Where to Start: A Practical Guide to Market Research

Companies of all sizes will likely have a need to introduce new services or products to their consumer base. Though, prior to pushing sales, it is essential for business owners to understand who their potential customers are and gain their feedback. Conducting market research is a, practical, initial approach toward obtaining data about consumer preferences on a product or service.

In most cases, market research should incorporate both quantitative and qualitative research to properly build on market, product, and consumer research. Market research data can help  guide your business decisions, ensure you interview the proper target, and assist with formulating the proper messaging to consumers. Successful brands rely on accurate research data to guide such marketing activity. Overall, consumer data is becoming more important than ever to a business, so it is vital to know where to start.

Recognize the Problem

Research focuses on procuring data needed to solve business problems. Some common marketing challenges may include;

Generating new clients

If the business issue is a lack of new clients, then the resolve would be to better understand the expectations and experiences of your target market. Are you advertising to the wrong audience or is it an issue of brand awareness? The business issue must be turned into a research problem in order to find a solution.

Understanding if there is a need for your product in the market

It is important to ensure that you are in the correct market for your business to thrive. For instance, if you live in Puerto Rico, it might not be wise to start a business selling heating units.

Determining if your pricing structure is fair and competitive

With all of the various shopping methods that exist today, consumers are able to easily price shop. Pricing has a huge influence as to why a customer may choose the competition over you. Of course, maintaining a healthy profit margin is essential, but it is still necessary to be aware of what your competitors are offering to stay lucrative.

The purpose of recognizing the business problem is to gain knowledge that will help identify any necessary changes that need to be implemented, and devise a strategic plan.

Examining the answers to questions like the ones illustrated above, is a great way place to begin your research.

Establish Key Objectives

A clearly defined objective, or objectives, will help focus the research and contribute to meaningful data. Objectives are typically expressed as a statement or a hypothesis. For example, a hypothesis might read; “Dropping our product price 10% will attract more customers and increase the total profit”.

Similar to the benefits of having a basic understanding of your target market, constructing a hypothesis will help you anticipate the results of your research finding. Granted, there are instances when the actual outcome may disprove your hypothesis, but you will be better positioned to analyze the results and make effective changes.

Develop a Strategy

Now that the research problem has been identified and the objective(s) have been defined, it is time to create a research plan.

Within any research plan there should be a strong framework that expresses the type of data that is needed, how it will be collected (such as quantitative or qualitative research, or a combination of the two), the methodology, the timeframe, and costs. Creating a well-developed plan will ensure that you allocate the proper resources and achieve your research objectives.

Decide on Sample Size

Sampling involves acquiring a subset of people who are representative of a broader group or population.

In order to select the proper targeting specifications and sample size, certain topics must be addressed. Such subjects include, choosing the correct base population to examine, deciding on the best research method for the sample selection, and what the optimal sample size should be.

The size of the sample group will depend on your research objectives and budget. Keep in mind, larger sample sizes may improve the accuracy of the data but will typically increase costs.

Collect the Data

There are several different ways to gather data. Ideally, it would be beneficial to combine qualitative and quantitative methods to access analytical data that will give substantial depth to your research findings. There are specific scenarios in which it would be appropriate to apply qualitative and quantitative methods.

To illustrate a couple, if you are searching for detailed feedback on how a product can be improved, a focus group is a great option. Focus groups usually demand high-priced incentives, but an excellent way to gain direct reactions on a product. A survey is a perfect way to get the opinions of a bigger group of participants for all-encompassing questions, such as, “what influences your purchasing habits?”. Surveys can be created on platforms that have built in survey tools and tend to be more cost-effective.

It’s true, data collection can be rigorous when it comes to time and resources, and budget will likely dictate the chosen methodology. However, it is still critical to understand all the possible research methods before making an informed decision.

Analyze and Act

What is the point of collecting any data, if you aren’t going to act on it? You can conduct as much research and collect all of the data in the world, but it will not improve your business if you don’t put it into action. To truly prosper as a business, you must be responsive and prepared to address any culpabilities that your research findings uncover. Change may not be able to happen immediately but making incremental improvements will pay off in the long run.

Once you have obtained your data, it must be converted into a format that can be easily understood and prove useful. To guarantee clarity, findings can be arranged in way that will supplement the written report – for example, using PowerPoint, face-to-face, or virtual presentations.

Beyond format, interpreting the information and comprehending how the data can be translated into business actions is the final, and most vital, stage of market research. Analyzing the data, whether qualitative, quantitative, or a mixture of both, will enable you to draw conclusions and identify trends by summarizing large amounts of data.

The Takeaway

The process for conducting market research can be a meticulous voyage, but the subsequent insights are momentous if you wish to be triumphant in your marketing efforts! Whether it is brand positioning or developing advertising campaigns, it is essential to create a market research plan that will guide your business toward a prosperous future.

Be sure not to fret too much over the scrupulous journey! Each time you conduct research, you will become more familiar with your target market. The absorbed expertise won’t happen overnight, but with time you’ll have enough knowledge about your target audience to foster studies that others will look to for secondary research.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ariel Hagaman
I was born and raised in New Jersey, and currently work for AYTM as Director of Client Services. I am a graduate of the University of Phoenix, and have always found that I am at my best when working with people. My favorite past-times are reading, skiing, and yoga!