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Is your market research good enough?

  • Blog
  • 11 August 2016

Information is not only power, it gives vital insights into what your potential clients are thinking. This is why researching your market is so important. In order to stay on top of the game, it's essential to know how people are formulating their choices and why. To become, and remain successful, the small business owner needs to know what their competition is, and what customers are prepared to pay for their goods and services.

Understanding the environment

For successful trading, any business owner needs to be aware of the economic, social and cultural factors shaping the sector. Thanks to technology such as the internet, businesses face more competition than ever before and knowing what to invest in is critical. Competition could show up in local, national and international form, and it is better to discover this as soon as possible. However as things change, it will probably be necessary to do further research as no market or client base remains static, and adaptability is everything.

Is your market research good enough?

Asking the right questions

What do you need to know? What is holding you back from making decisions? Deciding on the right questions is important, as asking the wrong questions, or those related to peripheral issues, will yield misleading results. Figuring out what is needed to inform fundamental decisions is the first step towards finding the kind of information that will help you move forward with planning.

Collecting the information

How will this happen? The two main methods are primary and secondary research. In primary research you will go out and make discoveries about your potential market. Secondary, or third-party research, is about using information that is already out there. In this, the internet is your friend. An hour or two of digging around can lead to plenty of relevant facts about your competitors. 

The Office for National Statistics has all kinds of useful information about the demographics and occupations of residents in your local area. Local authority websites can be good sources too. 

Primary research

You can conduct research by going out and asking people questions, or organise focus groups. Another method is to employ surveys, which can be conducted very cheaply by posting them on Facebook or even LinkedIn. If the business already has a customer base, ask them what they think. And there is of course the option of doing it the traditional way, by handing out questionnaires. As surveys can be anonymous, people will say what they really think.

Using an agency 

Of course research takes time, and perhaps you simply don't have it. If the research needed is of a highly specialist nature, then it might make sense to call in the experts. If the research needs to target very specific people, or very large numbers of people, the support and expertise of an agency could be extremely helpful. 

Even if you decide to use an agency, it is probably worthwhile doing some initial research for yourself, if only to be entirely clear about what it is that you need, so the agency can be briefed appropriately. 

A professional agency can design and analyse bespoke research for you and will provide unbiased feedback that could be useful in making strategic decisions. Trade associations may be able to suggest an agency with a reliable track record. Alternatively, the Chartered Institute of Marketing or the Market Research Society may be able to help. 

Some agencies focus on a particular type of research, such as qualitative or quantitative analysis, while others specialise in issues relating to brands or market positioning. When engaging an agency, you will usually need to allocate a starting budget of at least £1,000.

Trusted support

Starting a new business can be exciting, but also demanding. Between the regulations and figuring out how to reach customers, there is a great deal to think about, and it is always helpful to be able to call on those who are knowledgeable in the field and can offer support and advice.

The Federation of Small Businesses is the UK’s leading non-political, not for profit business organisation, and is fully aware of the challenges the small enterprise faces and the kind of information that small businesses need. 

As a member of the FSB, among numerous benefits, you have access to our Online Legal Documents Service. Making sure that your business is compliant with all the tax, personnel, health and safety, and legal requirements needed today can be time-consuming and costly. Customised documents from our Legal Information Online Hub, can save you time and help protect your business. When you join there is immediate 24-hour support with health and safety, tax and legal issues, together with information regarding employment and commercial law. 

In today's competitive environment, having the right information is a vital part of success.

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