Get The Feedback to Fill Your Business’ Blind Spots

Since the 1970s, McDonald’s customers said that they wanted Egg McMuffins after 10:30 a.m. For decades, McDonald’s executives said the idea was impractical.

Then in September 2015, McDonald’s did an about face, and started offering breakfast all day. The result: In January 2016, McDonald’s reported its 2015 Q4 revenues and earningshad easily surpassed analysts’ forecasts. The reason: The company’s introduction of its all-day breakfast menu. Ditto for its 2016 Q1 reports.

McDonald’s decision had a profound effect upon the agricultural suppliers of its menu items, including grain producers (breads), meat producers (sausage and ham) and poultry farms (eggs).

The lesson: Want to increase sales? Then don’t listen to your ego, or those who feed it. Don’t get sucked into thinking you know what’s best.

Listen to your customers.  You might be surprised by what you learn.

Three Low-Cost Market Research Strategies

No matter if you’re considering starting a new business, rolling out a new service or product, reevaluating your marketing or just want to find out why people may be drawn to a competitor, implementing an effective market research effort doesn’t need to be expensive. Consider these three methods:

SizeUp: The U.S. Small Business Administration’s new, free SizeUp website lets you view industry statistics in any geographical area; compare your company’s revenue, salaries, and expenditures to the competition’s (locally, statewide, or nationally); learn how much consumers are spending on the types of products and services and map the locations of your competitors.

Surveys: Customer surveys are a cheap, easy way to better understand your company’s strengths and weaknesses. They can be disseminated anywhere staff interacts with customers, as well as your website, and links on your receipts and invoices. Surveys can also be submitted on premises, via mail or online. In the latter case, services like SurveyMonkeyand Google Forms provide businesses with free methods to capture, analyze and archive survey results.

Focus Groups: If implemented wisely, these brief, 60 to 90-minute meetings can yield a treasure trove of information about your company, its products and services. The cost: Lunch or dinner for 10-15 people. For best results, focus groups are run by moderators who aren’t employed by their clients.