The Importance of Market Research for Small Business Owners

December 9, 2013 5:00 am1 comment

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Utilizing Social Media and Clever Planning For Branding Your Business Are Affordable, Accessible Options

For decades, big businesses have used surveys, focus groups, observational studies, and other forms of market research to help improve their brand strategy and positioning along with other aspects of their business. Unfortunately, both monetary and time investments made in-depth market research difficult for small businesses. In recent years, this trend has changed. If you are not conducting market research for your small business, here are some resources to get you started.

The Evolution of Market Research

Traditional market research is expensive and time consuming. Between screening participants, hiring moderators, securing a research location and analyzing your findings, the investment reached thousands of dollars easily.

Today, conducting market research is as simple as building a mailing list, creating social media accounts, searching the internet, or joining a few bulletin boards or forums. Every day, consumers post information about daily habits, frustrations, preferences and desires on the internet. This is ideal information to help build your business or expand to new markets.

Affordable Ways to Conduct Market Research

  • Social Media: Whether you use low-cost tools, such as HootSuite or SproutSocial, or utilize the default interfaces of your preferred social media platforms, keeping up with the latest trends and performing market research is as simple as searching for keywords or creating a list. With millions of posts across major platforms per day, the amount of information available to your business is nearly endless.
  • Pre-Existing Research: The internet is a great source of pre-existing research. Forbes recently outlined a few Google tools to help make market research simple. Brushing up on your Google search skills can help to eliminate spam and find relevant, reliable information as well.
  • Opt-In Mailing Lists: If your business does not have a mailing list, you are missing out on an excellent source of market research information. The key to using mailing lists for market research is to create opt-in lists. Spamming existing lists could result in negative response. Many consumers are eager to provide input and help improve their favorite businesses and brands. Simply create a list and let your customers know that you are looking for their opinion.
  • Questionnaires: From suggestion boxes and printed questionnaires to online polls and social media conversations, finding out valuable information about your market is often as simple as asking your audience. Care should be taken when creating questions to avoid leading or bias and to ensure that you understand the demographic of the customers providing information.

Market Research Best Practices

While market research has obvious benefits, it is important to ensure that your market research efforts are efficient to keep costs as low as possible. These best practices will help trim waste from your endeavors and improve benefits.

  • Always Have A Plan: Assign goals to your research. Are you looking for a new market? Are you trying to find out sentiment about your existing products? Are you looking to determine how competitors are positioning their brand? By assigning goals, you always have milestones available to keep the process moving.
  • Choose The Appropriate Research Platforms: Different demographics reside on different platforms. Social media networks also have their own unique culture and etiquette. By choosing your platforms according to your goals, you can ensure maximum response.
  • Be Specific When Creating Targets: Segregation is the key to effective research. Create target groups with specific qualities to ensure that data is easy to sort, analyze, and act upon.
  • Execute and Analyze Quickly: Markets change at an astonishing rate. This makes it important to collect and analyze your market research quickly to ensure that it remains relevant and useful for your small business.
  • Repeat Regularly: The biggest mistake that many small businesses make is failing to follow up on their market research efforts. The costs of traditional market research made cyclical research a daunting proposition. With the speed in which business can conduct market research campaigns today, it is easy to repeat studies periodically to ensure that data remains accurate and relevant to current market trends and conditions.

 

From improving customer satisfaction and loyalty to growing your business and finding new markets, market research holds a number of valuable benefits for small businesses. These tips and best practices offer easy and affordable ways to get started with market research and discover the benefits offered for your business.

Whether you are tapping the vast amounts of information on social media or analyzing existing reports, it only takes a few hours and a well-planned campaign to start realizing results.

Image: iStockphoto

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Willie Pena
Willie Pena is a writer who commonly writes about tips for small business owners along with market research for Insights In Marketing. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.
Willie Pena

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