Welcome to the January Highland Business Research Newsletter

Article: How Hercule Poirot can improve your business research

How Hercule Poirot can improve your business research

"It is the brain, the little grey cells on which one must rely."

As the great Belgian detective himself declared, "Try and vary your methods as you will, your tastes, your habits, your attitude of mind, and your soul is revealed by your actions."

Handily, his words don't just apply to fictitious murder suspects. Great detectives (even the fictional ones) are by their very nature great researchers. And they know it's the human aspect, the little grey cells, which really matter.

After all, what is research? It is the process of gathering appropriate evidence - evidence about human beings and their behaviour. Evidence that is hidden or hard to find and evidence that is right there in plain view.

Research is also the process of organising that evidence in order to see the gaps, themes and contradictions.

And of course, research is the process of analysing that evidence appropriately and accurately, in order to drive correct assumptions from it.

Sounds a lot like detective work to me - though thankfully less fraught with danger.

The DIY Research route

I'm fully aware that it is not always affordable or desirable to have an external agency conducting your business research. And of course, most great detectives tend to be fictional or unavailable.

That's why we're currently developing the Data Detective Kit - a practical DIY research kit with tips, tools and Excel templates to help you get better business results from your research. We'll highlight the things to think about and look out for that can make the difference between useful research and wasted effort.

This means better business decisions from the research you conduct yourself - so more revenue earned and fewer costly mistakes.

So the most important DIY research tools are those little grey cells - but evidence doesn't collect itself. There are many other tools that will help and they don't have to break the bank.

Four free tools that can help

As a quick Data Detective Kit taster, here are four free tools that can help you track down the evidence you need to answer key business questions:

1. Google alerts

Want to know what is being said about you online? Want to know what your competitors or clients are up to? Google Alerts lets you set up automatic email notifications based on key phrases of your choice (these could include names, phrases or companies). The search engine does the hard work and you get a daily summary of the pages and blog posts on which the phrases have appeared. Leaving you prepped to respond as appropriate.

2. Google analytics

Do you need to understand how people use your web site? Do you know where your traffic arrives from, which pages cause people to leave in droves and how cost effective your web advertising activities really are? Do you know what language your web visitors speak or the search terms they used to find you? Google Analytics (and other similar tools) can help. It's a powerful tool, so it takes some work on your part to really get the full benefits. But if your business is online, understanding how to make your website work harder is a research must.

3. Neighbourhood data

Scotland Neighbourhood data and also England and Wales Neighbourhood data

If you are selling direct to consumers, there is a potential research goldmine in the customer postcode data you hold. Not only can it help you define and map your geographic catchment areas, it can provide valuable demographic information about the characteristics of your customers, based on where they live. You may not know much about the age, wealth, housing types, education and health of your individual customers, but you can get a good impression from their postcodes, using national statistics collected by the government.

4. Surveymonkey

Need to find out more about your customers or website visitors? Want to find out how satisfied customers are with your service? Surveymonkey is a handy tool that lets you produce online questionnaires and surveys. A good survey involves asking the right questions, in the right format, to the right people at an appropriate time - and no tool can do that kind of thinking for you. But Surveymonkey can help you easily build, circulate and collate responses to your research questions and if used well, it's a great tool for DIY research.

Think like a detective

As Hercule Poirot and his little grey cells demonstrate, taking a detective like approach in your gathering and analysis of evidence improves the likelihood of reaching a correct outcome. And in business terms, if you can directly improve the quality and usefulness of your DIY research, you can make better decisions and directly improve your profits.

Coming soon - the Data Detective Kit

The Data Detective Kit - a practical DIY research kit - will be launched in March. To register your potential interest (with absolutely no commitment) simply sign up here for more details.

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