Conducting Market Research – Oh the Horror – If You Don’t

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It’s Halloween time so I thought I’d turn some attention to something fitting of the season. I was recently in my hometown, with my family, for a funeral. It was with mixed emotions that I returned. It was a sad event, but at the same time, I’d seen it coming for a number of years. Overall the entire trip had kind of a macabre feeling to it. When my wife and I return “home” with my kids, they enjoy seeing where we lived, hung out, ran, played, and spent our time. The terrible reason for our visit presented an interestingly strange conversation and surreal experience.

Three of my four children are teens. One of their favorite things to do is watch scary movies, scare their (girl/boy)friends, and creep themselves out. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s because they like to cuddle up with their friends, jump, grab, scream, comfort each other, grab some more, and do more cuddling. It all seems like a good, socially-acceptable, excuse to innocently (or not so innocently) touch each other. They really seem to get a rush out of scaring the bejebus out of themselves and their friends.

Like many cities, my hometown has haunted sites (or rumored to be haunted sites). In the course of conversation with my kids, and their question of what we’d do for “fun” when we were out at night, the subject turned to the haunts of the city. My hometown was settled by pioneers, trappers, and miners. There’s a fairly long history of farming, very windy cold winters, and social isolation. Gruesome things have happened in its history resulting in many ghost stories, often tested by adventurous teenagers, and sometimes even confirmed. It was about 11:00pm when we pulled into town. We decided to go on a haunted city tour. I’m sure you can see how the funeral correlated. Here are a couple of the “stories” that we showed to my kids.

There is a vacant, overgrown, lot in my hometown. Legend has it that a house once stood on the vacant lot, inhabited by a family with young children. In a fit of rage one winter night, the father of the family killed his children and his wife, hanging them from trees in the yard, and then killed himself out of guilt. The family’s house burnt to the ground sometime later and was never rebuilt. Now, nothing is built on the lot. The lot is fenced in and difficult to find, hidden by an overgrowth of trees. There is no power or water to the vacant lot. Many local residents, however, have reported that they’ve heard the sound of running water and seen lights as if the house were there and the rooms lit. Sometimes, very late at night, children can be heard playing in the yard, but cannot be seen if you look over the fence.

This is quite a local legend. The vacant lot is extremely spooky and difficult to find. I jumped the high fence when I was a teen. It was very scary and the lot was overgrown and unnavigatable. I didn’t, however, see any children, lights, or ghosts. When we visited the site, I let my teens approach the fence but I wouldn’t let them jump the fence…it’s probably some guys unmaintained back yard.

Of the many haunted sites we toured that night, one other is worth mentioning. In the oldest cemetery in the city is a tomb that was erected in the 1800’s by a rich local man’s family. The cemetery is quite large, overgrown, and somewhat maintained by a curator who lives in the cemetery and spends his evenings chasing down trespassers late at night. The scariest part of this cemetery is this tomb. If you sneak up on the tomb, circle it three times, and knock on the door of the tomb, the tomb knocks back. I’ve done this before…and the tomb actually knocked back (no joking). It sounded like some haunt, a crazy spirit in the night, was trying to get out of it’s cold, dark, grave. Late at night, my family, along with my daughter’s best friend, snuck into the cemetery (aren’t I a great father). It was dark, and cold, lightly raining, and did I mention dark? It was pitch black, as cemeteries often are. From the road, we snuck up to the tomb. I think I was probably more scared about getting caught by the curator (or the cops) than I was about the cemetery itself. My kids and their friends were really spooked by the experience talking low, quiet, and nervously. They slowly walked up to the tomb, circled it three times, while anxiety slowly built, and knocked on the door to the tomb…and…nothing happened. It didn’t knock back. I swear it’s knocked at me before, and my wife has also experienced it. It was a bit of a let-down (they probably fixed the knock to avoid a million teenagers in the cemetery late at night), but my kids were still so scared by the cold, dark, cemetery that they sprinted back to the car and we left in a rush of the engine and a peeling of tires in the dirt. There’s something fun about scaring yourself.

On a funnier note, in this same cemetery, there used to be two guys buried next to each other. One had the last name Wear and the other the last name Wolff. You can imagine the legends associated with the werewolf of the cemetery. They’ve since relocated Mr. Wolff…no kidding.

We’ve just gone through one of the scariest times that I’ve seen in the economy. Radio commercials report “the recession is over”. That’s great, how do you feel about this pronouncement? Do you believe it, or are you still concerned? In your businesses, what scares you? What keeps you up at night?

  • Product Failure
  • Leading a company that slowly declines into irrelevance (all you manufacturers of buggy whips).
  • Keeping good employees
  • Hanging on to customers
  • Double-Dip Recession
  • Regulations or changes in economy or government that make your business very difficult to manager or that squeezes the potential profit out of it.

Market research isn’t the savior of all things business…but it does help…significantly. It can help you pinpoint and address your business needs and answer your business questions. It can help you avoid, improve, UNDERSTAND and be successful at the scary things that haunt your business. Among many things market research can do, it can help you:

  • Understand your customers feelings, wants, needs desires, opinions, and behaviors, and most importantly how to hang on to them.
  • Understand whether your new project has a shot at success and how to make it a success or whether you’re about to spend a lot of time and money, only to find there isn’t a market.
  • Understand whether your brand, your advertising, your logo, your name, your product, resonates with your customers and says what you want it to say.
  • Understand where your industry is headed, where technology is headed, where your…insert your niche…is headed.
  • Understand how to keep your customers, your employees, your constituents, engaged with your product, your company, your social institution.
  • Understand…The list can go on, and on, and on…

In the ’70’s I learned something very important…from “Schoolhouse Rock.” Knowledge is Power. Is there not a better reason for conducting market research and understanding your business than that?

There are many market researchers out there and available to you, and we know our stuff. Whether the best route of research is through focus groups, online bulletin boards, social media, eye tracking, mystery shopping, mobile research, face to face research, online or telephone surveys, taste testing, in-depth interviews, ethnographies, etc. we know methods of researching just about any subject matter, product type, customer, patient, constituent, or business. And, if we don’t know, we’ll figure out a way to provide you with the market research you need to improve and develop your products and services, understand the economic landscape, and take the worry…the scare…dare I say…the horror…out of running and executing your business.

write by Baron

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