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Business Support Helpline: Market research advice

Conducting market research, analysing the results and implementing actions is a vital part of any business and can have a massive impact on your business’ success. Business Support Helpline adviser, Sarah Roe, gives some useful advice on carrying out market research. 

Market research should be an extensive part of your planning. Firstly, you need to establish what it is you are trying to achieve, what data you need to collect and where you can find this information. It’s also a good idea for market research to be an ongoing part of your management strategy and to be conducted regularly to keep you informed about any changes.

Below are some useful steps to take when researching your market:

Step 1: Define your customers – The first thing you’ll need to do is identify and focus on your target customers.

Step 2: Prepare your research questions – Ideally you will want to use open ended questions and avoid leading the customer in any way.  This can be a great way of obtaining more information from a customer and avoids yes/no answers - more open questions will lead to more informative responses.

Step 3: Engage the target audience – You can do this a few different ways, for example, focus groups, online surveys, door to door and phone interviews.

Step 4: List your main competitors – This can give you a valuable edge when trying to find your Unique Selling Point (USP). Your USP is what makes your business different to your competitors. 

It is always good practice to identify your USP, or what you wish your USP to be, so you can capitalise as much as possible on what makes your business more attractive to your target market over your competitors.

If you wish to operate from a business premises, then getting the right location is key. It's a good idea to research the area to identify competitors and footfall. You may also wish to research whether any future developments are planned for the area as this may have a positive or negative future impact. When choosing a location, you may also need to consider resources - for example if you choose an area with high footfall and your business proves to be very popular will you have sufficient staff/cashflow etc to cope? Alternatively, if you experience periods with limited sales have you factored a contingency in to your cash flow forecast?

Step 5: Summarize your work

By using the data from market research, you can develop a marketing plan to help guide your decisions with promotional campaigns, understanding of your customer needs, competitors and your products.  You can download a free marketing plan template here.

Some libraries also offer specific information on market research statistics, so you may want to consider visiting your local library service to check if they hold any data on market research statistics.  There are also market research companies that can provide this data for a fee.

Why not check out the following article ‘20 questions market research can help you to answer’ -

If you wish to discuss any of the above information further give us a call on 0300 456 3565 Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm, or find us on webchat, email or social media.

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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