operate in. This means that SMEs need to keep abreast of the trends happening in their industry, as well as the tech scene.
You should also be an active part of the discussions that are relevant to your industry so join relevant online forums and message boards and start learning and sharing with others.
Look at what your competitors are doing, don’t copy it, but stay informed. This is a great way to know if your organisation is doing what it should be to further your own business goals and your industry.
#6 SMEs should find a balance that won’t break the bank
While informal research is deeply insightful, it does tend to be unstructured. For this reason you need to find a balance between formal and informal research and analysis.
It helps to have a set of cost effective research tools in your arsenal. For example, software that can assist you in designing and analysing your research will cost a fraction of what you would spend on a research project.
If you are already at that stage, then consider purchasing an Online Panel or MROC package that will enable you to spread your budget and conduct smaller research projects throughout the year. Online Research is a great customer feedback enabler for organisations of any size.
In the end
Having started from very humble beginnings, we understand the drive and energy that many SMEs have. It’s something that we would like to be able to be a part of supporting and assisting with.