In order to become more familiar with prospective clients and their pressing needs, you must perform market research. Not only will it inform your marketing efforts, your service offerings, and your search for the right demographic, it will also give you a competitive advantage.
The US Small Business Administration, in their article entitled “Market Research” explains that market research can help you answer the following questions:
- Who are my customers and potential customers?
- What kind of people are they?
- Where do they live?
- Can and will they buy?
- Am I offering the kinds of goods or services they want at the best place, at the best time, and in the right amount?
- Are my prices consistent with what buyers view as the product’s value?
- Are my promotional programs working?
- What do customers think of my business?
- How does my business compare with my competitors?
You can imagine how valuable it would be to have the answers to all of those questions. Performing effective marketing research can help you do just that. The SBA goes on to provide seven steps in learning more about your market and gathering the information you need:
Step One: Define Marketing Problems and Opportunities
Most college research classes would tell you it’s pointless to begin gathering information when you haven’t yet drafted a pressing question or issue on which to focus your efforts. This step enables you to articulate what you’re struggling with, as well as what untapped opportunities may exist for your business.
Step Two: Set Objectives, Budget, and Timeline
As you can see, it’s all about direction. What do you want to accomplish, and how much time and money will be spent doing that? Without parameters like this, your market research could go on indefinitely and never do your business any good.
Step Three: Select Research Types, Methods, and Techniques
Before embarking on your market research, you should determine which type of research your want to perform. Two basic types exist: primary and secondary. Primary research is what you gather yourself through conducting surveys, interviews, etc. Secondary research has already been done and merely requires you to find it; it is also less costly and can be accessed from something as simple as an Internet search or a visit to your local library.
Step Four: Design Research Instruments
If you plan to conduct primary research you need to create the instruments you will use to collect data. The most common is the questionnaire. The SBA advises, “Mix the form of the questions. Use scales, rankings, open-ended questions, and closed-ended questions for different sections of the questionnaire. The form or way a question is asked may influence the answer given.”
Step Five: Collect Data
At this point, after you have thoughtfully designed your market research strategy and created your research instruments, you are ready to collect the data. It may be helpful to enlist the help of a professional researcher who can inform you how to implement everything you have prepared.
Step Six: Organize and Analyze the Data
A professional researcher can help you with this step as well. The SBA explains how to accomplish step six: “Once your data has been collected, it needs to be cleaned. Cleaning research data involves editing, coding, and tabulating the results. To make this step easier, start with a simply designed research instrument or questionnaire.”
Step Seven: Present and Use Market Research Findings
Now comes the step you’ve been waiting for. Begin using the information to improve your marketing efforts. Also consider revising your current marketing plan accordingly, implementing the data you’ve gathered to create a more effective and profitable strategy.
UAC Provides Customized Business Assessments
While performing market research is extremely valuable to the success of your business, it can be difficult and time-consuming. Allow Universal Accounting Center to help.
UAC is in the business of seeing small businesses like yours succeed. And we know one of the ways to accomplish that is to provide you with all the valuable information of a customized business assessment.
Universal’s reports will interpret and explain your industry benchmarks and provide the following customized features:
- Executive Summary highlights strengths
- Industry percentile rankings for 20 major financial ratios
- Interpretation of variances from industry norms
- Bold graphs that show comparisons
- Profit improvement “what if” financial capabilities
- “Discussion Ideas” section that provides a springboard for action
Take the first step in gathering crucial information about your business. You owe it to yourself to get a complete financial picture of how your practice compares to others in the industry; in fact, make it an Christmas gift. It’s a tool that will enable you to better navigate through the recession. Add to the detailed analysis provided in your business analysis an hour of business consulting, and you have an amazingly great value. Call UAC at 1-(800) 343-4827 for more information about getting your own customized business assessment!
“Market Research.” US Small Business Administration