There’s more to market research than typing some generic questions into Google. If you want to gain useful insights, you’ll need to know exactly what you want to find out. Here’s how to conduct market research to get valuable results.
Before you get started, take a few moments to analyse your business and get a sense of the information you’d like to uncover. You can use the ‘SWOT’ method to get a thorough overview; the acronym stands for:
- Strengths – Ask yourself: What advantages does your business have over others in the industry? You could probably wax lyrical about its plus points, but reducing them to a series of clear bullet points will help you see things more clearly.
- Weaknesses – Try to be open and honest about your business’s flaws to get a better understanding of where you can improve and what information you’ll need as you move forward.
- Opportunities – Consider your market’s potential and where you see yourself going in the future; this is probably the most important part of the review.
- Threats – Any business has to fend off threats, which can come in a variety of guises. Consider any factors that might affect your goals, from competitors to sector-specific legislation and bank charges.
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Once you’ve completed the SWOT analysis, you should have a good idea of the sort of information you’d like to find during your market research initiative. Next, you’ll need to refine your questions…
Ask the right questions to get the right answers
While some people say you can never have too much information, there’s little point doing market research for the sake of it. Developing a carefully designed fact-finding programme based around specific questions will save you time and effort.
To give you a rough idea of the sort of insights you might be interested in gaining, take a look at Five Questions to Ask When Doing Market Research.
Market research methods
So, how can you go about finding the answers to your questions? There are three main ways to conduct market research. Here’s a quick overview of your options:
- Use a market research company - Outsource the job to a specialist firm. It’ll collect data to determine whether a product or service matches the needs of your consumer base and provide valuable insight into economic shifts, market trends and customer spending habits.
- Do your own market research - You could contact your local library’s Trade Directory or get in touch with the nearest Chamber of Commerce to get an overview of local businesses.
- Find data online - There’s plenty of market research resources online; organisations like the Office for National Statistics, Mintel, Equiniti and Data Monitor can all provide the sort of information you’re after. While this data can come with a hefty price tag, it’ll offer a level of insight you’d never be able to access on your own.
For the best results, use each option and compare the information you uncover. Consistent findings will give you the confidence you need to develop a successful business in your local area.
How to conduct market research that actually addresses your business’s needs
We’ve covered the basics, so let’s get to the most important bit: using market research to address business needs effectively. To get real, insight-driven results, you’ll need to frame your research around measurable data.
Once you’ve established a set of questions or focus points, the best way to gather useful, constructive information is to get feedback directly from your customers. The most illuminating market research programmes will always involve gaining insight from the people who matter most to your business.
There are many ways you can find out what your customers think of your organisation - here are some of the best ones:
Watch customers or your target market to see how they use and react to certain products or services. If you run a retail business, you could quietly observe them in a rival store or hire a mystery shopper to do this for you. Notice how customers navigate the shop, what they buy and how much they spend.
If you plan to run an online business, you could enlist the help of willing participants in a scheduled research session. Use eye-tracking technology to see how they find their way around your website and which areas draw their attention.
By sending surveys to potential customers, you can discover the answers to any specific questions you may have. You could also create a check-box questionnaire to allow participants to rate their response on a spectrum.
These days, answering a survey can be a quick and easy affair. Send out your questions via email, or ask them over the phone. You could even invite potential customers to answer them in person and give respondents the chance to enter a prize draw as a thank you.
Just make sure you survey a broad range of demographics so your responses accurately reflect the market.
Sometimes, conducting an interview can be a great way to collect high volumes of useful insight. During a one-to-one discussion, ask a number of pre-prepared questions or just let the conversation flow freely.
Interviews can be helpful if you’d like to get upfront feedback, but they should never be intimidating or stressful. You could thank participants with money, vouchers or a gift.
Invite a group of 8-12 participants to discuss your products or services. You could focus on a specific social group, from relatively vague demographics such as local university students to fairly specific ones, like Bristol-based tennis players over the age of 50.
A representative from your business should lead the discussion, asking pre-determined questions or pursuing specific subjects raised by participants. Of course, the rep should avoid getting too involved in the discussion. Instead, they should allow attendees to have a natural and honest conversation about the business.
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Field experiments and trials
If you’d like to test how effective your products, services or advertising efforts are, you could use a trial. Often, this involves handing over two slightly different products or webpages to the trial participants and finding out which results in more sales.
The suitability of each option for a business will vary depending on the business’ market research budget and the type of products or services it provides. But, by using one of these methods or mixing and matching approaches, you can ensure that your business has a place in the market in the long run.
Hopefully, this article has helped you find out more about how to conduct market research and use it to grow your business. Ultimately, the most valuable thing you can do is focus on understanding customer needs and developing specific questions or areas of interest to gather measurable, insight-driven results.
You can find more information on all aspects of building a business in our informative articles - or use the search box if you’d like to learn more about a certain topic.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©