A business that understands its customers and their buying habits can sell more effectively, compete with other suppliers, target new customers and identify new opportunities. Follow these five tips for better market research.
1. Identify the information you need - Understanding market trends is important if your business is to make the most of its opportunities and remain competitive. You also need to understand your competitors and be aware of what they are doing in order to predict their next moves and exploit any weaknesses. See understand your customers’ needs and understand your competitors.
2. Use market reports and other data - Support is available from a range of sources. For example, Invest NI's Business Information Centre offers free access to extensive market research through company databases and worldwide market reports.
3. Use field research - Popular methods of field research include surveys, interviews and direct observation. The way that you conduct your field research will have a significant impact on the quality of the results - ask the right questions, talk to the right people, talk to enough people and keep research impartial. See qualitative and quantitative field research: basics.
4. Interpret the information - Be careful how you interpret readily available market information. External data might not be in a format that's easy to use - it may have been collected for other purposes or be from a range that doesn't tally with your target market. Also beware of out-of-date market information. See interpreting market information.
5. Consider using a market research agency - If you don't have the time or skills to carry out research yourself, and if budget is available, you could consider using a market research agency. Always provide the agency with a thorough and clear brief. You should include the project’s business objectives, what the research should uncover, and details on how you will use the results. See should I use a market research agency?