We all know it is impossible to sell products or services that customers do not want. Learning what customers want, and how to present it attractively, drive the need for market research. Market research can give you a profound understanding of your marketing. Market research focuses and organizes marketing information. It ensures that such information is timely and permits you to:
- Reduce business risks
- Spot current and upcoming problems in the current market
- Identify sales opportunities
- Develop plan of action
Any organization that intends to thrive must begin by gaining a profound understanding of its customers. Every business must ask the following questions to devise effective marketing strategies:
- 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 amounts?
- 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?
Market research provides us answers to these all-important questions.
It is pertinent to state here that market research is not a perfect science. It deals with people and their constantly changing feelings and behaviors, which are influenced by countless subjective factors. To conduct market research you must gather facts and opinions in an orderly, objective way to find out what people want to buy, not just what you want to sell them.
There are two types of market research: Quantitative research and Qualitative research.
Quantitative research: of the two, quantitative research is seen as more reliable because it follows basic scientific approach and its findings are generalize-able (if done right). It places emphasis on using formalized questions and predetermined response options in questionnaires administered to large numbers of respondents.
Qualitative research: it focuses on the collection of detailed amounts of primary data from relatively small samples of subjects by asking questions or observing behavior. There are various kinds of qualitative research, however, two of them stand out”
- In-depth interview. A formalized process in which a well-trained interviewer asks a subject a set of semi-structured questions in a face-to-face setting
- Focus group interview. This is a formalized process of bringing a small group of people together for an interactive, spontaneous discussion of one particular topic or concept.
As pointed earlier, conducting valuable market research requires specific skills. That is why most big organizations outsource their research tasks to market research firms. But a small or medium size company with budget constraint can conduct research in creative and affordable ways. For example, you could engage students and lecturers of a nearby university or polytechnic you to design and carry out projects. This is a win-win situation; the students gain experience, lecturers extra income, and the firm gets fresh set of eyes to solve problems at a fraction of what research firms would change. Or you could develop the competence yourself, it is possible!
And if you are really, really small business, it is understandable if you are intimidated and unnerved by those high sounding survey, focus group, statistical analysis…. But you need not be, you could still gather some kind of market insight within your resources. For example, an informal focus group is easy to arrange. Just buy meat pie and coke for a few prospects, customers and friends, throw in some provocative marketing questions, and listen to the enlightening replies!
There are other cheap or even free ways you can gather intelligence about your market. If you are a shop owner, for example, the minute a customer walks into your shop, you could engage him or her like this:
“Hello, is this your first time visiting us?” this opens the door to so much knowledge.
If the answer is “Yes”, and this is his or her first time you can proceed to give a tour or talk and you can ascertain where the customer came from and what drew him or her to your shop.
If the answer is “no” you can thank him or her for coming back in and talk about the customer previous experience and buying preference.