Where to Get Research Assistance for Your Business Plan
If your business plan research requires questionnaires, focus groups, or phone or in-person interviews, consider bringing in specialists to help you maintain objectivity and convey professionalism throughout the process. Contact research firms, marketing firms, and public-relations companies for help.
Another good resource is your Small Business Development Center. To find a nearby center, visit the Small Business Association website and click the SBDC Locator link under Resources.
Review the following table for help identifying the approaches, advantages, and challenges of various research methods.
|Questionnaires and surveys||To obtain general information||Anonymous, inexpensive, easy to analyze, and easy to format and conduct||Impersonal, feedback may not be accurate, and wording can skew results|
|Interviews||To obtain information and probe answers||Develop customer relationships, are adaptable to each situation, and access fuller range of information||Time consuming, reliant on good interviewers, and difficult to analyze|
|Observation||To document actual buyer behavior||Anonymous, immediate findings, and relatively easy to implement||Can be difficult to interpret findings and to target which behaviors to monitor; can also be expensive|
|Documentation review||To study factual history of clients and transactions||Readily available, not disruptive to operations, not subject to interpretation||Time-consuming, research may be incomplete, and research is limited to previously collected data|
|Focus groups||To find out about and compare customer experiences and reactions||Convey information to customers, collect customer impressions||Require expert facilitation and advance scheduling; difficult to analyze findings|
You will also find it helpful to create an agenda for times, places, and ways to get closer to your customers. To get started, use the customer intelligence checklist shown in the figure to establish an agenda for collecting customer information.