Henry Ford once (allegedly) said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they’d have said faster horses”. It is a quote that is now used to disparage market research, wheeled out (pun intended) by CEOs who think they are saving a few bob to justify a lack of customer consultation. The implication, of course, is that market research is a waste of time as people don’t know what they want until they see it. But is this accurate?
You can’t just ask people “what do you want” and expect to generate useful insights.
Actually, Ford had a point. You can’t just ask people “what do you want” and expect to generate useful insights. You can’t expect your customers to design your products, same as you wouldn’t expect your bank to build your new conservatory. However, just as the bank can give you the tools (in the form of a loan) to enable you to build a new conservatory, your customers can give you the tools (in the form of information) to enable you to design your latest products.
What Ford was inadvertently doing was highlighting how important good research design is. How you ask the question is the number one most important factor in determining the usefulness of the responses you get. If, rather than just asking directly “what do you want”, Ford had asked customers what attributes of transportation were most important to them (affordability, speed, maintenance required, and ride comfort for example), perhaps they would have come up with responses that fitted the design of the Model T, the famous ground-breaking vehicle that brought car ownership to the masses. Even if the customers were imagining horses as they answered the questions (I’d like a faster horse at a lower price, who needs minimal attention and that doesn’t bounce me around quite so much in the carriage), the resulting spec for the new design of transport (fast, cheap, low maintenance, comfortable ride) would have still applied.
And had Ford used research properly, they might also have picked up the shift in consumer mindset in the years that followed to wanting cars that were more customised to how they lived their lives, not “any colour as long as it’s black” but available in a range of colours, not “one size fits all” but a range of sizes to suit their needs, and not all “cheap and cheerful” but with better quality high-end options. Had Ford spoken to customers and realised this before their competitors did, they may have maintained market share rather than losing over three-quarters of it to General Motors and other competitors who had done their research.
What I’m trying to say is research matters. This applies whether you are the biggest car manufacturer in America or a small boutique online clothing store. Without your customers you are nothing, and striving to meet their needs is what you spend every day trying to achieve (and many nights too – I know what it’s like to run your own business!). But how do you know what those needs are? You have to engage your customer, get to know your customer and then use the information you gather to align your products and service experience to their lifestyle and needs.
Everyone likes to feel like they matter. And this will bring them back to your brand time and again.
In fact, good research can go further than this and actually create brand engagement and loyalty. By consulting customers in a thoughtful, considered way and then acting on their input you can make them feel like they are “part of something”, that they are valued and respected, and that they matter. Everyone likes to feel like they matter. And this will bring them back to your brand time and again.
I’ve set up OrangeSheep Research to support businesses running their own market research. I want to help you to maximise the value you get from your research, both in terms of the insights the research delivers and the impact it has on your customers taking part. Whether your business is 1 person or 1,000, if you aim to carry out your own research I can help you. Whether it is help with a specific task (like writing a questionnaire), advice about your research strategy, or running training sessions for your staff to give them the skills they need to design and manage your research, I am here.
My intention is for OrangeSheep Research to be your go-to resource for market research advice and information. I will be writing a regular blog with hints and tips, common pitfalls to avoid, and general information on how to run your own research. If you have any subjects you’d like to see covered please let me know!
Market research is important. Market research needs to be done well to be effective. I can help you gather the information you need from your customers whilst enhancing your relationship with them, so you can produce “Rolls Royce” research for less than the price of a Model T*.
Follow me on twitter (@orangesheepres), connect with me on LinkedIn, have a browse of the website to see some examples of the services I offer. And if you are ready to take things further please do get in touch to discuss your research needs and see how we can work together to get you results!
*the original price, that is. They cost a small fortune now!