Ask the Right Questions
As a beginning business person or busy mompreneur, you may not have thought very much about how to conduct market research. Or, maybe the topic seems a little intimidating.
This post will demystify market research and give you some tips and tools for getting started.
In the end, market research should be more than just another thing to get done, but a rewarding process of discovery as you move forward with your business and provide products and services to your clients.
Have fun with it!
What Is Market Research?
Market research is the process of finding out whether products and services you plan to offer will be of interest to the people you plan to target (your persona) so you can decide whether to develop these products.
If you have already launched a product or service, you can conduct market research and then refine your offerings.
Market Research Basics
There are two types of (market) research. It is:
Primary research uses data that you collect and analyze yourself. This can include:
- Surveys and
- Focus groups
Secondary research analyzes data that has been collected and analyzed by other people. This type of research includes books, articles, studies and blog posts found on the internet or at libraries.
In addition to the two basic types of market research, there is another breakdown. They are:
- Qualitative and
Qualitative research is less based in numbers and more based in finding out people’s ideas and opinions. An example of a qualitative question is, “What do you like about the color red?”
Quantitative research is based in numbers. It yields results such as: 30% of respondents own red cars.”
Used together, you can get a complete picture of not only how people feel about your products and services but also important facts about their spending habits and the actions they take as consumers.
Why You Should Conduct Market Research
You should conduct market research because, without it, you are just guessing what people like, want and are willing to do with their time and money.
You know your best friend pretty well, right? But would you just assume she wants Chinese food, or would you ask her first?
You might be surprised to find out she doesn’t like Chinese food at all but really loves Thai food (a qualitative measure). In fact, in the last quarter, she spent $173.34 on Thai food alone (a quantitative measure).
Now let’s dive into how to conduct market research.
How to Conduct Market Research
Big companies like Coca-Cola spend millions of dollars on market research and have large staffs on hand to do the work.
As a bootstrapper, solo- or mompreneur, that won’t work for you — at least not until you make it big. Still, I would strongly encourage you to do at least some market research. And remember, it’s all about iteration (getting started and improving and refining your products and services as you go along).
Here are some actionable steps you can take to get started:
- Determine what you want to know and why you want to know it. You’re not conducting market research just for fun (although I hope you do have some fun as you go along). You want to connect your questions directly to your business objectives.
- Draft your questions and then ask a friend or two to answer them. This will allow you to see, before you go public, whether or not the questions you are asking are giving you the type of information you want.
- Try to target your questions towards the right people. For example, as you may know, there are far more women on Pinterest than men. Pinterest doesn’t have a survey tool, but if you were selling maternity bras, Pinterest would be a great solution because women use it.
- Think about what the most practical way for you to ask the questions would be. By this I mean, if you have a large following on Facebook but a tiny following on Twitter, it is better to ask on Facebook. Also, consider your own skills. If you are great face to face, maybe interviewing people in person is the way to go!
- Finally, you must analyze your data. One great thing about tools like SurveyMonkey, is that they summarize the data for you. If you are conducting surveys face to face or otherwise developing your own research, you will want to create a spreadsheet to organize and tally your results.
For a more advanced look at how to conduct research, read this great post from Hubspot — an amazing site with many free resources about all things online marketing.
Leverage Google And Other Social Media
Google offers great tools to help you conduct market research. You can use Google, along with other free and low cost platforms and tools, to do a lot of your research.
The first is Google’s Keyword Research Tool. You can use this tool to figure out what people are searching for and how competitive it is.
You can also use Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (or any other favorite social media channel on which you have a solid presence, see #3, above) to ask questions in a public forum. For example, if you are planning to start a bakery, you can ask people whether they prefer chocolate chunk or banana nut muffins.
Google Drive (formerly Google docs) includes a survey tool you can use that is free. Another option is SurveyMonkey. Built on a freemium model, I like this tool because it has analytics built in.
Google also has a paid option called Consumer Surveys, which, for $0.10 per response provides access to Google’s complete publisher network. Pas mal, as they say.
Things To Avoid When You Conduct Market Research
If you do any research at all, you will be ahead of many small business owners. However, the better your research is the more useful it will be.
Here are some things to consider when you conduct market research:
- Don’t only ask your Facebook friends. That might be a great place to start and a great way to begin refining the kinds of questions you want to ask, but unless your friends just happen to be your target market, they are not an accurate sample.
- Go beyond the internet for research. You can also use libraries and conduct in-person research such as focus groups.
- Speaking of focus groups, it is important to do primary research (collecting your data) and not only secondary research such as reading articles.
Do you know how to conduct market research? Share your tips in the comments.
Barone, Lisa. 4 Ways to Conduct Market Research with Google. Small Business Trends. May 30, 2012.
Eridon, Corey. An Uncomplicated Approach to Conducting Solid Market Research. Hubspot. April 13, 2012.
Pyle, Lesley Spencer. How to Do Market Research — The Basics. September 23, 2010.