Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from David Smith. Please read more about David in the bio footer.
Market research is a vital part of starting up any business, and continued success for existing businesses. It may seem like a mystery or something that is hard to do, but it basically boils down to smart research and evaluation of the data you collect.
Every business needs to know what products or services are needed, the target audience you’re trying to reach, the best way to go about offering your goods and services to potential customer, and how to hold onto current customers. For a small business this can mean the life or death of your company.
Before you jump in and spend a lot of your hard earned money and valuable time on market research, here’s ten things you should take care of before and during your market research for your small business.
1. Make a business plan. You need a plan to succeed. Think of it as your road map to success. You probably wouldn’t plan a cross country trip without a plan of which roads you were going to travel and how you’re going to fund it. The same thing is true in business. You need to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there to be successful.
2. Decide if there is a need for your product or service. Conduct market research on the product or service you want to offer. Make sure there is a viable need for it. Successful businesses answer a need a community has, even if the community is online and global.
3. Is what your small business offers just like a million others out there? If so how can you make your service or products stand out? Take the time to research what your competition is offering, and then you can make plans to make yours stand out from the crowd.
4. Identify the benefits your products or services offer to people. You have to be able to tell people why they need what you are offering and what it is going to do for them.
5. Identify your target audience. Do you want to target young people with disposable incomes, middle age couples who need to save money, or is your target audience retirees? Your target audience will make a difference on how you present your business.
6. How big do you want to go? Do you want to target your local area or do you want to build a global market? Either one is fairly easy now with the availability of the internet if you have a plan and a website that is properly written, designed and takes advantage of quality SEO.
7. Decide on how you will conduct your market research. Will you do it on your own or will you hire a company to do it for you. You can do market research yourself with a computer or at the library, but if you are busy or unsure on how to go about it, you may want to hire a company to do it for you.
8. If you decide to do market research on your own, there are some cheap and easy ways to do it. You can run a poll on your website or Facebook page, hold a question and answer seminar on Twitter, send out polls via email, and talk to people in person.
9. Once you collect the data, analyze it carefully. Be sure the data collected was from a large enough group of people or sources. If not, you won’t have a true representation of the market.
10. Take action. Don’t just do market research and then file the information away. Take it seriously because it is telling you how to improve or start your small business.
Complete market research on a regular schedule. Very few small businesses are successful after they become stagnant. You have to stay on top of the ever changing wants and needs of consumers. If your sales are beginning to wane, consider moving on to other services or products.
Your small business is like a living thing. It needs to keep growing to stay healthy. Don’t be afraid to do market research. It will only benefit your small business, and help you to know what people need, and how you can offer it to them.
A final word on market research is the importance of a website. Every business, no matter how small, needs a website. Websites are invaluable tools for a business. You can tell your visitors about you and your business, why you’re the one to get what you offer from, collect emails for future campaigns, poll your visitors, connect and build community, and help to set yourself up as an expert in your field.
With a well built and planned out website, a business plan in hand, and well researched and analyzed market research, your small business with not only be successful, but thrive.