Internal Market Research – Leveraging the Wisdom of Your Company Employees
Sometimes the opportunity is obvious. For example, to assess the effectiveness of a sales rollout for a new flagship product I conducted internal telephone focus groups with the company’s sales representatives. Once confidentiality was established (this is one study where the “client”, meaning management, did not listen in), the participants were quite forthcoming about what was working and what was problematic in terms of the support provided by the company. The group format also helped to solidify the commitment of the sales team to work together for a higher level of success.
The sales representatives at another firm were interviewed individually to increase understanding regarding the reasons behind the outcome of certain large sales campaigns in varying states. This type of “win-loss” research compares factors contributing to both outcomes and helps to set priorities for future campaigns.
At other times the potential advantage of surveying company employees may be less obvious. For example, a belief in the value of the “cross-pollination” of ideas led to a series of informal brainstorming focus groups during the early stages of the development of a new product. Employees from the same company who were creating different products for the same market met in a series of groups. Beneficial ideas were generated for the new product that were also applied those already under development. An increase in the level of consistency in the company’s product line was an unexpected benefit of the research.
Here are several important things to consider when conducting market research with employees:
- Assume Bias – Be aware that the findings from internal market research are biased by an above average level of knowledge and personal investment in certain ideas. For this reason, internal research should be balanced by inquiries with other audiences to help paint a more accurate picture.
- Ensure Confidentiality – Select the best methodology to encourage disclosure. Ask yourself if your participants are best served by groups, interviews or some anonymous methodology. Also, determine who can observe and how the findings will be represented in the report to help participants to feel safe.
- Be Constructive – Establish an objective to make things better for all concerned. Guide the inquiry in ways that uncover challenges, identify solutions and avoid blame.
The next time you are brainstorming about the details of a new market research project consider whether or not the people at your company can help. You may find that formalizing an internal information gathering process can yield valuable insights.