Needs assessment and market research are not costly, and not big projects. The most effective market research is ongoing, doesn’t take a lot of time, and is lower even no-cost.
People who attend LERN's Program Management Institute learn how to analyze data to make the best decisions. This is just one of the things you'll learn at most complete, comprehensive and advanced training in the field of class programming.
Here are some of the best quick, easy and low-cost market research techniques to help you stay in touch with your participants and meet your target audience’s needs on an ongoing basis.
Anytime three people tell you the same thing, that means scores of other people think the same thing.
They don’t have to tell you on the same day, just anytime. So whenever three people tell you the same thing, take action.
Either late Thursday afternoon or Friday morning ask your front line staff what potential participants called about during the week. Ask what people said, not just about registrations.
Ask about complaints. But also ask about success stories, and especially ask about what your participants liked or why they called, e-mailed, faxed, or dropped in.
Count the Names
Whenever you are considering a new program, find out how many people are in your potential audience. This is usually the number of people on a specific mailing list that targets those people most likely to attend your program.
Get the numbers off the Internet, or consult the National Directory of Mailing Lists. Make sure the target audience is large enough to make your new program successful.
Get Enemy’s Brochures
(Just joking about your competition being the enemy.) We’re not joking about getting their brochures. You have only 2-3 big competitors. Get their brochures regularly and spend 5 minutes on them.
Check Enemy Web Sites
While you are at it, spend another five minutes 2-4 times a year checking your competition’s web site.
Raise Your Hand Every time you go to a class or have a group of participants together, ask them a question. “Raise your hand if…” This information is very valuable. If you have nothing to ask them, you are out of touch and out-to-lunch. So start thinking.
What Did You Like?
Whenever you meet someone who says they attended a lifelong learning activity, especially from another provider, ask them two questions:
- Why were you interested, why did you attend?
- What did you like about it?
The answers tell you what customers want.
Be sure you only e-mail your best customers, those 25% of your past participants that are most recent and most high dollar, then e-mail 5-10 of them, and ask a simple but direct question. Ask whatever is your most important question.
Most Important Question
Figure out your “most important question.” This is an action-oriented question. That is, when you find the answer, you do it. After you answer your most important question, then figure out your next most important question.
Call 1-2 People
Do this once or twice a year. It is not a time killer. It is a money-making activity. Call 1-2 people whom you respect and ask them:
- What’s happening in your field (occupation, area of interest)?
- What’s the biggest new thing going on?
- What is your biggest issue, concern or challenge right now?
The best people to call are your best customers. Pick one of the best of your best customers, e-mail them to schedule a day/time for the call, and spend an hour talking. You’ll be making money.