Check out these effective market research options that won't take a toll on your budget.
By Mie- Yun Lee and BuyerZone.com
Subscribe | Print | E-Mail | Newsletter | RSS
[pic]Extensively researching your target market has long been viewed as a luxury--a perk available only to the corporate giants withdeep pockets. But the past decade's surge of small businesses have made understanding and accurately targeting your customers a make-or-break means of survival.
Market research comes in all shapes and sizes, and some forms certainly have high price tags attached. Of course, not every business has thousands of dollars to dish out on analyst reports and services from big-name market research firms.Luckily, there are quite a few effective options available that won't take a nasty toll on your budget.
What Is Market Research?
Researching your market helps you understand your customers, your competitors, and the industry in which you operate. It's an ongoing process that involves using data to drive decisions related to running your business.
Conducting market research involves collectingdata to be analyzed. Data can be collected through various processes, and the method you choose depends on what you are hoping to discover or better understand about your market.
Once your data is collected, it takes careful analysis to come to any conclusions or understanding. But if done right, the results will make all your business decisions smart ones.
Why Use It?
Market research hasdefinite value. It gives you the information you need to make smart decisions about your business, so your revenue increases.
In fact, your ROI on market research often exceeds the cost of conducting the research.
Proper market research helps you:
• determine how to correctly target your marketing campaigns
• identify opportunities in the marketplace
• determine what you are doingwrong as well as what you are doing right
• identify your customers' specific needs
• uncover problems with your business that may not have surfaced otherwise
• evaluate your success with measurable data
Even though its name may imply otherwise, secondary research is where market research usually begins.
Secondary research is conducted by consulting publishedreports from trusted sources in order to find out:
• who makes up your target market
• what the needs of your market are
• the size of the potential market
Secondary research is less expensive than primary research. It's often free, in fact. It's also more readily available than you may think.
Secondary research can be internal, like sales reports or internal market analyses. Butmost of it will be external, including:
• web-based directories and resources
• nonprofit agencies
• government agencies (try www.fedstats.govfor access to 70 government sites with valid stats and information)
• back issues of magazines and newspapers at the library
However, analyzing secondary data can sometimes be overwhelming, and your results can end up inaccurate orinconclusive. It may make sense to use the knowledge gained through secondary research to guide your decisions regarding primary research or even to hire an outside consultant to do the analyzing for you.
You can think of primary research as getting down to the nitty-gritty.
Primary research is conducted to get really intimate with your market, to answer specific questions youmight have or address specific areas of focus. It costs more and often takes longer to conduct than secondary research, but it gives conclusive results.
Primary research can be broken down into two subcategories:
• Qualitative research includes studies done on smaller groups of people, like one-on-one consumer interviews or focus groups. It's meant to give you direction, to get an answer to a...