Social Networks: Free R&D for Small Business

How do you keep your products and services fresh? Three words – “Research and Development”. True, R&D can be expensive and time consuming, but without it you could be wasting money trying to convince your target market to buy your products when you should be providing the products and services that they actually want.

Most small businesses think that they have to get to ‘big’ before they can afford R&D – not true. Here’s our quick guide to using social networks for research and development (R&D) on a shoe string budget:

  1. Trust your instinct and if you’ve got a Board of Directors, trust theirs too. You’ll need to create a score card for measuring the feedback you (and your Board) are about to get about your product/service. This score card will help you prioritize the changes you’ll need to make at the end of your R&D exercise.
  2. Trust your customers and target market because they will be providing the feedback about your product/service that you need. Your customers are the best people to tell you what you need to do to stop them from going to the other guy’s store.
  3. Stage your research. Here’s where you put your product or service out there and get your target market and customers to give you feedback. You can do one of two things – or both:
  4. a) Start a group in a popular social network – You can use a Facebook, Google or Yahoo! Group to start. The group should be about the product/service and not necessarily about your brand. Basically what you would be doing is starting a discussion (or three) about the types of product/service you provide and inviting customers to participate.

    b) Alternatively, you can find a discussion that’s already in swing and pay close attention – Epinions.com and  TripAdivisor.com are good examples. Keep your score card handy and track the feedback resulting from the discussion about the product or service you provide. You’ll also need to establish a research time limit; 1 – 3 months is a good amount of time to track discussions about your product/service.

  5. Analyze, innovate and test – that’s what you should do with the information you collect about your product or service. Your goal is to try to learn what customers expect in the future and what improvements they need from your product now. Review the information and use your score card to identify the product or service that need updating right away. The feedback you tracked should give you all that you need to innovate your product or service – and yes, this information may be in the form of ‘criticism’.

Keeping your products and service line relevant and competitive is vital to the survival and growth of your business. If you are short on cash, you can still make this important investment with the aid of available technology and a commitment to succeed – and as always, we are here to help!