Every small business needs to understand its market – both customers and competitors – in order to be successful. Whatever sector you’re in, you need to know the economics of your target, who your competition is, what people will pay for your service and when they are likely to buy. Do this market research early on so that you focus on the right sector and services to fill a demand.
Competition is no longer restricted to local companies because we live in a global economy. No matter what product or service you offer competition can come from anywhere and your customer could be located across the globe.
There are five main steps in the market research process:
1) What questions do you need answers to?
2) What information do you need to collect in order to answer those questions?
3) How are you going to collect the information?
4) How are you going to analyze that information?
5) What will you do with the results?
Market research is something that should happen throughout the life of your business, not just at the beginning. You’ll want to conduct research when you are thinking of offering a new product or service or if the economic or social climate has changed in your area or industry.
Primary research can be done in a number of ways. You can create online or offline surveys or questionnaires. You might also set up focus groups consisting of potential clients or customers. You can conduct interviews either in person or over the phone. If you’re already established, you can ask existing customers for feedback or input.
Some possible questions might include:
1) What factors do you consider when purchasing this product or service?
2) What do you like/dislike about similar products/services currently on the market?
3) What areas could be improved?
4) What is a fair price for a product/service?
Secondary research can be done through the collection of data that is already published. You can look online for information about potential competitors. This type of research should be used in combination with primary research as often what is published online can become outdated quickly. Check out resources at your local library or small business center to compliment what you find online.
Here are some useful tools that can help with your market research:
Survey Monkey – Set up and track responses to simple surveys
Moody’s Analytics – – provides economic, financial and consumer credit data, research, analysis and forecasting at the national and subnational levels for the U.S. and Canada
Hoovers – a division of D&B provides reports on industries and companies
Statistics Canada – Census Profile info –
Statistics Canada – Search for information on dozens of topics from Aboriginal peoples to Travel and tourism
Scott’s Directories – for business contact information
What other tools have you used to help with your market research?
MarnieHughes is an SEO copywriter, author and online marketer. She works with small and medium-sized businesses to develop their marketing and communications and expand their customer base.
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