Maybe you’re a small business owner who happens to be sweating out putting your business plan together. Maybe you’re a small business owner and thinking of capturing a new market. Maybe you’re a small business owner who just wants to gain greater insight into the demographics or consumer trends in your existing market.
On the other hand, you may be a small business owner who thinks (hopes) their so small that any sort of market research outside of the occasional customer survey is over kill, simply a waste of time. But that would be wrong. Market research allows you to create effective business strategies. “I think it might work” isn’t an effective success strategy. You can have the greatest idea in the world – but until you marry that idea with market data you don’t have a complete picture. Market data helps you get from “I think it might work” to “This is the best strategy for success.”
However, when it comes to market research, many small business owners don’t pursue it as they think of it as an “all or nothing” process. Either you’ve got to be in a place to spend a ton on expensive consultants, or don’t do it all.
But you’re not just any small business owner, you’re a bootstrapper – and I’m here to help. Here’s the short story on how to conduct market research:
1. Put together the objectives you want your research to meet. You can do that by asking three simple questions:
- What the purpose of doing the research? (i.e. I want to introduce a new product/service)
- How will the information be used? (i.e. see if there is a need, figure out how to price, determine if there is a local market for my product/service)
- What kind of information do I need? (i.e. check out the competition, demographics of prospective customers/clients)
2. Research and collect information that already exists.
3. Collect information that doesn’t exist (i.e. surveys, focus groups.)
4. Review and analyze the information you’ve collected. (This is a fancy way of saying: Look at what you found out; assess how it impacts your objectives; use that assessment to create and then implement success strategies.)
The place where many small business owners get stuck is #2. Here are some online resources to help you locate existing information:
http://www.library.wisc.edu/guides/govdocs/census/econ.htm#countbus (Great for local business – You can check out business patterns in your county on this one.)