No one would make a major decision, like buying a house, a car or moving to a new town, without doing some research first. In the senior living industry, we expect our clients to spend a considerable amount of time weighing their options and choosing the community that makes the most sense for them.
Similarly, making business decisions – especially major ones, like how to expand a service, expand into a new geographic area, or offer an entirely brand new service – shouldn’t be taken lightly. Our customers do market research on us, so we should similarly engage in market research prior to making business decisions, right?
We’ve outlined the benefits of market research quite a bit recently, as part of our Market Research Series on our blog, but they’re worth reiterating. Good market research can help us discover the underlying demand (or lack of demand) for our offering or service; it can illuminate new, undiscovered opportunities in our chosen location; and it can give us insight into the length of time we can expect our new venture to thrive. That’s not all though.
“An often overlooked benefit of market research is its ability to help us optimize our offering and services at its various stages in the product life cycle,” says Malissa Illiano, Senior Consultant & Director of Market Research at SageAge Strategies. “Market research isn’t always just about building a brand new community, in the right place. It can be a powerful tool in discovering ways to make our initial idea even better, and thus lead to greater success and better staying power.”
Today we’re looking deeper at how market research can specifically be used to take your service or community and optimize it for an even deeper and meaningful impact.
Optimizing Your Offering Through Market Research
Wherever you are in the evolution of your offering, market research can be a useful tool in terms of providing insight into how to improve. Let’s look at using market research to optimize based on your stage of the offering or service creation process.
At this stage, market research can provide us with deep insight into our customer’s needs. Fundamentally, this stage is about discovering a customer’s unmet need. We must be cautious at this stage though, because we can’t assume that research alone will uncover meaningful opportunities for a new service. It’s our responsibility as researchers to look at the big picture, and decide what ventures are sustainable and which ones aren’t.
Key questions to ask at this stage are:
Does this service meet a need? How?
What other services in this realm are currently attempting to meet this need, and how have they done?
What challenges do people face in using the solutions and current options available to them?
So you’re getting your new offering off the ground, having gone through the infancy stage and identified a way to meet a need. Now, the questions you should be asking are:
Where do we stand in our market?
Where do we want to go in the near and far future?
How can we get there?
The great thing about market research is that it can answer all these questions for us, by way of assessing the size of our market, uncovering where opportunities for growth lie, and identifying the factors that play into our customer’s decision-making process.
Using this information can help us make micro (or macro) adjustments to things like product design, marketing techniques, pricing structures and specials/promotions running. This is a great time to be making changes to these things, because we still have the benefit of youth on our side.
At this stage, your service/community has staying power. It’s weathered the early days of uncertainty and has a level of reliability within its market. That’s a great place to be!
That can be problematic, though. Being at a great place makes us hesitant to rock the boat. But, as we all know, adaptation is the key to survival. If we rest on our laurels and settle into familiar comfort, it’s only a matter of time before a competitor swoops in and leaves us behind.
At this stage, the benefits of market research are similar to what they were in the Youth stage, but with different implications. One key difference? We should focus more on retaining existing customers, as opposed to obtaining new ones. (Not that we should neglect the latter, but it’s far more difficult and expensive to recruit a new customer than to retain an existing one!)
Competitive research becomes important here, then. To know what might draw our customers away requires being on top of the practices of our competition. It also requires talking to our customers! Customer satisfaction surveys can lend us insight into where we are succeeding versus where our customers want us to improve, and thus help us meet our customer’s needs at every touchpoint.
Whether you are at the beginning stages of launching a new service or even a brand new community; have a foothold in the marketplace; or have established a long-standing business in your desired location, market research is an invaluable tool in terms of uncovering how to optimize your offering. In an industry where stagnation means failure, research is required at every stage to ensure we remain relevant, competitive, successful and capable of serving the community we care for!