Each year, businesses across the nation spend millions of dollars on research. Montana Tech wants to do it for free.
An upper-level marketing class is looking for businesses to partner with for research that would include sending “secret shoppers” to Butte establishments.
“That outside view is a perspective that can be really valuable to businesses,” Tech business professor Traci O’Neill said.
Students won’t just be sneaking in and out covertly; they’ll be working with businesses to gather additional market research and customize an assessment that can address specific concerns a business might have.
“They’re going to be conducting themselves very professionally,” O’Neill said, and gaining real-world experience in the process.
Butte businesses were unwittingly part of a similar project about five years ago, Butte Local Development Corp. Executive Director Jim Smitham said. The University of Montana Western in Dillon sent students, posing as customers, into several businesses to gather information.
“They had some pretty keen observations,” he said.
Part of the challenge of running a small business is to view things dispassionately.
“We’ve been doing the same thing for such a long time… to look at things from an objective perspective is hard,” O’Neill said.
“If the old adage was ‘that’s the way we’ve done it for 30 years and that’s the way we’ll always do it,’ that isn’t always the right road to go,” he said. “You always have to be evolving as our customer base evolves.”