Tuesday, September 21, 2010

5 Methods to Alleviate Market Research Madness

When was the last time you ran across someone who was passionate about performing market research? It isn’t exactly the sexiest topic of conversation at a cocktail party.

Don’t get us wrong, we aren’t anti-research, quite the opposite. We believe it is a necessity for launching a new small business idea. However, we do realize that most people avoid it for a wide variety of reasons (read, “excuses”):

“It’s boring.”

“Isn’t it just better to get started with my business and figure it out as I go along?”

“I’ve talked to a few family and friends about my idea and they love it.”

While we may not be able inspire you to take an Indiana Jones approach to identifying hidden gems of historical relevance in order to understand your target market’s culture, we can give you the top 5 methods to getting to know your market.

1. Investigate

Thanks to the advent of the Internet and omnipotent search engines like Google, finding data is easier than ever. And, even with the multitude of online options for market research (free and paid), there are still numerous offline options, too. Don’t forget the old-fashion library, a stop by your local Chamber of Commerce or a visit to City Hall.

2. Observe

You may be in the process of making the transition from employee to entrepreneur within the same market taking with you a history of observing your target market. An excellent advantage! However, if your pursuits of freedom, fulfillment and financial rewards take you in a new direction, you need to allocate some time to observing your new industry.

Watching how your market interacts is an excellent way to gain insight. You can shop at potential competitors’ stores and visit online forums for customer ratings and rants.

3. Interview

Pick up the phone. Set up a face-to-face. Jump on Skype. It’s time to start asking questions and getting answers. Talk to companies. Speak with customers. Have a conversation with industry experts. Realize though, that while some people are generous with their time, they are busy. Be prepared with intelligent questions before you contact them. And, in some cases, you may need to consider paid focus groups.

4. Sample

Who doesn’t like free? If you have some products and services ready to sample, get them out in the market to gauge interest. Studying the spontaneous reactions of potential prospects is an excellent strategy to collecting valuable market data.

5. Survey

When sampling, follow up with a survey. Most prospects are willing to give feedback for freebies. Even if you don’t have giveaways, you can still use various online sites and offline methods (calling, mailers, etc…) to take your market’s temperature on different issues they face and how well they feel the current solutions satisfy their needs. Be prepared that you may need to incentivize your survey takers with a raffle for a cool reward or possibly even a cash kickback.

If you're still finding that you're struggling with market research, ask for help. That’s what we’re here for.

Doug Dolan
Small Biz Break
“give your biz a break”