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Market Research: Avoid Wasting Your Time and Money

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Steve Jobs may have decided that market research was for the birds, but unless you have a similar amount of resources and cash flow to support a world-class team of designers and developers, you’re not going to get away with not listening to what your customers want. Don’t spend your time, energy, and money creating or revising a product or service, only to realize after the fact that there isn’t a market to support it. It’s important to figure out your customers, learn about your local area, and scope out existing competition to give your business a leg up in succeeding where others fail. So, how do you start?

Get The Information You Need To Make Informed Business Decisions
There are two main types of market research; primary research (that you conduct yourself) and secondary research (published by someone else). Smart business owners use a combination of these methods to measure their success and test the waters for new products and services. And remember, while positive feedback is great to hear, negative feedback can be used constructively to better your product and your brand, so don’t seek to avoid criticism.

Primary research involves getting your information directly from potential and actual customers.  The most common ways to go about this include surveys, interviews, and focus groups. This can be a time consuming process, so it’s important to invest some energy into deciding what questions you need answers to, how you’re going to collect that information and analyze it, and what you’re going to do with the results. Keep your questionnaires as brief as you can while still digging for the insight you need. It’s a great idea to make sure surveys are concise and only ask one question at a time. If the word “and” is in a question, this is your signal that it should be broken down further. It’s also a good rule of thumb to not just interview people you know. In an effort not to hurt your feelings, friends and family may not be willing to give you the constructive feedback you need to accurately assess your brand.

Secondary research involves reviewing and analyzing existing research, instead of collecting the data yourself. The United States Census Bureau can be a great resource to learn basic demographics of your target area. Municipality websites are another good source of demographic information. The internet has a wealth of facts and figures, but be cautious in relying solely on web resources because you’re not likely to get a full picture. This information is available to everyone and may be incomplete, outdated, or downright inaccurate. Check out a local library, university, or small business association for more secondary research resources.

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” – Arthur Conan Doyle

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