Why Conduct Market Research?

The goal of doing market research is to equip yourself with the information you need to make informed business decisions about start-up, innovation, growth, and the 4 P's:

Product — Improve your product or service based on findings about what your customers really want and need. Focus on things like function, appearance and customer service or warranties.

Price — Set a price based on popular profit margins, competitors' prices, financing options or the price a customer is willing to pay.

Placement — Decide where to set up and how to distribute a product. Compare the characteristics of various locations and the value of points of sale (retail, wholesale, online).

Promotion — Figure out how to best reach particular market segments (teens, families, students, professionals, etc.) in areas of advertising and publicity, social media, and branding.

Basic questions to answer with market research:

  1. Who are your customers? Describe them in terms of age, occupation, income, lifestyle, educational attainment.

  2. What do they buy now? Describe their buying habits relating to your product or service, including how much they buy, their favored suppliers, the most popular features, and the predominant price points.

  3. Why do they buy? Depends on the product and its uses.

  4. What will make them buy from you? Use detailed information about markets, sales figures, and consumer buying motivations.

Types of Market Research

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 competitor’s plans into account, giving you information about your competition.

How can you collect primary research?

  • Interviews (either by phone 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

Some important questions might include:

  • What factors do you consider when purchasing this product or service?

  • What do you like or dislike about current products or services currently on the market?

  • What areas would you suggest for improvement?

  • What is the appropriate price for a product or service?

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--people who live a certain lifestyle, exhibit behavioral patterns, or fall into a predetermined age group.

Collecting Data

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.

Types of Research

  • Experimental Research – involves manipulating condition and studying effects

  • Correlation Research – involves studying the relationships among variables within a particular group, and frequently suggests the possibility of cause and effect

  • Survey Research – involves describing the characteristics of a group by means of such instruments as interview schedules, questionnaires, and tests.

Two categories of data collection: quantitative and qualitative.

Quantitative (Experimental, Single-subject, correlation, causal-comparative, survey)

Qualitative (Ethnographic, historical)

Observation Techniques

  • Structured

  • Unstructured

  • Controlled

  • Uncontrolled

  • Non-Participant Disguised

  • Participant

Common Marketing Mistakes

  1. Using only secondary research.

Relying on the published work of others doesn't give you the full picture. It can be a great place to start, of course, but the information you get from secondary research can be outdated. You can miss out on other factors relevant to your business.

  1. Using only web resources.

When you use common search engines to gather information, you get only data that are available to everyone and it may not be fully accurate. To perform deeper searches while staying within your budget, use the resources at your local library, college campus, or small-business center.

  1. Surveying only the people you know

Small-business owners sometimes interview only family members and close colleagues when conducting research, but friends and family are often not the best survey subjects. To get the most useful and accurate information, you need to talk to real customers about their needs, wants, and expectations.

Industry Due Diligence – for comparative purposes, consider:

  1. Companies of relative size.

  2. Companies serving the same geographic area, which could be global if you are planning to be a web-based business.

  3. Companies with a similar ownership structure. If your business has two partners, look for businesses run by a couple of partners rather than an advisory board of 12.

  4. Companies that are relatively new. While you can learn from long-standing businesses, they may be successful today because of their 25-year business history and reputation.

You’ll want to use the data you’ve gathered not only to determine how much business you could possibly do but also to figure out how you’ll fit into and adapt to the marketplace.

Follow these steps to spending your market research dollars wisely:

1. Determine what you need to know about your market. The more focused the research, the more valuable it will be.

2. Prioritize the results of the first step. You can’t research everything, so concentrate on the information that will give you the best (or quickest) payback.

3. Review less-expensive research alternatives. Small Business Development Centers and the Small Business Administration can help you develop customer surveys. Your trade association will have good secondary research. Be creative.

4. Estimate the cost of performing the research yourself. Keep in mind that with the internet you should not have to spend a ton of money. If you’re considering hiring a consultant or a researcher, remember this is your dream, these are your goals, and this is your business. Don’t pay for what you don’t need.

Applications of Market Research

Marketing research activities can be divided into 4 main strategic categories:

  1. Market Analysis

  2. Identifying and evaluating opportunities

  3. Competitive analysis

  4. Market Segmentation

  5. Analyzing market segments and selecting target markets

  6. Marketing Strategy

  7. Planning and implementing a marketing mix

  8. Analyzing marketing performance

Steps to complete market research:

  1. Formulating the research problem

  2. Extensive literature review

  3. Developing the objectives

  4. Preparing the Research Design including Sample Data

  5. Collecting the Data