Market research allows companies, entrepreneurs, and bloggers to identify problems and opportunities in their markets, come up with marketing strategies, and determine what their customers want and need. Effective market research can do everything from increasing sales to revitalizing a brand. It can even help a blogger find ways to monetize the blog.
It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or running a health and fitness blog. If you serve a customer base, market research is essential.
Follow these five steps for market research so you can get in on the game and find ways to reach your business goals.
Step 1 – Create a Goal
When you conduct market research, you should always start with the end in mind. What do you want to achieve with the research?
It is often difficult for people to determine this. Make it easier by looking at goals as questions that need to be answered.
For instance, you might ask:
- How can I improve sales for a product or service that has yet to meet expectations?
- How can I make my product or service more enticing to a specific customer group?
- Why has my churn rate increased in the last quarter?
- How can I monetize my blog?
- Is my target market ready for a new product?
- What type of marketing messages resonates best with my target market?
- What customer group is best suited for my product or service?
- Will someone pay for my product or service?
These are just some examples of the questions you can ask. Think about what you want to know about your business, and then turn that question into a goal. Use your research to get the answers you need to move forward with your business.
Step 2 – Gather Data
You need to gather data to get the information necessary to reach your goal. When gathering data, you’ll need to choose between primary and secondary research.
Primary research is new research that is collected firsthand. Secondary research is data that has already been published. It typically is used to establish industry benchmarks, identify target segments, and identify your competitors.
For this step in the market research process, you will want to focus your efforts on primary research. Primary research includes:
- Focus Groups
- Web Analytics
When collecting this data, it’s important to ask questions that are relevant to your goal. For instance, if you want to come up with a price point, you could ask what is the right price for a specific product or service.
Step 3 – Know Your Competitors
Competitor analysis needs to be a part of any market research plan. You need to know if you’re different from the competition and if you provide your customers with something more than your competitors do. Competitor research allows you to discover your competitive advantage, and that can help you boost your sales.
Start with a simple Google search to find your top three competitors. Then, it’s time to discover the pros and cons of what they offer. This can be a bit time consuming, but it’s worth the effort.
Begin the process by scouring their websites. Find out what they highlight. What do they claim to offer that the competitors don’t?
Next, go to their social media channels. It is easy to find out what people love and hate about a company by looking on social media.
Also, use the same data collection tools used in the previous step to gather some data about your competitors. There’s a good chance that many of your customers have also used the competition. Find out what they liked and didn’t like about your competitors.
After you have a strong idea of who your competitors are, you need to think about how you can improve upon them. What can you do that will make your blog or business more attractive than the competitors?
For instance, if their selling point is they offer customer service over the phone 24 hours a day, you could take it a step further and offer online chat 24 hours a day.
Look at how they differentiate themselves and take it a step further to be even better.
Step 4 – Analyze the Data
You’ve gathered a lot of data. Now it’s time to analyze it. You have two types of data. First, there is quantitative data. They consist of ratings, rankings, and yes and no answers.
Then, there is qualitative data. This data contain verbal answers from focus groups and interviews. They also include written commentary.
For quantitative data, use a tool like STATA to compile and analyze the data. It is easy to use and generates graphs based on the data. If you want something with more bells and whistles, SAS is excellent. Along with analyzing data, it has project management and business planning tools.
For qualitative data, use a tool like Nvivo. It organizes data and helps you find relationships.
Step 5 – Say Yay or Nay
Finally, you need to determine if you should make a business decision based on the research you gathered. What does your data tell you? Does it point to a potential home run or is it showing tell tale signs o fit being a dud? Should you say yes or no to a change based on the research?
For instance, let’s say that you want to introduce a new product to the market. If your data tell you that your market is receptive, then you need to say yes. If they say that your market isn’t interested, you need to say no.
At the end of the day, data is only there as a guiding beacon but not the hard truth. Sometimes you just got to learn to trust your gut instinct after digesting the data.
As you move through these steps, there are a few tips to keep in mind.
First, you need to have a strong value proposition or your marketing efforts will be all for naught. You need to clearly define how your product or service solves a problem. Your value proposition should also include a quantified value and let people see how your product or service is unique.
You also need to use various resources during your market research. You need to gather data from multiple resources to get a clear picture of your market.
Finally, make sure your sample size is large enough to have accurate results. Use a sample size calculator to determine the right size for your research.
Soar to the Next Level
If you are going to be successful, you have to know your market. It doesn’t matter if you are in charge of a huge corporation or you run a small blog. Once you find out what your market wants, the sky is the limit. You can finally take your project or company to the next level.
*** This Guest Post was from Ellen Baron ***
Ellen Baron is the CEO and founder of Ruby Cha Cha.
She helps B2B businesses with market research to drive sales, build branding and keep their customers happy.
She is also a fan of reality TV, Alsatian wine and dogs.
Find her on Linkedin.