Using the Right Tools for Research – Don’t Skate on Thin Ice

Published February 2007 in Overdrive, The Entrepreneur’s Organization eNewsletter
by Jared Heyman

Ice skaters who change direction on a dime demonstrate how effective talent can be when coupled with the right tools for the job.

I’ve often pondered how this behavior applies directly to our businesses. The confident skater uses the right tools — the skates — to dig in or glide as changing conditions occur. But what would happen if he or she had the wrong equipment or used it incorrectly?

We’ve all seen our share of cold, hard tumbles. Like skaters, businesses can remain confident in slippery, competitive landscapes by equipping themselves with the right gear.

Increasingly, that means using real-time ways to connect your company to your customers. Instead of skating past opportunities, the right tools help you change direction as the environment demands.

Today, the online survey is the most effective way to obtain actionable customer information. The online survey industry is the fastest-growing segment of market research at 12% annual growth. That’s not surprising, considering the increasing value of rapidly acquiring useful data about your customers.

Traditional research has relied on phone or direct mail surveys to gather customer insights. But with do-not-call lists and rising postage costs eroding these vehicles, the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) predicts that online surveys will finally surpass telephone as the research tool of choice by the end of 2007.

As a case in point, AC Neilson reports that the world’s largest apple juice manufacturer chose to go with online surveys after running parallel tests with other methods. In addition to providing faster information, the online survey saved 25% of their research project costs.

So how can you apply what the apple juice company learned to your own business?

  • Online surveys are the wave of the future. Stay on top of the wave…or get pulled in by the undertow.
  • Practice agility. Avoid traditional surveys if that’s what you have always used.
  • Equip yourself with the right gear so that you can maintain confidence and stamina in case thin ice does come your way.