Learning about a new segment of the population can be a daunting task. Many organizations rely on large scale market research surveys and advanced analytics to help them understand a group of consumers or shoppers based on their demographics, purchase behaviors, attitudes or life-stage. They then follow up with ethnographic in-home research or shop-a-longs and focus groups in multiple cities. Entrepreneurs typically lack the time and funding for these big studies, so they take a different approach to understanding a segment. Based on our experience, there’s a good deal of opportunity for corporates to re-apply the entrepreneurial approach, especially to fill in the more qualitative details around their understanding of a segment.
Entrepreneurs start with who they know. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, old high school classmates that reconnected on Facebook. No matter, if the entrepreneur senses or knows that anyone in their network fits the description of the segment they are targeting, they reach out and start asking questions. Those who are likely to be successful listen carefully and attentively. They dig for depth, ask “why” and don’t make assumptions or try to sell in their new idea — they simply listen and learn.
Entrepreneurs spend time where their target segment spends time. Coffee shops, shopping malls, soccer field sidelines, lobbies — wherever their segment shops, hangs out, works and “does life,” While there, they listen and watch and take notes on what they see and hear. It’s not creepy. It’s just smart. They learn and begin to empathize.
Entrepreneurs spend time on social media. Facebook, twitter, blogs, vine — this is how people communicate. Entrepreneurs know this and they “listen in” on the social media stream of communication where their target is posting, commenting and sharing.
As they talk and listen and read and observe, they take copious notes and snapshots. They focus on learning about opportunities, delighters, challenges, language, trade-offs, behaviors well before they jump to implications. They capture what they learn, and then identify knowledge gaps. Essentially, they’re taking an ethnographic approach to digital and desk, and opportunistic avenues for learning.
Entrepreneurs find smart and scrappy ways to fill knowledge gaps. They do the homework on methods and tools like Revelation Global, Discuss.io, Google Surveys and Hangouts, uSamp, and other technologies which offer smart, fast and inexpensive solutions to learn more.
Corporates who want to re-apply this entrepreneurial approach need to recognize it doesn’t provide the same level of quantification or projectability as larger scale research, but the trade off is almost always still a significant net positive, driven by the depth and breadth of real learning, the relevancy of the consumer language which directly feeds into concept and marketing development and the more holistic segment understanding which always leads to additional product and marketing innovation ideas.
Consider at least a few elements of a more entrepreneurial approach the next time you’re challenged to understand a new segment. We believe you’ll find it to be smarter, faster and just as effective as more expensive and time consuming forms of traditional qualitative segment research.
The Garage Group teaches and enables corporates to take an entrepreneurial approach to understanding new segments and developing strategies to reach them.
Photo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 via Flickr user: Comrade Foot