Market research has become a buzzword within the business world. The onset of the internet makes it possible to easily reach thousands of people within your target market in a second, and you can swiftly drown in the resulting information flood. Consumers are unpredictable: should your business change to keep pace with every customer impulse and demand? Is there a way to conduct valid, useful market analysis that you can use to make informed decisions regarding your business? How important is market research?
Understanding how to efficiently and effectively perform market research can not only help you grow and expand your business, it can help you identify the areas within your company that need improvement. When you conduct marketing research, you can use the results either to create a business and marketing plan or to measure the success of your current plan. That's why it's important to ask the right questions, in the right way, of the right people. Research, done poorly, can steer a business in the wrong direction. Here are some market-research basics that can help get you started and some mistakes to avoid.
Primary Research: The goal of primary research is to gather data from analyzing current sales and the effectiveness of current practices. Primary research also takes competitors' plans into consideration, giving you information about your competition. Collecting primary research includes:
- Interviews (either by telephone or face-to-face)
- Surveys (online or by mail)
- Questionnaires (online or by mail)
- Focus groups gathering a sampling of potential clients or customers and getting their direct feedback
Secondary Research: The goal of secondary research is to analyze data that has already been published. With secondary data, you can identify competitors, establish benchmarks and identify target segments. Your segments are the people who fall into your targeted demographic i.e. people who live a certain lifestyle, exhibit particular behavioral patterns or fall into a predetermined age group.
No small business can succeed without understanding its customers, its products and services, and the market in general. Competition is often fierce, and operating without conducting research may give your competitors an advantage over you.