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Once you've introduced a new product or service or developed significant improvements to existing ones, you'll naturally want to do some follow-up to measure the success of the project. Whether the introduction is ultimately successful or not, you need to be able to learn from the process to achieve more success down the line.
Most small companies cannot afford the complex and costly consumer tracking studies used by larger, more sophisticated competitors:
- usage and attitude studies that examine consumer usage and attitude about products, advertising, brand awareness, and brand image at a given point in time
- trial and repeat purchase tracking studies that record weekly purchases of similar products by target consumers, as well as the reasons for buying or not buying the products (this type of study is sometimes called a diary panel)
- simulated test marketing called "experimental primary lab research," which is usually conducted in store malls under controlled conditions
- controlled field testing called "experimental primary field research," which is usually conducted in a controlled group of stores
- advertising awareness and recall studies that examine the efficacy of print and electronic advertising on target buyers, often conducted by the Burke, Starch, or ACNielsen market research companies
But small companies can conduct low-cost or free qualitative research:
- Talk to buyers and consumers about product satisfaction and purchases. From a marketing research standpoint, this is biased, qualitative research without standard interview controls. But it is timely information and may be actionable. And it places you at point-of-purchase, close to your buyers (e.g., retailers) and end users.
- Conduct a test of advertising spending levels in different test markets or, with a single business in one location, over different time periods. It is relatively easy to vary introductory spending in each market, if you are testing a number of geographical markets. However, one should have significant spending differences of at least +/- 50 percent in each market for each spending variable. Small companies (e.g., one store) may have to vary spending levels over matched periods of time and compare sales results. For example, try increasing your local newspaper advertising spending 50 percent over the same quarter of the previous year.
- Examine weekly company sales receipts for new account sales, compared to receipts for reorders. This is an indirect, but free, way to measure initial purchase vs. reorder sales.