Carrying out market research is simpler than it sounds. If you don’t have the budget to commission a market research firm, invest your time instead and do it yourself.
Begin by deciding exactly what you want to find out.
Some basic questions might be:
To find the answers you can:
Once you have a general picture of your industry area, you can drill down for more detail. Some ideas:
Complete this homework before you commit to starting the business. Combine the evidence to decide whether you could make enough profit to justify the risk. If you can’t bring the product or service to market at a price the market will pay, you may need to make some modifications or source cheaper supplies.
Continue market research once you’re up and running − it’s vital to sustaining your success. You don’t want to be left behind or miss opportunities. Research leads to more informed insights that turn into better decision making.
Create feedback systems
You can’t hope to improve your products and services unless you know what customers really think of them. Think about what kind of information you need and then design simple systems to retrieve this information.
For example, daily business dealings can enable you to capture customer details in a database that will improve your marketing. Besides contact details, decide what else you need to find out:
Train your staff
Explaining the importance of ongoing market research to your staff will help to gain their co-operation. Their feedback from customer contacts can become an important part of your market research. Encourage them to ask customers questions such as:
"Think about what kind of information you need and then design simple systems to retrieve this information."
Ask staff to keep a record of interesting snippets and feedback from customers so this information is not forgotten.
Hold regular meetings to discuss how the feedback could be used to improve the business. Make them aware of any business changes or improvements you do put in place and be sure to give recognition to individuals for good ideas or research gathered.
Existing customers are an important source of new ideas, but unhappy customers who leave can often be the most fruitful source of business improvements. Make a point of contacting them to find out why they left and finish by asking “What changes do we need to make to win you back as a customer?”
Future opportunities and threats
Another important function of market research is spotting both new opportunities and possible threats. Opportunities could be new trends in your industry such as better processes that could put you ahead of the pack. Threats might be disruptive technology that will make your product or service obsolete, or major new competition heading your way.
Assign staff members to specific market research. For example, a person with strong computer skills might focus on Internet research, such as competitors’ websites, or spotting international trends in your industry.
Remember to budget for market research. When you’re starting a business, you’ll need to put in some intensive market research. After start-up, set the budget by considering how important market research is to the continued health and growth of your business and what resources you’ll need to get the right information.
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