How To Conduct Market Research As A Small Business
For businesses of any size and scale, market research is a critical component in achieving success. Market research tells you what products and services your customers need, help you find new audiences and marketing opportunities, and help you to expand into new markets. Through effective market research, you’ll be able to know if your idea will be a success before you’ve even launched it.
Market research can become incredibly expensive, with the amount of data that you can gather and analyze. Nonetheless, there are ways to make market research work as a small business on a lean budget.
Make sure you have a plan before you start to invest
With market research, there is no end to the different angles and research that you can undertake. Questionnaires, focus groups, competitive intelligence, third party research, SWOT analysis.
Each one of these will cost money, and the impact can rapidly stack up. So the first thing you need to do is look at the ideal outcomes – what do you want to know about your business, products, competitors, and demographics, and then structure the data that you gather around that goal.
The more razor-focused you can be at the specific piece of knowledge that you’re looking for, the less expensive that market research will end up costing you.
Find legitimate sources of secondary research
Google is both your best friend and worst enemy when it comes to market research. On the one hand, there is already so much research that is made available on websites, and then a simple Google search away. On the other hand, a lot of “research” and statistics shared over the Internet come from very dubious sources.
Secondary research is a key component of market research, as it can give you a broad view of market-wide trends and statistical changes. Rather than trust every figure you come across, or websites that are quoting figures that suit their own business objectives, it’s worth going straight to legitimate sources for the complete picture. These sources include (but are not limited to):
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics
- Industry/trade publications
- Industry trade bodies
Doing some research on sources of good quality secondary research that is relevant to your business, customers, and products is an invaluable way of getting access to, effectively, free-market insights.
Leverage free platforms where people gather
Social media has been a godsend for small businesses that want to gather insights about customers and attitudes. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and other platforms give you millions of potential people to reach if you can use these platforms properly.
The trick is in finding the relevant groups and sub-communities that are relevant to your market and participating in those communities. With social media, familiarity is critical, and the more people in groups get to know you, the more open they will subsequently be when you ask them questions or put surveys to them.
Additionally, spend time simply reading comments in these groups. You’ll quickly become familiar to the common complaints and issues that people have, which will give you valuable insight and ideas into how you can get the edge on your competition.
Market research platforms
Within each industry, there are platforms that can help you get access to market research. If you’re running a catering business, for example, FoodStorm collects customer data and builds mailing lists (allowing you to then survey people interested in food for their thoughts). It also collects feedback and features a full CRM system, which gives you immediate feedback regarding the performance of your business and how your customers are responding to you.
For small businesses, leveraging the customer base is an important opportunity that can’t be missed, as customers appreciate small businesses for personalized interactions. Rather than attempt to take research off strangers or the broad market, sometimes the best source of research data can come from asking a small sample of existing customers why they like your business.
Run a crowdfunding campaign
One of the quickest ways to find out if people love your product is to ask them to invest in it. A crowdfunding campaign allows you to ask the people of the Internet to “back” a project that you haven’t yet finished, with the expectation that, if you hit the “target” amount of money, they will get the finalized product once it has been completed. In other words, they pay up-front for something you’ll deliver a year or more down the track.
If you hit your target, then you’ve got affirmation that your idea has market credibility (and you’ve got your first set of customers). If you miss it, then you’ll have valuable feedback as to why customers aren’t investing in your product idea.
None of the above opportunities around market research are expensive – in fact, much of it is free, or part of your regular business processes. Being creative in looking at how you can get access to data and customer feedback can allow small businesses to get access to market research every bit as effective as what big business spends big on.