Hello people? How are you? I am great. Let us take a moment to reflect on these statistics from a forecast of Zimbabwe’s economy from 2016 through to 2020. This will set the tone for the reasons why you need a market survey everytime you make a business decision.
Let us focus on the variables ‘Unemployment Rate’ and ‘Population’. In the period up to quarter 1 in 2017 the unemployment rate will increase by 5.66% whilst the population will increase by 13.70%. This means that there will be more people to feed with less people working. As a result people will become even more careful in terms of how they spend their money. In such a situation there will be less room for mistakes as a company will have to get it right the first time every time. A firm will now have to provide exactly what the market needs in order to get more of the scarce dollars than its competition. The projected reduction in business will mean that you as a company will have less resources to ‘play around’ with so precision will be key. Conducting a market survey will help you to get it right the first time.
I once talked about the signs that show that you should invest in research. Conducting a market survey will go a long way in providing solutions to the signs (problems) that I mentioned in that article. It will be a good starting for you to read that article if you actually do not know what signs to look for.
Here is a broad definition of a market survey. It is the study of the spending characteristics and purchasing power of the consumers who are within your business’s geographic area of operation; a research method for defining the parameters of a business (entrepreneur.com).
So, how do you conduct a market survey? The first step that you should take is to choose how you are going to conduct the survey. There are various methods that are available like:
- Online survey
- Paper survey
- Mobile survey
- Phone survey
- Face to face interview
The research strategy that you choose should not take up any of your respondents’ financial resources and it should also take up as little of their time and energy as possible as they are trying to make things work for themselves already. As examples here are the advantages and disadvantages of the first two methods.
An online survey questionnaire. (Source: Survey Monkey)
- Low cost
- Automation and real time access
- Less time used
- Convenience for respondents as they can respond at their own time
- No interviewer so there is less bias in the part of the respondent
- Limited sampling as not everyone has internet access
- Low response rates as it is hard to influence respondents remotely
- No interviewer making the information less reliable as one cannot seek clarification
- They can be printed in high resolution and more items can be printed on a single page
- The response rate is usually higher as a result of the presence of the interviewer
- They are hard to edit for the respondent e.g. deleting answers
- Responses come in after some time and it takes even more time to encode and analyse the data
- Attaining text based subjective feedback is also difficult as people are not usually willing to write
Choosing the right method for conducting the surveys is critical as it will affect the accuracy of the data that you will collect. The accuracy of the data will affect the value that you will get from conducting the survey. You will make the wrong marketing and strategic decisions if you use the wrong method.
You can keep track of your stakeholders using this Stakeholder Management Sheet to ensure that your market survey achieves its objectives with minimal fuss. Source: DocStoc
The next step is to manage your stakeholders. The first reason to manage them is for them to let you conduct the survey. The integrity of the market survey will also be preserved as the stakeholders will not tinker with the results. The amount of resources that will be allocated by the stakeholders will affect the quality of the results and this will have to be made clear to them so that they can make the right choice. That is the third reason
In addition to managing the office politics you also have to know the type of information that the stakeholders want, this will affect the way you run the market survey. For example:
- If the manager wants the information quickly – use the online survey method
- In the case that the manager to assess the changes in the respondents’ opinions on the same topic as a result of tinkering with certain variables – use the face to face interview
- The state of the economy will affect the type of information that the managers will want. In a depressed economy like Zimbabwe’s managers want to know how they can increase the cash flow based on consumer behavior – any of the survey methods can be used to this end
Manage your stakeholders to ensure that they let you conduct the survey in the first place and that the integrity of the results is maintained as there is no room for mistakes right now.
Now, step three. Consider whether or not you should hire a consultant to conduct the market survey. Most firms in Zimbabwe are not fond of consultants and I have to admit consultants are mostly at fault for that perception. We are just not delivering when we show up at these companies. Anyway, in these tough times it is best to put your best foot forward so you might want to hire an expert to ensure that when you make a move like launching a product, you make the right move because you might not get another chance.
What you can do is get into a results based contract with the consultant such that if nothing comes out of his or interventions, he or she will not get paid. Let us go through the pros and cons of hiring a consultant:
- You get special expertise – This will increase your chances of getting it right in terms of the market survey and getting a higher return from a market that is shrinking right now.
- The cost of hiring a consultant, especially when the payment is performance based, will be little when compared to the possible returns
- You will gain a competitive advantage that can be hard for the competition to match as they might not know the source of your competitive advantage i.e. the consultant
- You will save on tax contributions as the consultant is not your employee and is responsible for his or her own tax issues
- A consultant comes in for specific jobs and this results in a lack of continuity which can affect results (negatively) as the consultant will not have certain insights about the business
- A consultant usually charges high fees and this might be a problem if the contract is not performance based
- You might have limited control over a consultant
Decide, based on this and more, whether hiring a consultant will work for you or not. Remember, there is no room left for mistakes so make the right choice.
As they say, the best advice is free advice. Source: Future CEOs
If you decide to go it alone, here is some advice on how to conduct a market survey:
- Make sure respondents are educated as much as possible on why they are responding and how they should respond
- The design of the questionnaire should be appropriate for the targeted respondents. For example using Shona when necessary
- The respondents should be given enough flexibility to air out their views in the way that they want to, including not giving a response at all
- You should not use leading questions that will direct respondents to giving a particular type of response
- You should not ask ambiguous questions
Using these guidelines and many more you will be able to conduct a market survey at a reduced cost and not make the mistakes that will affect the quality of the information that you will receive.
The next step is conducting a pilot test of the questionnaire. In marketing pilot testing occurs in almost all aspects. Remember, there is little room for mistakes and as such the questionnaire has to be tested to ensure that you get the correct information from the market. Send the questionnaire to some people in your office and check for the following aspects:
- Check if each question actually measures what it is supposed to measure based on the responses that you receive
- Is all the language in the questionnaire understood? Watch out for semantics which might affect responses
- Are the questions interpreted in the same way by all of the respondents?
- Are the choices to the questions that you gave the respondents appropriate?
- Do the respondents clearly understand the instructions on the questionnaire?
The results of such an operation will enable you to make the required changes to your questionnaire before launching the survey increasing the likelihood that the market survey will give you accurate and useful information. This will ensure that you hit the mark with the offerings that you will bring to the market.
Source: Survey System
The results that you attain should be representative of the views of your target market. If they are not representative then the results will not be of much use. To this end your can use the sample size calculator in the image above that is hosted on Survey System’s website. It will give you an indication of the number of people you would need to survey in order to get a representative view of issues on the ground.
Once you get the answer it is time to get those questionnaires flying around. Note that the scarcity of resources will mean that you might not be able to afford having the required sample so you can compromise. In the case that you have the resources, sample the required figures.
After you have collected the data you then analyse it and present to your stakeholders. I will touch on those aspects in another article.
So, there it is. Allow me to summarise this article by stating that:
- There is not much money going around in Zimbabwe so there is now no room for mistakes as far as launching products and services is concerned. You have to hit the bull’s eye all of the time
- As a result of (1) conducting a market survey is now a must before you launch a product or survey as doing so ensures that you have a better chance of hitting the bull’s eye
- You cannot make mistakes in how you conduct the market survey as that will result in you getting inaccurate feedback which will result in you missing the bull’s eye. To this end you can follow the advice that I have given you in this article on how to conduct a market survey or you can hire a consultant to do it for you.
I wish you the best in these trying times.