Q&A: Market research

A marketing team review the results of their market research

Starting a business is exciting - however, in the rush to get your product to market, it's easy to get carried away. Before you invest time and money, you must carry out market research to check there's a market for what you want to sell

I've got confidence in my product, so why do I need to ask anyone else?

Every entrepreneur believes in his or her product or service. If it's something you've created yourself, naturally you'll be proud of it. You've developed it because you believe there is a demand for it.

However, without reliable market research, how do you really know people will buy what you're offering? You must do market research before launching your business. Better to make changes before launch than have to repair mistakes afterwards, when it could be too late.

Can I just talk to my friends and family?

Not really. They might have a more objective point of view than yours, but not objective enough, I'm afraid. At best, they'll only represent part of your potential customer base.

Who do I need to speak to?

You need to determinate your target market and seek their feedback. They are not the only people you need to talk to, of course, but they are the most important ones. If they're not interested in buying your product/service at the price you need to charge, there's no point going on.

How many people should I survey?

It depends on the profile of the people you survey and on the time and budget you have. It also depends on the product or service, too. If the profile of your target market is broad, you'll need to speak to more respondents.

A good representative number would be at least 200 people, maybe rising to 400 if it's a mass-market product.

What key market research questions should I ask?

Start by asking respondents general market questions, then move onto more precise questions about your business idea. Eventually, you can introduce your product/service and ask for specific feedback.

Crucially, your marketi research or survey must seek opinions not only about price, but value for money, and how your your offering compares to your competitors'.

How should I ask my questions?

If you have access to potential customers in your area, you could do it face to face - but you must remain objective. Using a set questionnaire ensures you ask the same questions of each respondent.

You can also do it over the phone or online, but you'd need to find contact details. Market research companies can help you find respondents.

How useful is published market information?

It's always good to start by looking at existing information such as market reports - it's called "secondary market research". You can then research the missing information, carrying out your own "primary market research".

What's the difference between quantitative and qualitative research?

Quantitative research means structured research resulting in hard, numerical data - for example: "2 in 5 people would be very likely to buy this product at this price".

Qualitative research means asking open questions about peoples' perceptions, motivations and intentions. It provides background insight into WHY people think a certain way.

How important is it to be impartial when doing market research?

It's essential. You need people's honest responses to your idea/products/services, which is why it can be better to use a professional market researcher if you have the budget -  that should guarantee objectivity.

Certain field research methods are more objective than others. For example, people might be more likely to give their honest opinions when completing an online survey, while they might hold back when speaking face to face.

What if I don't like some of the feedback?

It's better to get negative feedback before you launch a product or business. Constructive criticism is valuable; it enables you to adapt or even entirely rethink your product or service - preventing you making an expensive mistake.

If criticism reflects a general opinion, you can't afford to ignore it. Work with it; use it to your advantage; benefit from it.

Written with expert input from by Marketest.

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