I just spent the last two days standing in our company booth at a local business expo. This was not a market research related event, but an expo that brings together a potpourri of businesses from all over the area (for me Salt Lake City, Utah USA). Though successful for us, the expo felt like a meat market. It seemed like I was back in the dating pool, trying to find a spouse, using speed dating techniques. “What do you look for in a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/business relationship/market research company?” “What do you do in your free time?…participate in any online surveys?” “What do you do…for work?” “What do you know about market research?” cliente misterioso
Every booth had a “gimmick”… something to pull you in to the booth…a drawing for an Ipod Nano here, a Grand Piano there, a flat screen LED TV here, an Amazon Kindle there, nachos at this booth, candy at that one, pizza at this booth, burritos (yes that’s right – burritos) at another. It was all a little surreal. We chose to give away candy and an Amazon Kindle (it’s amazing how few people have heard of a Kindle…Reading?…That interferes with my TV watching). Our drawing had a catch. We decided to force (encourage?) people to get a better understanding of what we do. Have you ever tried to explain a market research business to the guy that owns the Heating & AC shop down the street? Taking nothing away from the guy…but…Market Research HUH?
We set up an online survey and required the attendees to fill it out in order to enter into the drawing for the Kindle. It was amazing how novel the approach was…and how open to participation the attendees were. More than anything, I wanted some idea of who…analytically…was attending the event and whether we should even consider going back. The results surprised me.
This is the third year that we’ve attended this business expo, and the first year we’ve had internet access to run a survey. Reflecting on this year vs. previous years, a couple of things stood out that may be interesting to market research companies overall. Here are some suggestions for market research speed dating:
- Have a product to sell vs. attempting to sell your services or your company in general. Maybe this seems like a no-brainer, but there’s a difference between your products and your services. Products are typically much easier to explain in “speed dating” settings. Include demos.
- Don’t make your product (too) gimmicky. Unless you actually sell the Sham Wow…don’t approach your market research product like it is the Sham Wow. Market research products and services require a pretty intellectual approach. It’s probably not worth dumbing your product down. Rather, find a product that meets the need of your audience and have a real conversation about how it meets your potential customer’s need. Use examples.
- I’m sure that the qualitative researchers and ethnographers among us will agree that we need to be open to “other” non-intended uses for our products…even if they are market research products. Immediately on explaining your product, people will begin expanding the scope of it beyond what you had anticipated. Your customers are probably using your products for something other than, or more than, what you originally envisioned. It’s a great opportunity to expand the scope. The only market research joke I’ve ever heard comes to mind…
A man doing market research knocked on a door and was greeted by a young woman with three small children running around at her feet.
The man says, “I’m doing some research for Vaseline. Have you ever used the product?”
The young woman says, “Yes. My husband and I use it all the time.”
The man says, “And if you don’t mind me asking, what do you use it for?”
The young woman says, “We use it for sex.”
The researcher is a little taken back. “Usually people lie to me and say that they use it on a child’s bicycle chain or to help with a gate hinge. But, in fact, we know that most people do use it for sex. I admire you for your honesty. Since you’ve been frank so far, can you tell me exactly how you use it for sex?”