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September 30, 2013

Underwater Client Research

September 30, 2013

Research is significant part of our process at SmallBox. From customer surveys and stakeholder interviews to immersing ourselves in the online communities of our clients, we start every relationship with “discovery” research. Among other things, the discovery phase helps us to identify opportunities and set realistic goals. It’s also one of the things I love most about marketing – lifelong learning.

Recently, I dove (literally) into a non-traditional type of research for Scubaba.com. The new business venture and SmallBox client is an online service that connects divers with dive shops, making it easier for divers to research, review and/or reserve their dive trips.

During one of our early meetings, we learned that members of Scubaba’s internal team were working towards their scuba certifications as a way to better understand the industry. Industry research taken to the level of a certification, that’s pretty rare. We loved it, and we wanted in.


The very next day, I purchased some equipment and showed up for class. The certification required 16 hours of class and pool time, a decent amount of homework, and a weekend of checkout dives. And while I may have whined a bit about the cold water temps, the verdict is that it was incredibly worthwhile!
What I walked away with:

  • A boat-load of ideas for website, blog, and social media content
  • A deeper understanding of industry terms, equipment, and skills
  • Actual hands-on experience
  • New friends who are diving extraordinaires and enthusiasts (UX test subjects!)
  • A new appreciation and personal interest for the sport

While an entire certification process may not be applicable or possible for all clients (no, it wasn’t billable time), this has made me consider ways to enhance other client research. For fellow marketers, here are few ideas I added to my list:

  • Sit in on a client’s company meeting when marketing is not on the agenda
  • Visit the office/storefront
  • Know a friend or family member in the industry? What’s their take?
  • Secret shop their product or service
  • Visit with non-corporate company members (installers, deliverers, clerks, etc.)

Any others out there? Which non-traditional research methods have worked for you?

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