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Getting Dressed Up In The Guerilla Suit

How do you generally get feedback about your business?  Well, for most businesses, "feedback" is reflected in the sales figures.  But that’s not the whole story, obviously.

  • Are you offering feedback surveys?
  • Do you follow up with customers in person?
  • Do you have a “suggestion box”?
  • Have you reached out through social media and started an online dialogue?
  • Are you using pro-active web chat on your website to get direct input from your visitors?

Hopefully, you’ve already done at least one of these things.  If not, get cracking!  If you have, though, you may also want to consider…

…another simple (but extraordinarily informative) method.

Maybe there are some things that you’re dying to know or perhaps you just want people’s impressions of your company or website. One easy little Guerilla exercise can give you a crystal clear understanding of how the external world views your brandand act as a tactic to get movement within your organization (i.e. a tool for greasing the wheels of internal politics).

Armed with a video-enabled smart phone or a flip camera, go to whatever location you feel your target market is likely to visit.  Don’t worry if your target market isn’t your "actual" market.  Keep in mind that people who have not yet tried your product may still have an opinion about your company.  (Even shoppers who have not actually bought a product on can still comment on their "experience."  And, boy, do they.)

So, go to Starbucks and offer passersby a free Starbucks card to spend 10 minutes with you. You could ask a series of questions (to gather impressions), or have a laptop available so that you can tape a customer using your website for the first time (to gather information about usability).

The best types of things to find out are perceptions, not behaviors. Unfortunately, questions about future or past behaviors are rather unreliable. Testing has proved that you really cannot predict buying behavior. People are famous for answering one way on a survey and then behaving entirely differently.

To that end, avoid questions such as:
* Are you likely to buy Rockstar energy drink today?
* If we told you “X,” would it increase your likelihood of buying Rockstar?

Instead, consider asking questions like:
* Have you heard of RockStar energy drink?
* What do you think about it?
* What does it make you feel?

It’s important to note that you have to be incredibly disciplined to not answer the questions yourself; just note the responses.

Naturally, there is an art to approaching people and asking questions. There are experts that you can hire to do this, of course.  But if you want a little sliver of the idea–without the expense–just do some informal research on your own.

Be aware that this D.I.Y. approach is not scientific, but it can offer some valuable anecdotal information. It’s a good starting point…and a great place to begin a discussion and it can open the door to a bigger path.

Maybe 90% of it will be trash, but there may be some nugget that will be a new discovery or a key that will unlock the change wheels within your organization. Once you get a little bit of information, maybe you’ll consider hire someone to do your usability testing “for reals.”

Get out your iPhone and start asking some questions…and let me know what you find out!

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