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Market research made simple

Market research is a fundamental aspect of business strategy. We’ve all spotted researchers loitering around shopping malls hoping we’ll spare a few minutes, or handing out surveys at the end of a gig, seminar or retail experience. Feedback is the name of the game. Market research is not conducted to irritate the general public, it’s used by large and small businesses the world over, in order to find out how they are performing and what people’s consumption habits are.

It’s very useful, but how do you go about it?

Market research checklist

What’s the goal?

Market research is intended to help your business become more profitable and competitive in your chosen market. The last thing you want is to conduct market research, only to find your data is useless and the whole thing has been a waste of time and money. So first decide on the goals of your research. List them. Debate them. Agree on them.

The kinds of questions you might be asking yourself are:

  • Is there a gap in the market we can fill?
  • Does our service meet the needs of the customer?
  • Who exactly are our audience/clientèle/customers?
  • Are my prices reflective of the cost of production and quality, and what people are willing to pay?

Research your subject

In the initial stages, focus on research that will help make better decisions about your market research project. This means you’ll need to understand the subject first, before making informed decisions. So, let’s say you own an antiques shop: delve into your businesses history and research other businesses to see where you might be missing a key ingredient for success. Then focus your research on this aspect.

You may want to find out:

  • How your rivals’ brands and products are perceived
  • How people respond to your advertisements
  • What consumers value about your most popular items?
  • The socioeconomic status of your customers

Types of market research

Market research is split into two categories: primary research and secondary research. The goal of primary research is to gather data by analysing sales and practises for your business and competitor. The goal of secondary research is to analyse data that is already out there.

Primary research may include:

  • Face-to-face and telephone interviews
  • Direct mail or online surveys
  • In-depth interviews
  • Focus groups

Secondary research may include:

  • Data collection from your target demographic on social media
  • Identifying and conducting research on a competitor
  • Researching published data about your area of business

Planning ahead

So now you know what your goals are and you’ve conducted independent research to help you along. Now you need a plan to carry out your market research. Doing so will ensure you use your time and resources wisely. This can mean anything from choosing a time frame when to carry it out, creating surveys, organizing interviews and focus groups, and designating tasks to individual team members.

When drawing up a plan:

  • Brainstorms ensure the plans put forward are effective
  • Make sure everyone agrees on the plan
  • Check the plan for human error (double bookings etc.)
  • The plan should be flexible

A costly endeavour

Carrying out market research can be costly like all aspects of marketing. Let’s say you organize a focus group with eight participants per group, the market research company CSR quote a cost of $6,000 (£3,500) for a 90-minute session. For Hosted Survey, phone surveys can vary from $5,000 and $15,000 (£2,920 and £8,750) dependent on how many people are included.

Make sure your research is cost effective by:

  • Giving yourself a budget you stick to
  • Outlining your goals from the beginning
  • Taking financial advice from a trusted expert
  • Thinking through every eventuality