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Marketing

Gaining New Information from Old Ground

Dig in for fresh marketing insights

As a child, I envisioned myself an archeologist. Digging in pits, dusting off ancient bones, pottery or dinosaur bones. What compelled me was the expectation that I could make surprising discoveries.

Recently, scientists announced new discoveries at Stonehenge, that ancient site which is a profound mystery. Over the course of several years they used non-invasive technologies including motorized magnometers, ground-penetrating radar arrays, electromagnetic induction sensors, earth resistance surveys, and 3-D laser scanners to help them see below the surface. Analysis of their mapping proved startling.

Their fresh way of seeing has uncovered (virtually, as no actual digging was done) information as well as previously undetected structures in the area surrounding Stonehenge. Read articles from National Geographic and Fast Company.

What new discoveries can you make?

Science is replete with stories of ground-breaking discoveries made by reviewing familiar territory. Yet, I see few small businesses using similar scientific diligence or even gaining new observations.

Taking a new perspective, using novel methods of analysis or just sitting down with your customers can lead to astounding insights which lead you to innovation. Whether from fear of the new or from paralysis, many plod the known path, and never diverge to the uncut field, breaking new ground.

Most critical to any new insight is data. Research. Comprehension. How often do you consider what your customers need, not what you have to sell. Or how easy it is for you to sell it. Going over the old ground of why and how you established your business can yield insights. So can interviewing customers.

Recently a client asked me what should she do to help her gain more business. But she had no marketing research or observations from which to form conclusions. Or to gain clues to things buried in the landscape, just awaiting the archaeologist’s trowel.

Observe, ask, seek to get marketing research

Research is an often feared tactic. Many business owners think it expensive and a waste of time. And undertaken with that point of view, is probably true. Many avoid customer service surveys and even the simple Net Promoter Score which is based on a single question: “Would you recommend this to a friend?” Just a simple question with highly complex ramifications. If seven out of ten say, “no,” then your business is failing to meet customer expectations. Meaning your business is vulnerable. You are just a hair away from failing.

Small enterprise’s new products and services are often built on “me too” knee-jerk response to societal or commercial trends, but not as often tested to validate a particular firm’s customers need the service.

With the tools of the Internet, it’s not hard to format a straight forward customer survey. Or find existing research.

So, if you want to gather a bit of insight, start with frank conversation with a few of your most longstanding customers. The ones who know you well. Ask them the big question: “What do you wish we would do better?” Don’t flinch or equivocate, listen. Record their answers. Either audio or by taking notes. Follow that question up with “What do you wish we could do to help your business grow?” OR “What do you wish we did that we don’t do now?” Then finally, “When have we served you best?”

In the last half-decade anthropologists have become essential partners to big business; observing everything from how customers interact with products to how they peruse shopping aisles. These observations provide fresh insights which lead to product innovation.

You can do the same thing if you have a retail store. (Note, if you’re doing this, be sure to have customer service people in the store so you don’t have to worry about customers being helped.) Practice observation. Really seeing without trying to figure out what you can do to make a sale. You may find that the display you most wanted your shoppers to see is never approached. Or that your too precise array of merchandise doesn’t invite handling.

Getting help

Life has a way of detouring from childhood dreams. In my case, I’m not an archeologist, but a marketing consultant. And that’s great. I get to help talented business people make new discoveries every day.

If you don’t feel you have the neutrality, time or ability to observe or question your customers, we do. We can arrange customer interviews, observe customers on location or conduct in-depth surveys.

Now exactly how did they get those stones to Stonehenge?

Photo credit: Flickr user Bala Sivakumar, Smoking Stonehenge

2 thoughts on “Gaining New Information from Old Ground

  1. Loved this article, great analogy and a good way to start thinking outside the box. (Besides, I’ve always loved Stonehenge!)

    1. Thanks, Sandy. I’d love to visit Stonehenge some day! It is amazing how we all can have tunnel vision; focusing only on the future and not revisiting previous decisions with new tools and current information.

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