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Market Research: The Key to Business Decisions


Like every business owner, you want to remain relevant and competitive in your marketplace. And you know that to have a sustainable business, you constantly need new ideas to satisfy the evolving demands of consumers. However, you also know that sometimes new ideas fail because you haven't done adequate market research.

Market research gives you access to insights. These insights can optimize your current and future product offerings and assist in connecting your brand to the right customers. That's why investing in insight generation is the right way to drive informed and effective decision-making. It was W. Edwards Deming who said, "Without data, you're just another person with an opinion."

There are many types of research. Exploratory research is open-ended and qualitative. It helps you identify trends that you're currently not aware of. Setting up a Google Alert for a keyword that your team doesn't know much about is exploratory research, and so is a survey with open-ended questions. But its key characteristic is that it is flexible; changes of plan and even changes of format are expected. Some businesspeople consider exploratory research an important starting point for innovation.

Specific research is more precise and focused on solving a particular problem or testing a new idea. Specific research can help you drill down deeper into an outcome of exploratory research. This is probably what you think of when you think of market research: detailed surveys, focus groups, customer interviews and studies.

Both exploratory and specific research are types of primary research. Secondary research is the study of research that already has been published by others. Reading reports compiled by the government, trade associations or other businesses is secondary research.

Research provides you with a lens with which you can look at your company's current performance and its past trends. Knowing more about what your customers want and what else is going on in your industry can help you understand what's happening to your own sales. That in turn can help you understand what you need to do to better serve your customers.

Here are some tips on how to apply market insights to your company's strategy:

  • Establish clear goals and objectives for research. Who are your potential customers? What do they buy now? Why do they buy it? What would make them switch to your product? Be specific about what you want to know and how this information will drive decision-making. One goal might be to test a new idea or campaign.
  • Prioritize the research. You can't research everything, so make sure you focus on critical information requirements that give you the quickest payback.
  • Consider less-expensive research alternatives. You may want to generate insights in-house by calling customers, analyzing numbers, using social media and researching consumer likes, dislikes and preferences.
  • Work with external partners, but make sure that whomever you decide to partner with understands your business.
  • Your reports can generate links from other websites and yield new subscribers.
  • Present your new data with beautiful graphics, which can entice people to share it on social media. Having proprietary data gives your firm a unique angle, and presenting it with graphics makes it easy for others to share.
  • Your research may lead to an increase in search rankings, more website traffic and new customers. Fresh content is important, not only because it means you'll have a better social media presence but also because you'll get free public relations when external sources link to your corporate pages.

Just as you wouldn't go on a vacation without making any plans, you shouldn't design marketing strategies without backing them up with research and data. Market research takes a lot of time and money, but if you're venturing into a new market, it's vital.

Problems, business environments and trends are constantly changing, so your research will never really be over. The more you know about your buyer personas, industry and company, the more successful your marketing efforts will be.

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