|Using Informal Research|
Informal in Name Only
Informal research essentially means taking advantage of every valid opportunity to collect information and market intelligence. These types of research usually trade statistical and sampling precision for cost effective methods. As such, they can't be relied upon for major decisions, but are quite effective as a "first warning" mechanism to alert you of member and industry trends, issues, and impressions. Data collected informally is also an excellent starting point for more comprehensive efforts, or to quickly test an idea prior to a more rigorous study.
The term "informal" is not synonymous with "un-planned." You must carefully plan and execute informal efforts to produce valuable results. Every effort should begin with clear definitions of research purpose, results, methods, and synergies.
Many Tools to Choose From
The tools for informal research are basically the same as for formal programs, albeit modified to fit a longer time frame and smaller budget. Examples include:
|short focus groups at major conferences/expositions;|
|short fax back questionnaires in publications;|
|regular short fax polls/hot issue surveys;|
|adding questions to membership communication (especially renewal forms);|
|collecting data from staff who are in direct contact with members;|
|tracking sales to spot trends;|
|on line forums;|
|customer satisfaction surveys following delivery of all major projects and services|