Thorough market research is essential to the success of small business’ especially. Why? Because research yields valuable information about consumers needs and preferences. Without that information, you will miss out on many potential sales and even lose previous customers. Of course, you don’t want that.
You may be thinking, though, “I did some research years ago or when I started my small business.” If so, that’s great. Yet, consumer profiles, needs, desires, and preferences change over time. You must adapt your business as they evolve. That probably means it’s time to do some (more) market research. But how? This post provides specific methods of performing market research for your business, so you can maximize your appeal to your audience and get more customers.
PS- Once you have that knowledge in place, apply it to the strategies in our sample marketing plans.
Guide to DIY Market Research
Establish Priorities Before You Begin
The research process can be time-consuming. Yet, not all information is pertinent to your current business objectives. Therefore, to make the most of the time you spend researching your market, you should establish priorities beforehand.
What are the most important things you need to determine about your target consumers? Do you need a more accurate understanding of their ages, educational background, job roles, lifestyles, buying habits or other aspects of their personas? Once you know what info you need to improve your business strategy, you can determine the right ways to go about getting it.
Conducting Your Market Research
There are many methods of researching your target market, as well as numerous sources of accurate, up-to-date info. Some are reliant on the help of willing consumers, while others are not. Consider some options available to you in both categories.
Consumer-Dependent Methods of Market Research
It’s easy to make assumptions about your website, products or services or even to become blind to serious flaws because of being so involved in their development. But, you don’t want to take an “I’m sure it’s fine” approach. Your decisions need to be based on facts so that you know you have the best chance of appealing to potential customers.
And who better to tell you what works and what doesn’t than consumers who match the profile of those potential customers?
Another way to get feedback is by getting a small group of consumers together to get their thoughts. Unlike other information collection methods, you have the opportunity to first explain what you’re trying to achieve with your brand’s messaging, products, services or specific features.
In doing so, your focus group will better be able to determine if you’ve been successful. They’ll also be able to give you great insights into what you need to do better or differently to appeal to people like them whom you want to become your customers.
Your surveys don’t need to be long, complex or even super serious to be effective. You can distribute your surveys in a variety of ways including in-store, by social media, on your website, and so on. What’s more, you can discover different perspectives by developing surveys for both potential and current customers.
Needless, to say, surveys allow much room for flexibility and can be a great source of information about your target market.
Independent Methods of Market Research
You might be surprised how much a simple search on Google, Bing or search engine of your choice can turn up. Be specific in your query as to what information you’re looking for. You’ll no doubt find several sources.
Keep in mind, though, that you only want updated information that’s relevant and can be used to benefit your business now.
You can gather a lot of information simply from being in your target audience’s environment. Nowadays, that environment is almost guaranteed to be on at least one social media platform. Some especially useful platforms for market research include LinkedIn, industry-specific Facebook groups, and the Q&A knowledge network Quora.
To find statistics and industry data, you can look to government sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can also check out information from trade associations and publications. Plus, academic institutions offer a wealth of valuable information based on recent studies and research.
After you’ve collected the info you need, what do you do with it? How do you use it to improve your marketing strategies?
Perform a SWOT Analysis
A what analysis? SWOT, which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What are you currently doing well? Based on your research, what do you need to improve? What external opportunities are available to you? What obstacles are standing in your way, including your toughest competitors? This honest analysis will help you to take the best next step.
Put Your Market Research to Use
Think back to your first step. You decided what you needed to know about your consumers most. The reason why you deemed that information important will determine how you use it to strengthen your small business’ marketing strategy.
For example, let’s say that your interest was in the buying habits of consumers. Buying habits include the preferred price, most loved features, and preferred suppliers. If you find that you have the highest price with less of the popular features than your competitors, what should you do? Make adjustments.
In the same way, your market research should inform all other business decisions you make. If it does, your small business will bring in and retain more customers than ever before. Never discount the benefits of thorough and deliberate market research!
Once you’ve done your market research, put that knowledge into action using one of our six sample marketing plans. Download the free plans below: