Your Own Private Focus Group: Ticker Bench Lets Businesses Survey Locals

TRAVERSE CITY – A new online survey tool is allowing local businesses to get feedback on their products and services directly from the community they serve.

The Ticker Bench, a partnership of the Traverse City Business News and local market research firm Avenue ISR, caters to regional businesses that want to better understand potential and existing customers.

The Ticker Bench is a group of 500 willing survey-takers who respond to online surveys in exchange for being entered into cash drawings. Local businesses engage the Ticker Bench to write and conduct surveys and then compile and analyze the results. There is a flat fee for use of the service.

The service can help businesses determine growth strategies, identify customer service issues, or test new products, says Sherwood Smith, owner of Avenue ISR.

"So before spending a lot of money and time, let's get some perspective from people. Those are the kinds of things we're able to find out," says Smith. "It's about taking the guesswork out of a lot of these decisions, rather than assume you know. It's a very easy way to get some clear answers and some clear direction."

All 500 Ticker Bench participants may be surveyed, or a business can choose to survey a particular segment of this group. If a restaurant wanted, for instance, to survey only woman older than age 35 who dine frequently, that segment alone could be queried.

Recent Ticker Bench customers have included Cherry Capital Airport, Traverse City Christian Schools, the State Theatre, and Oryana Natural Foods Market.

Cherry Capital Airport Director Kevin Klein calls the use of the service invaluable.

"It was our first shot of doing a survey of this nature, and to get that size pool of people surveyed at a reasonable cost…it was a reasonable cost to gather that information versus hiring a consultant to develop the pool and put a survey together," he says. "It was a great experience to be able to use a firm locally to really understand the community's needs."

Oryana used the Ticker Bench to understand how well consumers of organic and natural products understood the organization. Within 48 hours, they had 350 detailed responses from a cross-section of the region, learning that the vast majority of prospective customers already were aware of the store. Instead, Oryana learned it should its marketing from simply trying to be "visible" to giving prospects specific reasons to shop at the store.

To learn more about the Ticker Bench, email BN