Simple Business Growth Strategy Development (Part 3) – Study

January 10, 2012

4 Step Strategy, DIY Workshop, Study


We are well on our way to creating our DIY business growth strategy.  At this point, you are just steps away from cutting through the nebulous, mystical perception of business strategy and having a clear, actionable plan to drive your business forward.

What we want is to have a growing, thriving business; to have clarity on our direction and the actions that will lead to a long-term successful business.

So, if you have been following the 4-Step Strategy process, you’ll know that first, you will have created a “knowledge capture” system (OK, fancy title for a way to capture key information about our business – market, customers, suppliers, etc.).  And, that you have written down some of the key/fundamental business questions you have about your business.  Those “keep me up at night” questions that just feel important.

With that list, we can jump into some field action!  What you’ll do know is take some action “in the field”.  Do some research.  Assess the key questions you have about your business and verify those key concerns, questions, issues, opportunities, etc.

Now you are going to . . .

Study Your Market

Now, this isn’t a recommendation to just grab some business plan template and fill in some presentation slides, willy-nilly.  You created your list of critical questions for a reason – start there.  Those are the most critical business questions that you feel need to be answered, right now!

It may seem so simple, but sometimes that’s the issue – it’s just so simple, we overlook it.

So, take the top questions, those that you prioritized* as the top 3-5 questions and identify 3-5 ways for each one that you can get answers to those questions in one week.  Look, don’t drag this out.  Set an aggressive goal to get insight on these 3-5 questions in 5-10 working days. Ask around, involve other team members or advisers if you have trouble figuring out how to get some answers.

There is a great site at Market Research for Beginners that has resources and info for performing market research; check it out.

You are first going to tackle those critical questions.  That’s our primary objective – confirm those are the most critical issues.  Only work on answering those questions.  Focus.

* There is a “Strategy Starter Cheat Sheet” that you can get by signing up after this post here that will walk you through this prioritization step if you haven’t done it already.


Here are some ideas for getting to the heart of potential questions that are key to our long-term business growth.

Customer questions:

  • On-line surveys
  • In-store surveys (active and passive); an example of the difference, I once developed 2 surveys for a small retail shop.  The first (active) was a “no purchase” survey to ask customers why they didn’t make a purchase and what they were looking for when the entered the store (new product opportunities).  The second survey (passive) was for the employees to fill-out, with some basic customer profile questions (age, gender, etc.) to assess the general customer profile.
  • Focus groups (blind or open)
  • Advisory panels – have you ever set up a customer advisory board?  Once we created a quarterly meeting of key customers to review our new products, business strategies, etc.  We paid them in dinner each meeting.  Insight worth more than the price of the pasta.  Set one up next week.
  • Survey your customer email list
  • Assess the customers of your competition – who’s buying from them and not you?

Supplier questions:

  • Focus groups (blind or open) work here too, if you can get them committed
  • Advisory panels – can work just as well for suppliers as customers
  • Management meetings/strategy reviews – I know of a small business that set up quarterly strategy meeting with key suppliers to discuss sales, targets, customer feedback, etc.  Can you meet with the management team next week?
  • Ask other customers of the same suppliers – you’ll also probably get some good competitive insight

Organization questions:

  • Just ask your employees; my experience is best in 1:1 situations vs. group
  • Named/anonymous surveys (can even use same tools as for customers like – not an affiliate link)
  • Outside consultant survey – I have used outside consultants to take a “team temperature” to assess organizational motivation, engagement, etc.  For a short interview of key employees, this can be a cheap way to get insight.  Local management consultants will often do this.

Again, not to be an all-inclusive list of actions, but some thought starters for you.

Why Not Conclude Now?

As you collect insight, use your “knowledge capture system” to hold all the info you get.  Don’t try to judge at this point.  This is research.  This is knowledge building, not assessing/judging.  You are trying to get all the information you can about those critical business issues.

And why do I say “don’t judge”?  Because you might find something new; something unexpected when you look at what you have discovered.  It’s tough to be objective in the middle of the research and jumping to conclusions to early can be dangerous and cause us to overlook something new and great.

During this phase, the old adage “you have 2 ears and one month, use them in that ratio” holds true.  Listen.  Don’t talk except to ask questions.  Good questions to help you answer the key questions.



  • Summarize those top 3-5 questions/issues that you identified as critical for your business.
  • Identify 3-5 actions for each question/issue that you can do to find the answer
  • Do those actions
  • Capture the feedback, insight, results, comments, quotes, etc. in your new knowledge capture system

Finishing these 4 steps, will give you a new set of business insights from which to start shaping your business growth strategy; drawing conclusions comes next, but only if you’ve collected great info from this research.

You have any good tips for getting deep market insight or assessing key business questions?  Share them below in ‘Comments’.

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2 Responses to “Simple Business Growth Strategy Development (Part 3) – Study”

  1. Sara Dobson Says:

    Hi Matt
    Good post you are spot on, employees and suppliers are a great source of information about your market and they usually have a lot of insight into your customers or potential cusomers needs.


    • Matt Says:

      Thanks, Sara.

      I know you’ve got great advice for market research so I’m honored you’d agree. I do think that these types of key stakeholders in our business environments are often overlooked as great sources of insight. It’s not always the “customer” that has all the info.

      Again, thanks for stopping by.



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