Market research is arguably the most important part of putting together a solid and thoroughly constructed business and marketing plan. Those who venture into the endeavor of conducting this research, however, can often find themselves facing information overload. Information resources in general and the internet in particular are saturated with data that can make market research an unnecessarily daunting task. With that in mind, it helps to have some guidelines in place for how to efficiently conduct your research in terms of where to begin looking and what exactly to look for. These steps can help make the process much more manageable and maybe even more enjoyable.
Establish Your Research Goals
Establishing clearly defined goals is a critical element of just about any endeavor and conducting quality market research is no exception. Before consulting a single resource, you must determine what exactly the problem or issue is that you would like to address through your research. What do you need to learn about that issue and how is it relevant to the goals that you have established? Also, how will the information that you uncover be used toward the ultimate end of solving the problem or issue. Asking and answering these types of questions establishes a sharper focus when you actually begin the research.
Create the Plan, Design the Project
Who are the people or groups of people that can best answer the questions that you come up with in establishing your research goals? What are the questions that you need to ask them? You need to determine what kind of research you will be doing and what sources you think will be best to do that kind of research. The internet is obviously a great resource but it should not be the end-all-be-all of your entire research methodology. Be sure to look into other methods such as surveys ethnography, and focus groups. Government publications, commercial data, and good old fashioned books and magazines can also prove to provide treasure troves of valuable information and insight.
Gather the Data
Strong market research is process-based which means that it goes beyond looking up statistics and other information that has already been collected by someone else and conducting first-hand research in a controlled environment in an effort to gather results that can be replicated. Gathering that information means being organized and examining the data within the appropriate contexts, using more than one research method, and always being cognizant of how data and models play off of each other to provide the information you’re gathering.
Conduct an Analysis of the Data
It is vitally important to look for trends in the information you collect and determine what it is that those trends are trying to show you. In what direction is the information taking you as it relates to your original research goals? It is critical that you not try to make your findings fit any preconceived notions. Don’t try to twist the data and invent a narrative but let the information lead you to into making critical decisions about your business. This step might call for consulting other people within your company in order to get their input as well.
Apply Your Findings
Now comes the “easy” part – applying what you have found to your business and marketing plan. If you have been thorough, you will find that the research you’ve conducted will be an extremely useful tool in developing your business strategy as it pertains to things like markets, pricing, and the like. Research doesn’t have to be tedious and cumbersome and once you apply your findings you just might see that it was actually kind of fun.