Market research is important. There’s no way to get around it. Whether you’re in start-up mode or an established company, it provides an important foundation for your marketing decision-making. It helps you learn about your market, potential customers, and the competitive environment.

Additionally, it offers valuable insight that can help minimize risks associated with managing your marketing mix and the various elements of more long-term marketing planning. There are several key marketing tactics that businesses can make with market research information, such as:

  • Establish price
  • Emphasize selected product features
  • Choose type of advertising
  • Design promotional messages

Understanding the consumer and your product’s position relative to the competition will produce the results you’re looking for. That’s why from the onset market research should be conducted to help lessen new product failure and the costs associated with low consumer acceptance prior to a full-scale commercial release.

For many new enterprises or small businesses this is where they raise their hand and say, “That’s all well and good, but we don’t have the money.” Budget is often a big concern or barrier to conducting research. And marketers acknowledge that outsourcing your marketing research activities can take a chunk out of your resources.

But do you really want to throw away your shot at reaching customers effectively? For some companies they only have enough resources for one opportunity to approach the market and succeed.

The good news is there are ways to support your research internally. It might take a little creativity and hard work, but it’s doable. Many primary and secondary research efforts just need to be made into small projects.

For Start-Ups

Get to know the competition. Choose a successful competitor and if they have a physical location, spend time (out of sight) watching for customer patterns  – when and how they arrive, group size, length of visit, etc. In additional to a physical store or in place of one, most competitors will have a website. Go online, look for the competition’s display ads, spend time on a main competitor’s website, join their email list, subscribe or get contacted to understand their timelines and processes.

Test your idea. Consider a trade show or venue where you can attend with your product or product idea and get feedback. Feedback can also come from family, friends, people you Facetime – initially you just need to share your idea to hear peoples’ responses to it.  Once you have all kinds of feedback, you may need to vary price, appearance, functionality or size to find what works. Taking the step to create a working prototype may also generate interest from investors prior to a product launch. Then you’re in a better position to establish reliable sales goals to help build your business plan around.

Consider focus groups or online surveys. This is primary research at its finest. Both of these approaches require finding a target group of people who represent your ideal customers and asking them questions to better help understand what they want and how your product does or does not meet those needs. This is the one market research area that will be difficult to do on your own. Everything from list procurement to focus group facilitator to online survey creation requires specialized knowledge that may require the help of professionals.

For New and Existing Enterprises

Track competitors’ promotions. This is just smart for both new and existing enterprises. Start a spreadsheet that notes competitors’ messages, offers, and advertising vehicles. Use this information on an ongoing basis to help establish clear differentiation for your product in the marketplace.

Hello data. A lot of existing industry information is out there and it’s considered secondary research. Some of it you may have to pay for. For example, industry associations compile and report on trends annually, however this information usually requires belonging to the association or paying to access what’s relevant to your company. Other sources such as on government websites or even competitors’ websites might offer free white papers by simply providing your email.

Information already published can be used to help determine an initial market size and potential for growth, as well as, an ongoing and potentially changing market for established products. It can also provide industry perspectives, potential market threats, and target markets. These are some initial sources to try for free information:

Use direct mail or email. This gives you the opportunity to test more specifically a marketing idea or promotion. Consider purchasing a list of 5,000 names with demographics and characteristics appropriate to your product or service. Conduct an A/B test by splitting the list in half and offering a different promotion for your product to each half. Analyze response rates and repeat the test until you have the results you want. Now you’re ready for a much larger scale mailing that should be on target to deliver the customers you need.

Other Market Research Resources: 

Market Research – Types and Tips

Glossary of Market Research Terms