As the business world becomes more complex and competitive with each quarter, it becomes increasingly important to have good factual information to make decisions about the direction your business must take. In order to be able to make the right decisions the best way to gather this needed information is to develop a market research plan.
Done properly, market research can help you create successful advertising and communications strategies, keep tabs on what your competition is up to and help in the development of new products or services to address the changing marketplace.
The level of research that you undertake will be governed by a number of factors. This is determined by the amount and nature of the research you require and of course how much time and budget you have.
If you only need some basic customer information it is relatively easy to develop simple research tools such as customer satisfaction questionnaires or by searching through statistical information and demographic data that is readily available from local sources or via the Internet. If you require more specialized, proprietary research that delves deeper into your customer or target group base, it is best to consider turning to a professional marketing firm or individual.
Before you start collecting information though it is essential that you clearly define what you need to know and why you need it. Referring back to your strategic plan and business plans will help you develop a set of questions that will point you in the right direction.
For example: Do you have a good handle on your customers’ profile? Which of your products or services are most successful? Who do you think your competitors are, and what are their weaknesses and strengths? For that matter, what are your own strengths and weaknesses? Do you know what trends are affecting sales in your business?
These questions only touch the tip of the proverbial iceberg in terms of what direction your research will take. If you are not familiar with research and research methodology, there is an incredible amount of information available online that can help you determine where you want your research to take you.
For starters there are two broad types of research that you can use, primary and secondary. This might sound like Research 101 but it is well worth it to keep these in mind even if you are a seasoned research user.
Primary research is the kind of information that is gathered through your own efforts or by a hired researcher. This is done using questionnaires, personal surveys, holding focus group sessions and observation. This kind of information can give you answers to specific questions, such as what are the factors that influence the purchase of your kind of products? Are there new products or services I can offer? The biggest advantage with this kind of research is that you can be very specific and the information gathered will be proprietary.
Secondary research is less targeted but it can provide valuable answers to some key questions that would be hard or expensive to gather through primary research. Questions such as what are the current trends affecting your particular business? What is happening in the local economy? Are there enough people in my target group living within my geographic region?
Having the right research with a good set of facts is the key to making good business decisions. It can help you avoid critical mistakes but most importantly lead you to greater success.
Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org