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How to source information about your market

Market research can help you understand your customers' wants, needs, tastes and spending habits. By using published market information and your own field research, you can get the data you need to target new opportunities. Find out the steps involved

  1. Do your research before launching new products or services or making changes to your business that will affect customers, such as introducing new opening hours or changing location.
  2. Aim to discover what existing and potential customers want by using quantitative (desk) and qualitative (field) research.
  3. Write down the questions you want to answer. Do you want to know where your customers live, for instance? What other products they buy? What they value in your offer? Having questions to answer will give your research a sense of purpose.
  4. Make use of existing information. Ask your trade association and local business reference library whether they have market reports and statistics you can use - some of which will be free.
  5. Use search engines such as Google to look for free online information about domestic or overseas markets. Associations like the Institute of Export should also be able to help you source information about other countries if you are thinking of trading overseas.
  6. Visit commercial websites where relevant paid-for research can be found. The RBA website lists sources of both free and paid-for research.
  7. Take care how you interpret any external data you collect. It may have a slightly different focus from the question you are researching or be out of date.
  8. Make use of your own business data and do your own field research. Conduct a survey or get together a focus group to ask existing and potential customers what they think of a new product or service or other changes you are considering making.
  9. Consider using a market research agency to do some field research for you - it will cost more, but they may get better results. Look for an agency with experience of working with other businesses in your sector.
  10. Look at the general economic outlook as well as the outlook for your specific sector. You should also check for other external factors, such as upcoming legislation, that could affect any plans you have.
  11. Research what your competitors are doing. Do they have new products or services coming up? How do they compare to you in terms of price? What do your customers think of them?
  12. Use your market research to develop your marketing strategy. What you find out could justify changes to your pricing, the way you present your offer, the customer groups you target, your branding, and so on. Use the information to improve your business and increase your sales.

Cardinal rules:

Do

  • make use of existing free and paid-for research
  • carry out your own field research
  • consider using a market research agency
  • research what your competitors are doing

Don't

  • make decisions based on too little research
  • rely too heavily on external research which may be out-dated or biased
  • ignore any evidence that contradicts your preconceptions

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