Have you done the market research for your business or are you just winging it?
No, this is not a personal attack, just an honest question from someone who wants to see your business succeed.
And believe it or not, the fact of the matter is that you may already be conducting market research for your business without even knowing it.
But before we look into that, we better define what market research is and what it is not.
What Is Market Research?
Market research is the process of gathering information about your business’s target audience, buyer personas, and customers in order to learn how viable your product or service is and what chance it has of becoming a success among these people.
With market research you can find out loads of critical information like:
- Where your target market resides
- Where your target market does buyer research for products and services similar to yours
- What your target market hopes to solve using your product or service
- What language your target market uses when talking about your product and service
- What influences your target market to make convert and make purchase decisions
- Industry trends and predictions
From the above definition we can already see you may already be conducting some sort of market research when you carry out web searches, send out online questionnaires, ask customers to fill forms and provide feedback, and so on.
These all provide information about your target audience in a way that can be useful when correctly applied.
However, everything falls apart and your chances of making a big splash in the market are hampered when you ignored certain key aspects that go into market research:
- Market research is a process: the real genius lies in the method to the madness, not in the madness itself.
- Market research must be compiled and gathered: You can’t call it research if you don’t have an easy way to compile all that you’ve learned.
- Market research must be customer-centric at all times—in fact forever: It’s not about your business, it never was and it never will be. The key lies in finding out what people would buy.
The Different Types of Market Research
Any caveman consultant from the hunter-gatherer age would be able to tell you that the key step to catching your mammoth lies in knowing the various ways to track it down through the seasons.
Market research works in pretty much the same way.
There are several forms of market research, and the choice of which to go with depends largely on where your business stands in terms of knowledge.
These different types are:
- Exploratory research
- Specific research
- Public sources
- Commercial sources
- Internal sources
And these can broadly be divided into primary and secondary research.
With primary research, you gather firsthand information on your market and customers. You get info straight from the horse’s mouth using online surveys, phone interviews, and even the YouTube comment section if you have to.
This is mainly geared towards learning the frustrations and challenges which your customers face on a day to day basis. Through primary research you could also gauge brand awareness.
This is the sort of market research you should be doing if you are yet to create and codify your buyer personas. Two of the types of market research outlined above are primary forms of research:
- Exploratory Research: This is the sort of research that entails more of finding out what problems your target market has that your business could tackle. Talking to a few people—even friends—and asking them open ended questions, or sharing surveys, would usually suffice for this sort of research. Usually, this is the first step you want to take before drilling down into doing specific research
- Specific Research: This usually follows exploratory research, and usually entails taking deep dives into challenges (read: business opportunities) that you have already identified as important to your target market. For best results, you want to take a smaller segment of your target audience and ask specific questions that are aimed at learning more about a suspected problem.
Secondary research consists of all the data that is already available for you to pick up and analyze. This includes information from popular sources like market statistics, trend reports, sales data, industry reports, and even metrics from your own website if you already have one functioning already.
This sort of data is particularly useful for weighing up the competition. Secondary research falls into any of these market research types:
- Public Sources: Sources like these are the most accessible, because they are public and you have a right to them. Think government offices like your national office of labour statistics or the national office in charge of population data and census trends. Of course, being free and open to all means you get the most bang for your buck when you decide to delve in.
- Commercial Sources: In this age of sharing, some of the best sources of information you can get comes from commercial sources like market reports, industry insights and thought pieces like whitepapers. Authoritative sources like Forrester, Gartner, The World Bank, The African Development Bank and Pew Research are great sources of up-to-date information from which you can gain valuable business insights. Getting information from some of these sources will cost some money, however.
- Internal Sources: This pertains to data you already have in-house. And if you’ve been gathering the right sort of data, this is information you can rely on for a long time. For example you could learn average revenue per sale, customer retention rates, and other relevant historical data that could help fine tune your business efforts going forward.
How to Do Market Research the Easy Way
Welcome to the internet, where everything that used that be difficult no longer is. It’s a new age, and no matter what line of business or industry you are in, there is a strong possibility that there is a dedicated and distributed community online from which you can learn and mine gold nuggets from.
In this day and age, you really don’t have to spend a ton of money to get the information you need to succeed online. Armed with a little knowledge and resources, you can easily glean the information you need if you put in a little time.
As mentioned before, all your efforts would not be worth as much if there is no central repository into which you can store everything. Consider using an easy tool like Evernote, Google Sheets, or Microsoft Excel to store any information you learn during this process.
Here are some of the ways you can go about gathering a treasure trove of information:
Keyword research is a great way to cut through the fluff to immediately learn about a few critical things concerning your target market like:
- The language your target audience uses when they search for or talk about your products and services
- Whether or not there is a large enough market in need of that product in order to justify setting up a business or service around it
- The number of competitors you have and also the strength of that competition
- The burning questions that keep your audience at night.
And much more.
Unfortunately, most businesses end at the level of delving into search engine keyword planning tools like those provided by Google, and they end up missing out on some of the opportunities that lie hidden in less obvious keyword sources like social media, Wikipedia, YouTube, Buzzsumo, Answer the Public, and others.
But that’s good news for you! Because by going a bit deeper than you competition and being a little wiser, you can gain enough insight to become vastly more useful and attractive to your target market they can ever hope to be.
Blogs are a treasure trove of information—especially customer dissatisfaction. If you don’t believe me, take a walk down the comment section of your favourite blogs and you will realize they majority of the comments there are either agreeing to something or complaining about something.
Those complaints are your key to knowing the various frustrations of your target market. They may or may not be directly related to your product or service, but they always help you understand your target audience that much better.
The more you know your target market, the easier it is for you to sell to them.
The easiest way to look at social media is as a group of people clustered around specific topics of common interest. And as such, there can be no better way to interact with your target audience than by listening in on the conversations going on in these communities as they happen.
No matter what industry you are in, there is an online community out there for you from which you can learn all about the hopes, desires, fears, frustrations, and challenges of your target market.
You could always just ask your target market what they want. As simple as this sounds, this is actually one of the most effective market research tools that lie available to you, especially if you are an ecommerce company. Rather than launch an entire line of products only to discover that nobody wants them, just make a few samples and go about asking people’s opinions through questionnaires.
Through online surveys you could learn about a product’s strengths, weaknesses, and how it could be improved for greater impact. And you would’ve gotten all this information from the horse’s own mouth.
There is no better way to learn about the state of the industry than by reading up from insights provided by authoritative sources like government data and public research data. Pretty much all of these can be gotten online; and you want to study these insights as a business, because they are your key to staying on top of trends; being forward-thinking; and staying relevant.
Here is to your business success!