Last Friday, I attended the annual luncheon of the Washington, DC Economic Partnership. It's held at the convention center and every year over 1,000 businesses and major associations come together to assess the "state of the state" of DC's economy. This year the key note speaker was John Talmage, President and CEO from Social Compact.
Social Compact is a market research firm which seeks to provide the best information on the state of urban neighborhoods in America. Their goal is to help local governments, private investors and citizens make informed investment and public policy decisions regarding the urban core.
Here's what he said that rang true for me.
"We have to improve the quality of our data about our inner cities in order to make "information-led" decisions about how, where and why to invest in our urban neighborhoods. It's not enough to say 'wouldn't it be great if we could revitalize this place?' No, we need to make the case for why and how investment will work."
This got me thinking about how critical it is to HAVE and USE good data to make business decisions. It's an important marketing and technology issue.
- Without the right market research how can we be sure that we are meeting the needs of the people we serve?
- Without the right market research how can we be sure that we are serving the right people?
- Without the right market research how can we be sure that we are properly stewarding our donors' resources?
- Without the right market research how can we show that our causes are a public policy imperative?
- Without the right market research how can we be sure that we are not just flying in the dark?
Everyone knows that market research, i.e. large-scale quantitative analyses can be extremely expensive. But thanks to technology there are many ways to do research affordably. Online tools like Zoomerang and Survey Monkey enable even a smallest and poorest organizations to gain valuable and inexpensive feedback across space and time.
Technology aside, the most important tool for gaining market intelligence is LISTENING. Listening to clients, listening to members, listening to donors, etc. Don't just use your list servs, blogs and forums to provide "a networking forum for your members" use these tools to really LISTEN to what your publics need from YOU with a goal to UNDERSTANDING the complex issues we are all trying to address.
Don't fly blind!