I’m a big fan of market research as someone who comes from a marketing background. I strongly believe in the power of the customer experience, and in providing what your market is asking for, you develop a stronger bond between your customers and your brand. So if you’re thinking “I’m a nonprofit why do I need to do market research,” pause and consider how can I survive without it? You’re in the job of a) attracting new donors and b) retaining them. Lifetime loyalty is what you should be striving for.
Some approaches to market research are more expensive and time consuming than others but here are a few ideas to get you started:
The quickest, easiest and cheapest option of all the approaches. Take a step back and hear what your customers are saying, it can be enlightening. Ask your volunteers and staff to record problems that stakeholders are speaking of and the great things they also say about your organisation.
Judging the customer service through mystery shopping yourself is easier if you’re an arts-based organisation; theatres, ticket purchasing and performances are straightforward to mystery shop so if your organisation falls outside of arts, get friends or relatives to be the end user by calling in, using the website, signing up for news and getting them to report their experience in a few key areas.
Have a think about how you can use the time on the phone or when you meet face to face with donors. This technique is usually used straight after a transaction so as to get their immediate customer satisfaction feedback. A few quick questions will quickly gauge how they rated the overall experience.
Focus Group Research
Focus Groups can either be run by your own staff or run by an experienced company. It’s an informal session held over a couple of hours, with a small group and a moderator to get attendees to provide answers to questions, and discuss reactions to your organisation or something more specific about what your organisation does. One session per segment of your market is required. The feedback you receive is qualitative research.
Customer Advisory Panels
If you’re an organisation who has traditional customers this will work well. People from different segments of your market are invited to serve on the Customer Advisory Panel for a period of time. These panels are particularly useful when collecting information for an informed decision. The Panel provide feedback through phone interviews, meetings, mailed or emailed questionnaires. Collecting information helps boards and executives make decisions about actions that will affect their customers. You’ll get instant thoughts about what they think.
Individual In-Depth Interviews
This option provides very helpful feedback because customers are called by an external organisation and remain anonymous to your organisation. The approach allows for follow up questions and some further probing than other methods.
We’ve all received questionnaires from companies we’ve had dealings with at some time or another. Some people are more prone to completing them than others too. Most likely because of my marketing background I love to provide constructive feedback to help the company or organisation. I find mostly though that the questionnaires are way too long and I lose interest after spending too long completing them. The answer to that – make them short and sweet, offering the customer a ratings scale and also a place to write more comments. There’s lots of tried and tested techniques to best construct a questionnaire, best to Google how to if you chose to go down this route.
If you have products this is much easier to do. We see them in the shopping malls, trial products, testers, they are designed to gauge our reaction to the new product or see how well it takes in the marketplace. In its basic form this requires testing something on a sample of people and recording their feedback.
So to close… choose one or two approaches to get you started. One approach may suit you more than another and often choices are dependent on budget. Combine multi approaches to be really successful and to really get quality, deep and insightful information that will inform how to be the best you can be for your donors and supporters!