I was recently talking to a manufacturer’s CEO about the prospect of his company becoming a member in our Industrial Channel Research (ICR) program. He strongly embraced the idea of getting feedback from the marketplace; but said that his end users, channel partners and employees aren’t shy about coming to him with feedback already whenever they have something to say. So he already knows a lot.
I think that’s great and he should listen to this unsolicited feedback, but he needs to consider that it’s limited because it doesn’t provide perspective and balance.
Accepting unsolicited feedback comes with two downsides:
- First, it’s not comprehensive. The topics in unsolicited feedback are chosen by the people providing you feedback, not you, so the feedback is often isolated to one or two topics. It may indeed be an improvement opportunity, but you certainly have others. How important is this one? Remember, you can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want. You must prioritize. Getting a solid understanding of where your most high-value opportunities are requires thinking through all the aspects of the value you provide to any one group to get an assessment of which ones should be priorities.
- Second, you don’t know if it’s representative. When you only hear from a handful of people, you don’t know if it’s a common sentiment or just noise. If you want representative feedback, you need a much larger sample size… at least thirty people on a single topic.
The best way to foster comprehensive, representative feedback is to solicit feedback proactively from a large population against a comprehensive value proposition framework… and that’s what ICR is all about.
Bart Schwartz is President of Industrial Channel Research, a company focused on helping industrial manufacturers understand customer needs and perceptions. He can be reached at email@example.com.