Sharon: Hello, this is Sharon with Network in Action, and I'm here today with Lara Fordis, from Fordis Consulting. Good morning, Lara.
Lara: Good morning, Sharon.
Sharon: I always enjoy talking to you because you are the only person I know who is in your specific industry. So I think I'd like to start with you talking a little bit about the kind of work that you do and then we can go from there.
Lara: Sure. So I've been in Market Research over 20 years, started out mostly working in research companies and so catering mostly to Fortune 500 companies. And then about 15 years in, I decided I wanted to go out on my own. I love my Fortune 500 clients, but I did feel that Fortune 500 clients shouldn't be the only ones that get market research, that other companies of all sizes and revenues should be able to have focus groups and in-depth interviews and surveys that are professionally done. Because even though the return on investment is contingent upon what you do with the market research, it always provides insights that drive product development, product line extensions, packaging, and especially the marketing and target audiences that people want to reach. So I've been doing that on my own for about seven and a half years, and I have an eclectic mix of clients, everything from multicultural clients to startups to still Fortune 500 clients and industry... Industries ranging from charter schools to cannabis to political lobbies to beef jerky. But I predominantly do a lot of work in consumer packaged goods, but it surprisingly translates to a lot of my other work.
Sharon: Great. That's an awesome introduction. And in case anybody missed it, can you just do a quick, like one or two sentences on what is market research for somebody who just really doesn't even know so much about what that term even means?
Lara: Sure. Thank you for thank you for having me pivot and not being presumptuous about what people may think of as market research, because a lot of times people think, oh, market research survey monkey, which I like like a knife through my heart sometimes. But market research is really any methodology by which you get insights to drive decision making. And so it can look like focus groups, which are a group of people talking about a common topic which used to be done in conference rooms. And now I do a lot virtually it can be professionally executed service, not the kind of service you use you do in Survey Monkey and post to your Facebook page, not those kind, but the kind where you get an online panel of census representative people and a particular target area or with a target audience so that you can extrapolate the conclusions that you get from those surveys to larger order decisions.
Sharon: So great definition. Now I'm wearing my hat as a small business owner. Why would doing market research be helpful for me, especially if I was looking at launching a new product or a new service? How could this really support me in my business?
Lara: Sure. So a lot of times and the entrepreneurs and I do teach market research to startups and incubators and so forth. And a lot of times people think if I fill an unmet need or come up with something that's not out there, that it's going to be successful. And that's not the case. That's not the case. Whether it's a new product or a new service or a location of a restaurant, it really pushes you to think about like Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Successful People, which is predicated on beginning with the end in mind. And the end of mind is usually to generate revenue. And predominantly, marketing and sales is the way in which you get to that end. But think of market research as sharpening your metaphorical tool. So if you go in and you market things but you don't know, you think you know your target audience, you think you know the messages that resonate with them and how they're going to respond to your product or service offering, you could be really off base. And I've several examples over the years of entrepreneurs thinking, oh, this is a this is a great idea. And everyone around me says it's a great idea.
Lara: So I'm going to quit my full time job and spend my life savings on this idea, only to discover that people aren't willing to pay for what you have to offer. And maybe it could have been salvaged with various tweaks and so forth. But I feel like I have a fiduciary responsibility to let people know how likely it is that consumers, prospective customers are going to react in a certain way so that they can make an informed decision about how to proceed and how to use their marketing dollars, which are usually almost nil effectively because it's such a big investment. You want to make sure it's going in the right direction.
Sharon: Yeah, it sounds like a much more scientific approach and I think it really is true. So many entrepreneurs just go with their gut, maybe do a little research, maybe throw a survey monkey, you know, questionnaire app. So what's the downside of using something like Survey Monkey just to assess whether I have a good product or service.
Lara: And there's nothing... I don't want to say there's anything inherently wrong with Survey Monkey. It's just become sort of the, you know, ubiquitous thing. And you think if it's in a survey that somehow makes it OK or even a survey monkey template and I stand by this, their survey monkey templates can be really dangerous to use because they're they give you a presumption that these are professional questions that can be used to garner dependable feedback. And and I and I will openly say I've seen some of their templates. They're not good. So I do think that the reason to use a professional is to make sure your questions are worded properly, that you've got it's called schipp patterns and display logic. So you're not actually accidentally asking questions of people that can't answer them and then are just going to come up with an answer to move on to the next thing. When you use what's called a self selected sample, which posting to social media is, you're inevitably talking to people in your orbit. So it besides it being your mom and your sister and your friends from high school and so forth, and you may think that that and preliminarily for certain things, that's fine. But that's not representative of your target population unless your target population is just everyone you know and everyone they know, which for most things it is not the case. And so the reason that in some ways that kind of market research is worse than none at all is because it gives you a false sense of security, that you're making decisions based on data because you've got charts and tables. But the output is only as good as the input. And that input so heavily influenced by the quality of the questions and especially of the what's called the sample, the people that are answering the survey.
Sharon: Really good points and, you know, it has me think about and I know this is something we've talked about before Lara, I just feel like market research for small business is so under utilised. And I don't know if it's because people like me who just didn't know about it. Right. But it feels like it gives such a more strategic perspective. You know, if I'm looking at expansion to to do it strategically, I'd rather spend, I don't know, whatever amount to to really know that I've got a good, good product, that people really do want it, that there's a market there waiting for me versus like a stab in the dark. Anything else you want to emphasize about, you know, what people maybe don't know about market research and how it might be able to help them in their business?
Lara: It can be affordable. You can seek out an independent person. Sometimes market researchers refer to me because if you're in an agency like. I'm in my office, I don't have like 50 millennials demanding unlimited espresso to keep them working for me. I don't have that kind of overhead. I can keep going.
Lara: There are some advantages of going with a small business or sole practitioner because you have the especially when you are a startup, you have that handholding and you know directly who you're talking to. And it's going to be a lot more affordable. I mean, most of my projects are between like thirty five hundred and fifteen thousand dollars, which is not a small amount of money. But considering if you're going for venture capital money, angel investors or just any sort of money infusion, you're going to want to have those quantitative, which is the charts and tables and numbers and ideally qualitative, which is more of that customer journey, the the interviews, the voice of the consumer to make a case for why why someone should invest in you and believe in you because you don't have huge sales data behind you. So you need some proof of concept. And so besides the insights it gives you to metaphorically sharpen the tools you used to get to where you're going, it also provides peace of mind to people that might be investing in you.
Sharon: Yeah, absolutely. Well, as always, it was highly informative talking to you. And I hope this video sparks some small business owners and professionals to want to reach out to you. What's the best way for someone to connect with you?
Lara: Sure. I mean, I'm... I use LinkedIn a lot, so. And I'm the only Lara Fordis on LinkedIn. So that's probably the best way to reach me. But also, you can reach me at Lara... firstname.lastname@example.org or through my website at fordisconsulting.com. And I really do enjoy talking to startups and entrepreneurs and actually all clients and potential clients because I do want to empower people to know how to get information, how to get it affordably, and how to have the peace of mind before they're making big investment decisions.
Sharon: Great. So important. Thank you, Lara. Signing off. Yeah. And we'll talk again soon.
Lara: OK, thanks Sharon. Have a great day.
Sharon: You too.