Try Guerrilla Research for Keen Insight

By Lori Turner-Wilson

Guerrilla marketing: unconventional marketing techniques designed to generate a significant return with a limited financial investment. It’s every business owner’s dream.

The term was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson years ago, and while the moniker was initially intended for outbound marketing strategies, the same principles can be applied to market research – or guerrilla research.

Guerrilla research can offer a look behind the scenes – fascinating insight into how your customers perceive your brand at every “touch point,” and how those perceptions are changing over time.

The deployment of regular consumer research is essential for any growing company, providing direction and data versus opinion and speculation – objectivity that’s essential in crafting a marketing strategy.

Guerrilla research is a faster, less rigorous and less expensive alternative to traditional market research. While it may not provide the full picture traditional larger-scale research offers, it’s certainly better than no research at all.

Begin by assessing your digital presence. The minimum cost of entry to doing business these days is having a professional, well functioning website. However, once your site is designed, your work isn’t done. Technology and customer expectations around their web experiences change every day, compounded by the fact that every time a browser updates its software, the update can potentially play havoc with your site.

Regularly schedule time to check your website with “outside eyes” on several different computers (Mac included) with a variety of browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer). Grade what you see critically, because your customers are. Also, assess how well your site performs on a smartphone, Kindle and iPad.

Order your products online, in store and by phone incognito; assess the ease of your ordering process and related service provided.

Take photos of the areas of your office most visible to customers. Photos can provide amazing clarity when assessing how cluttered or dated your environment looks to others.

Ask for your customers’ feedback during or shortly after the point of purchase and a few weeks or months down the road. Ask them what would have made it better. Identify trends in responses, and act on what you learn.

Check review sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor or Angie’s List for consumer feedback, categorizing the comments and identifying trends.

Consider hosting an informal focus group with customers to discuss new product ideas or service issues.

Recruit college students to mystery shop your business and your competitors, scoring each for a small group of key performance indicators.

The risk with internally administered guerrilla research is it’s extraordinarily difficult to avoid biasing the results, as you’re just too close to the matter. The upside to guerrilla research is clear, however – the better informed you are regarding your customers’ perceptions of your products, service and brand experience, the better equipped you are to shore up any areas of weakness before your competitors use them against you.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and managing partner of RedRover Sales & Marketing, You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (