Market Research Strategies For Small Businesses

Have you ever done any market research? If not, you may be missing some valuable marketing ideas and information that you could capture by doing some research. Market research is a vital part of the process that most small businesses or start-ups neglect to do. However, it could be the single most important thing a new business does prior to formulating their business plan, location or marketing strategy.

Marketing research is the process of gathering data and opinions from consumers, employees, or a specific subgroup within the public, to improve decision making and reducing the risk associated with those decisions. Individuals/businesses can use information gained from marketing research to assess awareness, attitudes, perceptions, or opinions on products, services, advertising, brands, and/or companies. The two types of research are qualitative (words) and quantitative (numbers).

Qualitative research is an in-depth analysis of relatively few respondents, which provides a holistic insight and understanding of the issue at hand. For example, if a company is interested in testing company logos, qualitative methods would provide rich data.

– Focus Groups are an “informal” gathering of 6-10 people from your “target group” to have an in-depth conversation of opinions on your product, brand, advertising, and other areas of your product and/or service.

– Face-to-face interviews typically involve a one-on-one conversation with your consumers or decision-makers. These methods can be more expensive than a traditional survey, but will provide a more comprehensive evaluation.

Quantitative research seeks to summarize data and typically applies some form of statistical analysis. Using this method, for example, a company could measure their customer’s level of satisfaction and then, in turn, make internal changes to increase that satisfaction.

– Researchers should use surveys or questionnaires when trying to measure an audience’s opinions more accurately.

*Telephone surveys are often the most expensive, but are the most effective at getting respondents to complete the survey.
*Mail surveys can be relatively inexpensive, but the response rate on a mail survey is typically 3-10% and takes more time to conduct. These cannot be used when results are needed quickly.
*Online surveys are relatively new, but growing fast in popularity. With online surveys, you can ask survey questions, but also get feedback on things such as logos (using picture files) or commercials (using streaming video).
*Intercept interviews are a tool a company uses when they do not have a list of their customer base, such as a restaurant or a sports team, but would still like to measure their customer’s satisfaction.

For the small business owner it might be helpful to hire a marketing company or market research firm to help with these types of in-depth research however it’s not to say that you couldn’t ask your current clients or contacts as well on your own. Just remember you do not have to do all of this yourself, it’s always good to consult with experts in areas that you are not familiar or experienced with so it’s the best use of your time and it gets done right.

Now what do you do with all that great qualitative and quantitative information when you receive it? It is imperative that you work it into your marketing materials, Web site, correspondence, sales presentations, advertising and many other areas of your marketing plan. When you find out what your target market wants or likes, it is important NOT to ignore those results.

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