How To Choose Your Market Research Consultant
Of all the qualities and best practices that help turn good businesses into great ones, market research analysis is perhaps the trickiest. It’s also the most frequently overlooked. We’ve already seen how important an effective market research consultant is, but how do you go about finding one?
In a lot of ways, finding a good market research consultant can be like shopping for a good pair of jeans-on the surface they may all look very similar, but finding the perfect fit takes a little scrutiny, a little familiarity with yourself, and sometimes a little magic.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
There are a lot of ways to go about doing market research analysis, and a lot of folks who will be willing to do it for you. One way to quickly narrow your search is by searching for consultants with industry-specific experience and strategies. If you’re a consignment-clothing store, look for a firm that has worked with either clothing or consignment stores before. If you do food, find someone who specializes in restaurants.
In addition to this, make sure to mention your industry up-front when you call. That way, you won’t be wasting valuable time.
Do Your Research
While searching for the right consultant can be stressful and time-consuming, it’s important not to sign up with the first one you speak to, or even the second. Take your time. Shop around. Remember: you’re the customer here; they should be asking for your business.
When they do come to you (and they will), ask questions. Ask more questions than you think are necessary. Ask to see their portfolio, ask for the contact information of their past and current clients, ask them to prepare a presentation for you. If they’re experienced, they’ll be able to do this for you, no problem.
Keep It Local
This one may not apply to every situation, but we think it’s important. With internet connections getting faster by the day and smart phone technology in more and more pockets across the world, it’s easy to forget that most of a brick-and-mortar store’s sales still come from local patrons. Keep this in mind when looking for a market research consultant. Find someone who has expertise in your market and your area.
The difference between a good fit and a perfect fit is in the intangibles. Sometimes it can seem like magic, but I’ve never been one to ignore a hunch. If you’ve done all of your research, asked all of the right questions, and you still can’t decide, trust your gut. Pick the team or person who you can see yourself getting along with best.
In these types of situations, a good relationship goes a long way. And don’t fret. It can take a little bit more time, but the effort will be worth it. After all, it’s the future of your dream and passion. Your attitude should let your potential consultant know that.
Want to own your very own chain of restaurants? Now that the recession has begin to draw to a close the market has opened up many opportunities to open your own restaurant business. A recent NRA report stated that total industry sales in 2011 will increase by 604 billion dollars! And with the fact that there is ample commercial real estate available now is a good time to consider opening your own business.
Opening a restaurant is not to be taken lightly. Done correctly they take a lot of careful planning. There are countless details such as selection of a suitable location, creating a unique brand, hiring a talented management team and staff, developing the right menu, developing great food and beverage to be served, and so on. But before that all begins you first must raise enough capital so that your project can e properly created take-off for the pilot stage.
If you are new to the market and you approach a bank or an investment firm with a plan, there are high chances of being rejected. After all, they don’t know you, so why will they invest money in your business? This is where hospitality consultants will step in to help you out. They will help you to prepare a dynamic project proposal, which will be extremely useful to you for roping in investors. Apart from that, they will help you to choose a suitable location too.
If you are clueless about planning the kind of menu that will attract customers to your establishment, then it is a must for you to engage the service of food service consultants. They possess the knowledge and expertise that is needed for menu planning. They will be able to tell you exactly about the type of cuisine that will bring back customers and also the beverages (both hard and soft) that you should keep in stock.
Looking for restaurant consultants? With the Internet on your fingertips, the task is not a difficult one at all. Once you enter the query on a search engine, there are numerous results that will pop up on the screen. You can compare and contrast between various firms and then choose one that you feel is the most suitable for your purpose. You can also call firms to find out more about their services and then select one that comes within your budget. Get your project up and running; you will surely not regret your decision to consult them.
As a consultant to small business, you will need to offer a range of services to your clients. The extent and scope of those services will vary depending on a variety of factors, such as:
• The nature of the business
• The knowledge and understanding of the business owner
Therefore, it is essential to realize that you cannot provide all of those services yourself. While it may be tempting to go down that path in your initial flush of enthusiasm, it is not the smart approach to growing your business. As your business grows, the demands on your time and energy will become an intolerable burden, and you will fail to deliver the best client service; then, any growth will soon scale down, eventually leading to the death of your business.
The Best Way Forward
The age-old advice of “work smart” needs to be your watchword.
Therefore, the key thing to realize is the importance of outsourcing many of the services that you will be called upon to provide. Obviously, you will need to make a judgment call, depending on your existing knowledge and skills. For example, you may be skilled at writing and be passionate about producing exciting and riveting copy. Therefore, any need for articles or e-mails for Auto-responders will be tasks that you personally undertake. Alternatively you may not be knowledgeable or skilled in the areas of Web design or Search Engine optimization, and it is therefore wise to get those tasks done by others with the necessary talents.
The bottom line really becomes, ‘outsource as much as you possibly can.’
In order to handle outsourcing successfully, you will need to build up a long-term relationship with people who understand your requirements, which will of course be determined by client requirements. You will also need to negotiate good rates for ongoing and regular work. You will need to make enquiries through forums and fellow consultants to make some initial contacts if you don’t already have them.
The core of your business is all about giving your offline business client a strong Web presence. Unless website design is your long established skill, you should definitely outsource this work. While it is possible to provide complex and flashy websites for clients, this is not where you should be headed. There are countless examples of great looking websites, complete with all of the bells and whistles, that don’t provide their owners with any significant business growth.
Therefore, focus on providing a basic website that is optimized for the Search Engines.
For more specifics on developing a website for your local business client, be sure to read the section of this report on “Putting The Offline Customer Online.”
An excellent way to get started as a consultant is to lease websites to your clients. Get your designer to build a three-page website – about, services, & contact – and optimize it for the Search Engines. For example, Bob’s Air Conditioning Service may well have a site with the address of BobsAir.com, and with the appropriate description and meta tags, it is not difficult to get a high spot on Google. Lease the site to Bob on a monthly basis. The passive residual income from this process is important for the initial growth of your business.
As time goes by, or even initially in some cases, the client may wish to have his/her own site built. Therefore, you can negotiate a price per page dependent upon who is writing the copy. This may vary from a basic site, as described above, up to a six-page site.
It is essential that you educate the client about the process of building a business through a strong Web presence. You will need to stress that it will take time. Even when a high ranking is achieved on the Search Engines, the traffic may take a while to come. When the traffic comes, does it result in increased business? If it doesn’t then what needs to be done to change that? And this leads us on to an important component of the business owner’s success story.
Develop a Marketing Plan
The business owner needs a written plan that outlines how the online business will be promoted. This doesn’t have to be a long-winded, glossy document as so many marketing plans are, but a straightforward, outlined, step-by-step document, perhaps only one or two pages in length.
The marketing plan needs to be centered on the efficient and effective use of e-mail in promoting the business. Many of your clients, even if they don’t have a website, will probably have an e-mail account, used for communicating with existing customers and suppliers. However, they will probably have little knowledge of the potential power of e-mail when used correctly to promote their businesses.
For example, their basic website will contain an email subscription form where they can capture the email addresses of visitors. Once they start building a list, they will need resources to help them promote their business to that list. This will introduce the role of Auto-responders and the need for a series of promotional messages that turn subscribers into customers.
It is obvious that the small business owner is not going to have the time to design a marketing plan and write Autoresponder messages that promote a particular service or product. Therefore, the consultant steps into this role, either directly or through outsourcing the required tasks.
Another example is the production of a regular newsletter that is delivered through e-mail. Newsletters are a very effective way of advertising the business. They can be used to present special promotions, announce new products or services, or simply to present the features and benefits of existing products and services.
It is also crucial for the business owner to develop a “brand” so that potential customers identify with that when looking to purchase a particular product or service. A brand is not just a business logo or slogan, although that is certainly a part of it. A brand is best thought of as the total picture that emerges of the business in the perception of the customers, and this not only includes logos and slogans, but also includes all of the messages that are issued by the business and the interaction of the business and its employees with existing and prospective customers.
Your role, as the consultant, is to develop that marketing plan and to oversee its implementation, regardless of how much of the work is outsourced and how much direct involvement you have. Charging a fee for the marketing plan and its implementation will sometimes mean that you run into objections from clients, particularly at the beginning. You can readily point out that their existing budget for advertising in Yellow Pages or local newspapers and radio stations, or even TV in the case of larger businesses, can be more efficiently and effectively spent in developing their business online. The dominant era of the Yellow Pages is fading fast. This is evidenced by the fact that recent statistics from eMarketer.com indicate that 86% of Internet users are online shoppers, and storefront sales (influenced by online research) are three times e-commerce sales. The implications for small business are very clear, and your job as a consultant is to assist them in taking advantage of that phenomenon.
Profit with Video Marketing
Video marketing warrants a section of its own in this e-book. It is really part of the development of a marketing plan, but it is such a powerful medium that it deserves special consideration.
Early Internet marketing, Web 1.0, involved the marketing of services and products primarily through static, text-based Web pages. The advent of Web 2.0 was a revolution, allowing personal interaction with the publisher and the content. Then video marketing entered into the equation, enabling the personality of the presenter to blend in with the content and exerting a greater influence on buying decisions.
There is no doubt that videos have a high perceived value for Internet users, and the Internet marketing arena abounds with sites that open up with video presentations. Therefore, consultants can advise small business owners about the value of using video on their websites.
The great majority of small- or medium-sized business owners will have little knowledge of this area and will rely on you for quality advice. There are a number of features of video marketing that can be conveyed to the business owner.
Assuming that you are a savvy independent consultant and already have a web site, then you want to drive more traffic to our web site and convert that traffic to paying customers. While these steps will certainly drive more traffic to your web site, it will be the relevancy of what you have to offer on your site that will convert your visitors. I will address that in a future article. For now, here are the 10 steps that I have found to be particularly useful. These steps are in no order of importance. However, if you use some or all of them, you will experience remarkable results.
1. Review your keywords and keyword phrases. Make sure you have a favorable and unique Title tag on each page of your site. If you choose to have your business consultancy name in it, put it at the end.
2. In my opinion, content will always be king, so be sure to have good quality and unique content that focus on your primary keyword or keyword phrase. Remember to be text heavy and place useful content in your pages on a regular basis.
3. Be sure links to your site and within your site have your chosen keyword phrases. Also, when link building, quality is more important than quantity. A single good authoritative link can do a lot more for you than a dozen poor quality links.
4. Emphasize search phrases, not single keywords, and put your location in your text to help you get found in local searches.
5. If necessary, redesign your website with a new understanding of organic search engine optimization.
6. Keep in mind that submitting a new web site to Google for regular submission can take several weeks before it is spidered. The quickest way to get your site spidered is by getting a link to it through another quality site.
7. If your site content doesn’t change often, your site need a blog because spiders like fresh text. Update your blog at least three times a week with fresh content.
8. Do not try to stuff your text with keywords. Search engines want natural language content and will look at how many times a term is in your content. If it is abnormally high, they will count this against you rather than for you.
9. Your link should not only use keyword anchor text, but the text around the link should also be related to your keywords. That is, surround your link with descriptive text.
10. Get your own domain. Move away from having a sub-domain as soon as possible. And, go for.com,.net, or.org. with the.com as your first preference.
While this is not an exhaustive list, it is a complete one that a savvy independent consultant can use as a foundation.