Whether you have a new business or product idea, want to make changes to an existing product line, or want to reach out to newer markets, feeling the pulse of the market is among the first things you should address.
Why? As professionals closely involved in the everyday operation of a business, it’s easy and natural to have a bias in favor of the product or service. This bias, can often cloud the judgment.
Acceptance of an idea by consumers is the best measure of its pending success. The first step would be to check what your target audience thinks of any change you plan to make. Whether it is budget constraints or an inherent belief in the idea, market research is often a crucial step that many businesses skip.
Market research need not be an expensive endeavor or a time-consuming one. Handled correctly, it saves businesses rude shocks and costly course corrections. It can also go a long way toward giving you a head-start in your marketing efforts and may even add potential customers to your pipeline. This article provides a basic seven-step outline for conducting market research — so read on.
While it may seem obvious, it isn’t always easy to closely define the target market for many businesses. It’s easy to expect the world to be your customer — and it may even be so. However, when starting on a marketing plan, it’s important to define the target customer as clearly as possible. Some businesses create personas for the customers they would like to reach and picture them in all their marketing efforts. Start with simple metrics like:
The answers to many of these customers can come from past customers if you have the records.
It’s important to know exactly what answers you would like to find through the research. The answer to “Will they buy?” may be what you are looking for, but try and get more specific with things like:
Before starting the market research, you need to be able to define the specific questions you would like the research to answer.
While defining the questions, try and focus on a single idea if possible. If a single research tries to find answers to too many different questions, it can get diluted, lose focus and the answers may not always be reliable. The more focused the research, the better. If you can narrow it down to one key question, it would be the best possible way to do the research.
Once you have arrived at the broad objectives of the research, narrow them down to the specific needs. Where should it be conducted, among what type of consumers? Should it be online research or offline? Questions like these will help create a framework. The answers to all steps above will allow you to decide whether you need to do qualitative research or quantitative research.
The next step is to arrive at the specific group from within the target segment that you would like to run the research on. While doing this, you need to arrive at the minimum sample size, and provide buffers for no-response or unavailable individuals.
Before rolling out, create the exact execution strategy. This would include: choosing the research medium, collaterals, demos, and/or prototypes if any. Once you have all this in place, you are ready to execute the market research plan.
As you get ready to kick start the research, you also need to have a plan for collating and analyzing the data quickly and efficiently. This may or may not include acquiring analysis tools and formulating the analysis guidelines.
Once you gather the data and get the analyzed reports, interpreting the information can be the key element. This is another area where business bias can skew the information toward the management’s favor. Objectivity without a bias in data interpretation is key to the success of market research.
While it looks complex, market research need not be time consuming or expensive. However, it is important that market research is done by specialists with experience — to ensure objectivity, efficiency and consistency. It will also make sure that the data, analysis and interpretation is representative of market sentiment. This will allow you to make course corrections — if needed — early and save valuable resources and costs in the long run.