The Basics of Market Research

A few weeks ago, we discussed the business plan and why it’s so important to the success of your business. One of those key components to the business plan was the market research section, a.k.a. the part where you validate your business idea.

Market research is your chance to prove your business is viable, but it’s also the best place to make sure your business stays relevant. Dan Zarrella, award-winning social media scientist, says “Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.” We wouldn’t drive cross-country without directions, right? It’s the same thing in business. Operating your business without the latest research on your clientele and industry can leave your business lost. The purpose of the research is to ensure that your marketing strategy is making sense and you are offering the right products and services to your ideal client.

Remember those undergraduate papers you had to write and you needed primary sources and secondary sources?  It turns out those papers were actually good for something after all,  because the same methodology applies to the market research process.


The Methodology


Primary Research

Primary Research means you’re speaking directly to the clientele. This can be in the form of interviews, surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, etc. My recommendation is to have variations of your surveys based on the client demographic. Have a client who youalmost closed a deal with? Send them a different survey than the client that did close. What stopped them from pulling the trigger? Don’t forget to include your team when doing the primary research. They know better than anyone what the common issues are and may have some ideas on how to solve those problems.

You should conduct primary research in two different ways. The research should be on-going, and then also conducted yearly. In terms of on-going research, monitor review sites, include a survey at the end of your sales process, etc. Keeping tabs on how people feel in the moment is paramount to your success. By sending out a survey immediately after a deal is won or lost you’ll understand   the gut reaction of the client. Without having time to mull it all over, the client can give you honest and direct feedback.

I also recommend sending out a survey once a year to your clients. These clients have had a chance to get to know you and your business. They know how you work, they have seen your marketing materials, been on your email list, etc. and they can give you honest feedback about how the year has gone.

This is also a great time to check in on your businesses web stats. Look at web traffic, social media stats, website flow, etc. Really learn how your consumers are interacting with your brand so you can tailor the experience to fit their needs based on what they tell you, metaphorically speaking, and not how you think they want to experience your brand.


Secondary Research

Secondary Research means gathering already published data; meaing, you need to searchfor things on the Google machine. Look at competitors websites, social media, etc. Check out their reviews from third-party sources. Look at industry related news and changes to ensure that your business is, at the very least, staying on par.

Schedule some time for R&D or Research and Development. I try to make time daily to see what is happening in the world of marketing and online lending, which is my company’s area of focus. Spending just a few minutes per day learning about your industry can greatly impact the efficacy of your business.

While secondary research is more cost-effective and less time consuming, both primary and secondary research are essential to your business success.