My last article was an introduction to market and marketing research; this article will continue on from the previous article and discuss what market research could enable you to find out.

You could conduct market research to:

• Find a gap in the market: Traditionally this was about researching consumers and trying to provide a solution to a problem that wasn’t being met. Today the most successful companies take the risk of inventing products that ‘create’ that gap rather than filling it.

Creativity is risky but if it works for customers, it can change the market immediately like the iPhone changed the mobile market. Before the iPhone consumers weren’t aware that they all strived for a phone they could switch on with one button and customise it however they like.

As imagined, finding a gap in the marketing isn’t very easy for small businesses. It isn’t impossible either! Innocent Smoothie’s start-up budget was £500, they began from a stall at a festival and now they’re multi million pound company and currently 90% of the company is owned by Coca Cola.

• Know which of your ideas will fit in the market: If you already have an idea, you can do research into the different elements of your market to determine how your product or service will be welcomed.

Traditionally this was done by gathering focus groups and printed questionnaires; even though those methods are still effective using social media platforms will be much quicker and less costly to gather the data.

• Find your potential customers: Find your perfect segment of customers that will appreciate your products or services the most. It is very easy to assume that the wrong segment of people will make use of your products therefore researching will give you a better understanding of what those groups of people really think about your products.
If possible, allow customers from different segments to sample your products/services and gather as much feedback as you can. Many PR companies often send samples to popular bloggers who are requested to write reviews on the product – this not only gets the product more exposure, it also works as research.

• Gain a better understanding of your current customers: See if you are able to meet their needs adequately and find out if there is more you can do to offer them a better service.
You also need to ensure you are aware of the trends that concern your customers. Social media is a great platform for this type of activity. You can easily engage with your customers and find more about what the recent trends are.

• Seek out opportunities for growth: Can you grow your product/service line? What are the trends in your or other markets? Will you be able to tap into those markets? By actively seeking opportunities for growth you will also ensure that you are staying competitive. Explore what your competitors are doing and ensure you’re not missing out on an opportunity.

• Identify threats: You will be able to identify threats on time to make sure you can take the necessary measures to eliminate them. If you are unaware of the threats in your market, they could ruin your business therefore you should always ensure that adequate research is being done to identify threats.

These points are only an indication of the areas you can conduct research into to give you an overall idea.

Research Types

Here is the more academic side of research…

There are also two methods you can use to carry out your market research, which method you choose will be dependent on your research objectives and what you hope to find out.

The two types of research methods are:

• Quantitative – gathering statistical data that involves asking people for their opinions in a more structured way. Surveys are the most popular way of gathering the data that is required.

• Qualitative – an understanding of behaviour, motivation, exploring issues etc. Popular qualitative research approaches are: focus groups, ethnography, in-depth interviews, and evaluation.
Depending on the data you require, you may need to combine the two types of research. In depth research often requires the combination of the two. You can choose to carry out the research yourself or outsource it to a specialised research agency.

Data Sources

The information you require is likely to come from two different sources:
• Primary – Data that isn’t already available, either yourself or someone you hire will conduct the research that you need directly from the source.

Traditionally this method was regarded as being very costly, however, with the popularity of social media and the internet companies can access this type of data for much less than before.

• Secondary – Data that is already available out there, less costly which is why many small businesses usually tend to only do secondary research.

This article aimed to give you an idea of the areas market research could help you with. In my next article I will be shortlisting and discussing the most useful marketing models.