Market research remains an indispensable tool for any business wishing to make significant progress. It entails data analysis to comprehend the market trends and gauge the firm’s competitive edge, in the highly competitive market. It is the ultimate solution towards reducing business risks; identify opportunities and spotting possible issues that could halt your efforts. A vital step required during the startup phase, failure to which the enterprise lacks a solid foundation for success. Market research forms the basis for market segmentation, product differentiation and customer retention, which separates your company from the competition.

It starts with learning about the customers, competitors, and the industry by asking the right questions, to the right audience and the right manner. A background research can make the difference between success and failure, which can save you millions worth of investments. You need not incur a fortune, hence the need to put things in order before starting the venture. You need a solid business concept before you set the survey ball rolling, and determine whether it is viable. It helps to question the business idea before commencing. When you are sure of the business concept, you need supportive information that helps develop a unique business plan for your business.
Whether you are using the experimental, historical, survey or the observational approach, you will gather primary or secondary information. Primary data is what you will collect or hire agencies to pick while secondary data is readily available in an organized form. In most instances, auxiliary information will exceed initial information. You do not have to go a long way if you can get surveys and reports from government agencies, trade associations, and industry regulators. You just have to look for them and use the data that suits your concept.

Primary research

If you opt for primary research using your resources, you are likely to get two types of data accurate and exploratory. Exploratory research gives an open-ended approach, which helps identify specific issues pertaining your business. Exploratory research features unstructured interviews and long answers solicited from little groups of people. On the other hand, Specific survey covers a broad scope, structured interviews, and formal approach. It helps solve problems identified by exploratory surveys, but likely to cost you more than the latter. Before commencement, you must need to know the best way to frame questions to the target audience, and if you are new in the venture, consider the following avenues:

Direct mail

Recent surveys show that direct emails find a huge preference among the modern consumers. In fact, studies show a vast majority of the audience opens the emails within the 5 minutes of receipt with a large size using mobile gadgets to access the emails. Since almost everyone has a mobile device, you will likely reach a huge population within a short period. However, widespread coverage might not always yield positive results when it comes to responses, as some might go unnoted or ignored by the groups.
If you opt for the conventional mailing system, you need to know the best way to enhance the response rate to the questions. Keep the queries concise and to the point and make, them concrete to address the particular interest of the respondents. Most respondents is skeptical about the length of the questionnaire, hence not likely to proceed with long documents. Firms ought to limit the pages and accompany the documents with a professional cover letter. You may seek to remind the responded two weeks as it raises the chances for a response. Nonetheless, the tactics do not provide a direct ticket towards timely responses, the response rate might hit below five percent.

Phone surveys

Almost every adult owns a mobile gadget, which forms an extension of themselves. They hardly leave the devices for hours hence easy to target them using mobile surveys. Among the different ways available, phone surveys remain the most affordable, often costing one-third of what the personal interviews cost. Like other research tools, you need to keep tabs with the guidelines if you have to make significant progress.
The interviewer ought to confirm the name of the target respondent or that of the switchboard controller if when they call a business. Similarly, they should minimize pauses, as they tend to lower the respondent’s interest in the subject matter. A professional approach on the poll demands that interviewers hold the details of the survey until they contact the interviewees, and follow up when they need additional information.
Other than the cost benefit, phone surveys guarantee fast coverage, saving you valuable time to focus on the results. Nonetheless, saving time at the expense of quality leaves you worse off that you could come with detailed and well-targeted interviews. Some interviewers claim to hold up to 10 interviews per hour, but six would be sufficient to the credible information that can be used to draw inferences. They offer a convenient way to cover a broad geographical region, without breaking the bank, especially if you can take advantage of the special offers during specific hours.

Personal interviews

While the cost and time aspects rank high among considerations, personal interviews provide valuable yet credible insights. It can be informed of group surveys or in-depth interviews or both. Group reviews work best in large corporations where interviews facilitate brainstorming, which results in new product ideas and improvements. They provide a rare opportunity for the respondents to suggest, improve the ideas, which yields a more refined product.
On the other hand, in-depth interviews involve a detailed checklist that guides the discussion towards a give direction. They can be fixated or non-directive. The non-directive form allows the target audience to tackle certain issues without much questioning, while the focused interview depends on the preset checklist, often driven by the interviewer. Whichever the option, users ought to factor the costs associated with each. In mail surveys, the bulk of the expenses rest within printing, postage, researcher’s time and analysis of the results.
The bulk of the expenses associated with phone interviews entail phone charges, interviewer’s fee, analysis and presentation of the results to the users. If you opt for personal interviews, you are likely to pay for printing, incentives, interviewers, research costs and presentation. Large businesses will have to factor the costs of renting conference halls, the facilitator’s fee and that of assembling the group of respondents when it comes to panel discussions.

Secondary research

When it is time to kick off your market research, secondary data forms the basis for primary surveys. They provide a tentative feeling of what the market, which guides the researcher on the necessary steps, required to yield accurate results. The data lies within the publications made by government agencies, trade associations, media channels and labor unions in the form of newsletters, research papers, magazines and pamphlets among others. The name secondary does not translate to the credibility, but the fact that another person gathers the information, for a different purpose. It saves you tome and money spent on devising survey methods and actual research process.
The public sources provide a broad range of information, which gives valuable insights about the industry trends and the competitor actions. Available in most government departments and public libraries, it is the most economical source of information hence suitable for small startups. Similarly, a business executive might opt for the most original yet overlooked source of information, which comes in the form of academic institutions. It is where the bulk of research happens, hence likely to get both processed and raw data, which shows the methods used to arrive at a conclusion.
Another way to secondary sources is through commercial associations. Businesses may have to part with membership and subscription fees if they are to continue using the service. However, the cost does not match what you could have paid a team of researchers to collect, analyze and present the information to the organization. Commercial sources involve trade and research associations, financial institutions and other corporate entities.

The kickoff

A market research needs to capture information about the target clientele, industry dynamics and competitor actions, to enhance better positioning for success. Marketing executives need to start from a broad perspective before delving into the specifics. Government statistics gives a perfect take on the point, for the surveys, rather than jump into the hype only to realize that you have wasted time on the basics. It takes just a few minutes to locate the hidden treasures of the Census Bureau, where you can find particular state and federal information. As if not enough, firms can seek helpful information from other publications such as the U.S global outlook.
While personal interviews instill confidence to the users, it helps to contact government organizations such as SBA. They tend to facilitate valuable programs like SBDCs and SCORE that offer professional business guidance without charge, which gives small firms a perfect ground to anchor their business concept. As if not enough, the federal department of commerce publishes insightful books with accurate information concerning the local industries as well as the international markets. In addition, the business section of the main public libraries provides market statistics, a vast list of directories, newsletters, magazines and newspapers across different cities.
When it comes to target marketing, you need to know the population density of your target area. A vast majority of the county authorities provides accurate information on population density, which shows the exact number of households. Most are happy to give information about the demographic trends, income patterns, modern trends and payrolls to encourage investment. Research and trade associations provide rich platforms when you need to address particular issues.

NEXT:

Part 3: The Key Ingredients of a Marketing