Market Research: Ask and You Shall Receive

Category: Business planning Operations Startup

A few months ago, we brought you the scoop about what market research is, and how you can use secondary data in your business. Now that you’ve mined the internet for everything it's worth, it is time to consider engaging in some primary market research as well.

SO WHAT IS PRIMARY MARKET RESEARCH?

Primary market research involves finding answers to your questions yourself. You would conduct primary market research when someone else, for example the government, hasn’t done research into a specific area and posted their conclusions online. With the internet being widely used and the growing trend towards “open data”, it can be surprising that the internet can’t answer everything we have questions on.

“Why can’t the internet do all of the work”, you ask? Conducting primary market research generally means talking to your potential or current customers about their thoughts, behaviours, attitudes, etc. and the internet just doesn’t have that capability (yet). The information you get from talking to people in your target market may help you make decisions on things like exactly what your product or service will be, what your prices might be, what advertising methods and messages you should use, where your business should be located, or if you should sell exclusively online. For those that aren’t sure about the feasibility of their idea, primary market research can also help you to understand whether there is a want or need for what you’re offering at this time.

HOW TO DO THE THING

Similarly to doing secondary market research, you want to think about what you are looking to get out of the research. That can help to inform what your questions and methods might be. Each primary market research method will have its pros and cons, so do some research into each before diving right in. Also consider using a mix of these options to meet your needs. Here are some ideas on methods to get your adventure started:

  • Observation: Primary market research isn’t always about asking questions or interacting with people, but also involves observing and listening to what is out there. For example, this is a great way for businesses to learn about the goings-on in the area they’ll physically be located. If you are thinking of a few different locations for your business, consider heading down to each at different times on different days of the week to get an idea of the foot traffic, what stores people are visiting, if they are buying, etc. If you are thinking of product labelling and branding, head down to the supermarket or another store to see what is already out there.

  • Surveys: These are great to ask some quick questions to your target market. These should be as short and sweet as possible, and usually include more close-ended questions. Depending on who you are trying to reach, you may be able to do the survey in-person, online, over the phone, or by mail. One thing we've seen recently is people taking advantage of social media to conduct a survey. Think about if there are consumer groups on Facebook who might fit your target market, for example dog lovers in a certain city.

  • Test marketing: This involves selling on a smaller scale before investing everything you have into the idea. For example, if you are able to start the business part-time, that can help to give a feel for the potential demand and work that’ll be involved. Also consider the possibility of selling at pop-up events or farmers’ markets before opening your own store or restaurant; that can be a great way to reach customers with minimal costs involved.

  • Interviews and focus groups: If you want some more in-depth feedback, one-on-one interviews or group discussions might be the way to go. These are great for getting into the nitty-gritty details, but can last from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Also consider that you may need someone to moderate the session for you so that participants feel free to share their real feelings. Usually these sessions will happen in person, but with technologies like Skype or Facetime, you could also consider doing them virtually.

MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOUR

The beauty of primary market research is that you can ask any question you want (within reason). However, people are not required to answer your questions. Can you think of a time when you received a survey or were solicited to attend a focus group, and didn’t do it? Keep that in mind when doing your own primary market research. You will get some no's, but you have to push past those to get to the good stuff.

It can also be nerve wracking to think about talking to total strangers. With primary market research, we want to talk to our target market, who may not be our friends and family. But keep in mind that when you start your business, you will be selling to complete strangers! You can consider doing some practice runs with people you know, but don’t be afraid to venture out there and talk to anyone and everyone in your target market. And who knows, maybe you’ll even get a customer or two in the process.

 

Ready to launch into market research for your business?

Join us on February 23rd for a Market Research BizChat webinar to get your questions answered live!

You can also find out more about our market research services or contact us at 1-800-272-9675 or askus@businesslink.ca to find out how we can help!

About the Author

Kari Morton

Kari Morton

Senior Business Advisor, Business Link

Kari helps clients find answers to their burning business questions on a daily basis. She enjoys putting her broad range of interests and experience to work for Alberta’s entrepreneurs. One of her main passions is market research and she greatly enjoys jumping down rabbit holes to help clients find information. She also enjoys assisting with projects to ensure that Business Link runs like a well-oiled machine. When Kari isn’t out enjoying theatre arts or exploring the world, you’ll find her with her nose in the latest novel, or volunteer teaching ESL. Her dream business would be a bookstore, with a twist!

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