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What can a Cemetery teach us about the importance of Market Research?

Market Research

One Sunday which was one of those rare days when the hazy yellow ball was out and about – we went to the Sheffield General Cemetery to tag  on to the monthly guided tour.

What a place! Established in 1836, it contains the graves of 87,000 people including great industrialists, shopkeepers and confectioners. People like Mark Firth, The Cole Brothers, John, Thomas and Skelton and George Bassett and Allsorts of others! (sic)

Neglected, but not derelict, buildings, grave stones resting at peculiar angles, elaborate monuments all on a carpet of nature’s tangled undergrowth of trees, plants,  weeds and brambles kept at bay by a gallant team of volunteers .

The perfect setting for a hazy night, a partly clouded sky and a full moon – but stick to the path!

Our guide had the brain the size of a planet, the knowledge of an encyclopaedia, he made the tour – well... live.   

So what has all this got to do with you and Market Research?  Well, the story of the Sheffield General Cemetery is living proof that there is nothing new under the sun and that the lessons of the past can help us today but only if we learn from them.

In brief, a group of prominent business men in the city, aware of the growing problem of a lack of burial plots in the crowded central churchyards of Sheffield, decided to collectively invest in an “out of town” cemetery that would provide a place of burial. One that the great and the good would be happy to pay good money to rest in.

However, the company that was formed to run the cemetery as a business got into difficulties and had to seek help and financial support to survive. Our guide held back the reason for this until toward the end of the tour when all was revealed.

The cemetery was located on a great site with views to die for and relatives wanted to erect elaborate and expensive memorials to their loved ones – which they did – for others to envy and admire.

However, the prominent business men had planned on selling a more discreet and exclusive product for their customers – catacombs. With origins in the Roman Empire and more recently in 18th century Paris, catacombs were to be sold at premium prices to secure the future of the cemetery company.

It was the assumption that the catacombs would appeal to the families of the wealthy deceased that led to the downfall of the cemetery company.

History does not tell us if market research was carried out or not, but either way,  the company produced a product that nobody (sic) wanted and to this day all but three of the catacombs remain empty.

The key lesson here is never to assume you know anything until you have asked a question or two and depending on the ratio of investment to risk, you may need to ask a lot more questions.

Market research is not only good for “GO” and “NO GO” decisions. There are so many elements that form part of the selling mix and all of them can make a huge difference to the profitability of your business.

So what do you need to know in order to sell more?

Draw up your list of question and find out the answers.

If you would like more help about market research please get in touch or better still book a free review session simply:

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