Market Research Methods for Small Businesses

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Whether you’re starting a small business from home or you’re launching a corporation, market research is an essential part of making sure your business venture is ready for the real world. Read on for our essential market research tips for small businesses.

Whether you’re just getting started with your company or you’re a time-tested veteran, solid market research is at the heart of any successful business venture. In order to construct a strong business plan (and be sure not to forget about our free business template !), as well as to keep a company thriving, market research should be carried out when you’re getting started, launching new products, services, or campaigns, and generally whenever you need to determine the next move for your enterprise.

The foundation of good market research is asking carefully thought-out questions to the right people. Companies can either hire a third party to conduct their market research or do it themselves. Here, we’ll run down basic market research methods for small businesses and points to keep in mind to ensure that you get the most from your hard work.

Methods

Analytics and Statistics

Make sure to make good use of the statistics and analytics available to your company for free. Collecting basic statistic information on market shares in your industry, the median income of your chosen marketing personas, and more, gives you a useful bird’s-eye-view of the climate surrounding your business venture. Google Analytics is indispensable for your company’s website, as are social media analytics.

Interviews

These can be conducted in-person or face-to-face, but you should arrive knowing specifically what you want to find out from the customer and have questions prepared that will help you reach a conclusion. During your interview and after establishing your baseline with the participant (overview questions about their day to day life), you’ll bring your participant through three notable stages in the conversation about the goods and/or services that your company offers.

  • Awareness is knowing when your participant became aware of your enterprise and what the circumstances were that led to their interaction with it. What piqued their interest? Where did that interest lead? What other similar products are you aware of, and why did you or did you not choose them?
  • Consideration is getting more information about the participant’s experience with your brand as well as your competitors. How was customer service? Did you receive problem-solving help? How could your experience of both product and company have been improved?
  • Decision is understanding the participant’s foremost priorities when deciding upon where to purchase a good or service. Asking about what is most important to consumer’s during their buying experience is a good way to understand why they make certain choices, and therefore to tailor your company’s customer service, as well as the enterprise’s general offer, to what is most important to your important marketing personas.

Afterwards, it’s always a good idea to leave the floor open to your participant for them to ask you questions: it can be surprising what informations participants can bring to the table simply through what they’re curious about regarding the goods and services your company offers. Of course, be sure to thank your participant for sharing their time and knowledge, and be sure to end the interaction with your interviewees on a positive note.

Surveys and Questionnaires

Sending these out via email or having them available on your website can be helpful in several contexts. Short, one- or two-question long surveys on your site can help customers to communicate their preferences or to gauge their interest in a new product or service. Longer questionnaires are also helpful for gathering more general market research, such as when you are launching your company or if you plan to roll out a new service: what are your customers looking for? What matters most to them?

Focus Groups

Using focus groups is helpful in many contexts, but especially when rolling out new products and advertising campaigns. Select a group that corresponds to your marketing personas and who you consider to be your ideal customer, and make sure to listen attentively and openly to the insight they offer you during the study.

Widen the Scope

  • Primary Research is the point in your marketing research where you are researching your company’s potential business and clients. Your marketing personas (hypothetical individuals of a certain age, income bracket, family size, location, gender, and life challenges) are used here in order to select your participants for interviews and focus groups. If you’re doing your market research yourself, there are several ways for you to source participants — individuals who recently did business with your company, as well as individuals who considered doing business with you but opted out, your social media followings, and offering small perks in exchange for participation is a solid (and almost free!) way for you to select individuals who are appropriate for directing your primary research.
  • Secondary Research comes after you’ve analyzed your customers in relation to your business venture, it’s important to analyze your competition. Other companies can compete partially, entirely, or from a content-based perspective with your company, and it’s important to determine on what level your competitors are competing with your goods and/or services. Take a look at G2 Crowd in order to see more information about other businesses in your milieu. Find recent market reports to get a general forecast in your business area.

Conducting market research is time- and labour-intensive, but it’s the only reliable way to make sure that you understand the state of your market as well as the mindset of your most important customer archetypes before your business makes its move, whether that be launching the enterprise or simply rolling out a new product. The goal of solid market research should be understanding consumer behaviour and knowing your competition: by cross-referencing your marketing personas’ experiences and priorities with the offer available from your competitors, you’re in a better position to decipher where there is a market niche waiting to be filled. Through combining good customer service and good customer understanding, you can feel even more confident that your company is heading in the right direction. Don’t forget to work your market research into your business plan, either: attracting investors is that much easier when you can show that you’ve done your homework, and can justify how your business plan will work with real-world clients.

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