Gut feel can get you a long way when you are starting to think about where you are now and where you want to get to. But in order to track your progress, you need to establish benchmarks and insights that can be measured over time. These will relate to the objectives you set (remember point 1) and might include understanding: existing customer engagement; potential customer engagement; sales achievements; the beliefs and opinions of your audiences; levels of awareness of your product and service, and so on.
There are two types of research:
Quantitative: generating numerical data or data that can be transformed into useable statistics. A simple example would be 8 out of 10 cats prefer Whiskas (remember that one!?).
Qualitative: used to uncover feelings and opinions and to delve deeper into a topic than you can with quantitative research. This type normally takes the form of a discussion (one to one or in a group).
So how do you go about this research? Quantitative includes online surveys, paper surveys, face to face interviews, telephone interviews and online polls. Qualitative research methods include focus groups (getting a group of people in a room for a discussion), one-on-one interviews and participation observations. Qualitative research normally includes smaller sample sizes because targets are carefully selected and you don’t want so many taking part that they don’t all get to voice their opinion.
For comprehensive research, we strongly advocate you using a Market Research agency. But for simply surveys, a great starting point is www.surveymonkey.com