You've been around the block and you're confident that you know everything there is to know about your market.
The marketing team keeps nagging you about investing in market research, but you're convinced you already have all the information you need about the marketplace.
Unfortunately, that's the kind of misguided attitude that stands in the way of real marketing success. The problem is that the marketplace is constantly changing. Although owners and executives may have accurate information about previous markets conditions, without market research it's impossible to understand the needs and niche opportunities that currently exist.
Small business market research doesn't have to be expensive. With a little effort, you can conduct useful market research leveraging in-house resources. But whether you hire a professional or take a DIY approach, here are some of the steps you'll need to take along the way.
- Identify target markets. It's impossible to perform worthwhile market research until you have properly identified your target market. Your marketing strategy will likely target multiple market segments, so you should plan on doing market research for each targeted segment.
- Use primary and secondary research. Secondary research includes articles, white papers and studies about market research efforts that have been performed by others. This type of research has a certain value, but it can't replace primary research – your own research interactions with the people who will actually buy your product or service.
- Avoid focus group shortcuts. Finding market research volunteers is time-consuming. Although it's tempting to conduct market research using friends or family members, don't do it! The results will be skewed and you will be directed down rabbit trails that are ultimately ineffective in the actual marketplace.
- Go beyond Google. If you market research plan relies primarily on a quick Google search, you're in big trouble. The Internet can be a great source of information about marketplace realities. But in the end, you won't find the kind of information you need online – or at least not through a search engine. If you're intent on using online market research, explore the possibility of leveraging social networking sites for your research activities.
- Stay committed. Actionable market research is a long, time-consuming process. The worst thing you can do is to quit halfway through the process. Make a firm commitment to your market research efforts and create accountability mechanisms to drive the process.