A recent feature story in the New York Times took a look at Trek Light Gear, a micro business that sells lightweight hammock, backpacks, tarps and apparel. The owner Seth Haber is also the only employee, which made him a perfect example of what a micro business is. But as any micro business owner knows, sometimes gaining market research and using it to determine the next big move or decision for his or her company isn’t easy. But it’s easier than it used to be.
Haber turned to an outside company to leverage their community of customers to get feedback on company perception, products and direction. Much like a focus group or telephone survey, Haber wanted first-hand knowledge about what others thought about his operation. The piece mentions that Napkin Labs, the outsourced partner, typically charges $10,000 for similar projects, so while that might not be an option for your own micro business, the story illustrates an interesting point. “Crowdsourcing” is an important medium that can be leveraged by the smallest of businesses. Essentially all crowdsourcing means is using a group of people to find out information and opinion about a certain topic.
In the digital age, you can quickly and effectively poll your customer base through emails, online surveys, or simple one-on-one interactions to find out what they might want from you and what will keep them coming back. For example, have you ever tried doing a short email survey of your customer list to determine what they like most, and least about your business? Have you followed up with 10 of your best customers directly to find out what additional services they might require? Or if you’re thinking about expanding into new products or services, have you leveraged your customer base to determine if it’s something they would want? Not only will you get the information that you’re seeking to make decisions about your business, but your customers will feel like part of the process and by extension more loyal to you.
As a micro business, you might not have the resources of a big business, but you can still utilize their techniques. Large corporations spend millions on product research and market analysis. But as a micro business with a small customer base, you can remain agile and gather feedback quickly (and cheaply). More than likely your customers will want to help you, so reach out when it’s important to you and you feel that it will impact them.
What have you done to elicit opinions or suggestions from customers? Have you involved them in “big” decisions regarding your business?
Give us your thoughts.