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Market survey - to learn, to prove a point, or to sell your product?

You can do a market survey to learn about your market ... or a market survey to prove your point ... or a market survey to generate interest in the issue on which you're doing your survey. And unless you're totally disinterested in the subject on which you're surveying, it's all too easy to bias your survey design and implementation towards producing the results that you want, whatever your intentions.

We lunched yesterday in a cafe in Melksham. It's a regular haunt; works well for us because of a wide range of light meals available, and the chance of a five minutes walk on a nice day rather than staying at one spot throughout the whole course. And a gentleman was going around tables, asking questions of the customers; as each new customer group arrived and ordered, he spoke with them. And clearly welcomed officially by the people running the place. Yet he carefully avoided approaching our group of four men, and another group of working aged men while concentrating on the pensioners and mums with young kids who formed the rest of the clientèle.

I know the staff a little, and I asked the lady whom I paid what the survey was about - "we're talking to our customers and seeing if we provide what they're looking for - seeing how we can improve things". A noble objective, and something we strive to do to. But a lesson also in how to tell one of your regular customers that he and the people he's with don't fit in - that the requirements and thoughts of the working age male don't actually matter, as they're not really a part of the business plan.

So I'm going to suggest that the survey may reveal some interesting ideas. It will probably prove what it was intended to prove in the first place (due to poor sampling methods), and that it has also effected the market that it was asking about by marginalizing some of the customer base.

It's all too easy for me to look and criticize, and also all too easy for us to make the same errors when we take note of customer inputs or run surveys. Yet we're perhaps just as guilty at times - looking at inputs from our customers with rather more care than inputs from those who inquire but who don't book because of the lack of a facilities for children, or of a full cooked breakfast, perhaps. But then we have only limited rooms and can't be all things to all men and women. We should concentrate on doing a really excellent job in our chosen market and not in trying to serve all the markets. Perhaps our local cafe is telling us, truthfully but unintentionally, that they don't really want our business and we should go elsewhere?
(written 2007-11-17, updated 2007-11-19)

 
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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