Conducting Market Research
You can’t start a new business based on guesses and intuition, and experience isn’t enough—you need to do real market research and analysis to test your assumptions. Or, if you have an established business, you can use market research to keep up with the changing business environment. Don’t forget: our in-house market research experts are here to help! You can also get started on your own by reading our guide to free resources for secondary market research.
Visit our blog to learn more about The Why and How of Market Research, Creating Your Market Research Action Plan, What Goes into the Market Research Section of your Business Plan, and for more helpful tips and advice.
When to Do Market Research
Research isn’t a one-time-only activity. Use market research throughout the life of your business, no matter its size, age, or revenue. Regular research helps keep your business efficient and competitive.
Visit the Business Development Bank of Canada’s (BDC) guide to market research and analysis for more information on when to conduct market research.
Before You Start a New Business
Market research is an essential part of planning your business and should be a central part of your business plan. It can help you test assumptions you have about your product or service, design a product or service that truly meets your clients’ needs, and make better business decisions overall, saving you time and money.
Before You Launch a New Product or Service
Conduct market research before you launch a new product or service in your successful or growing business. Research is valuable any time you want to make a major change to your operations, like moving to a new location, entering a new market, etc.
To Maintain an Established Business
Market research is also important for established businesses. You need to keep up with where your industry and customers are going. Success today doesn’t necessarily mean success tomorrow—you should conduct regular research to stay on top of changing trends.
How to Conduct Market Research
- Decide what you want to achieve. What do you want to know, and why? You need clear goals to design good research.
- Define your research methods. You might choose some combination of primary research (gathering your own information) and secondary research (compiling information that others have already gathered). Depending on your goals, you might conduct surveys, interviews, focus groups, or use other methods. The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has excellent guides on how to conduct market research and market research methods.
- Decide who will conduct your research. Will you do all the research yourself, use Business Link’s market research services, or pay a third-party research company to do it for you? Maybe a combination? Do-it-yourself research costs less but can take longer and be less effective (especially if you have no experience). If you are looking for help with secondary market research, we can help you define your research questions and provide market research expertise!
Researching Market Trends
Start your market research with high-level information on trends. Find demographics, statistics, and publications with research that will inform your business idea.
Find More Information about Industry Trends
Researching New Ideas and Innovations
Market research is especially important if you have a new idea or invention. You need to make sure no one else has already patented your idea or started a similar business you can’t compete with. There are many ways to get help evaluating your idea, such as patent attorneys, invention brokers, or government programs.
Where to Get More Help Evaluating Your Idea
Patent Attorneys and Agents
Attorneys and agents can help you search existing patents and create your patent application if you can’t do it yourself. See the Canadian Intellectual Property Office’s list of registered agents, or search the Internet or telephone directory for “patent attorney or agent [name of your city or town]”.
Invention Promotion Firms
Invention promotion firms will—for a fee—promote and protect your idea on your behalf. Be very cautious before hiring a promotion firm. If you do decide to use one, make sure:
- They can provide you with solid evidence of their track record. Not just a few flashy success stories, but verifiable statistics on the number of clients they’ve had and the number who have actually made money.
- They don’t collect the entire fee in advance.
- They will provide you with samples of their promotional materials.
- You check the firm’s reputation with your local Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, a patent attorney, or a local inventors/innovators club.
Brokers work for a portion of the profits from an invention. They can help you raise capital and form companies to produce and market your invention. They often provide sophisticated management advice. Expect these brokers to be interested in more complex technology with larger sales potential.
University Innovation/Invention/Entrepreneurial Centers
These centers, some funded by the National Research Council, are dedicated to helping inventors and innovators. Many (such as the Canadian Innovation Centre at the University of Waterloo) evaluate ideas for a very modest fee.
Innovation centers will help you weed out bad ideas and identify trouble spots. If your idea looks like it has merit and commercial viability, they will help you find funding sources.
Government of Alberta
The Government of Alberta’s Alberta Innovates program helps Alberta entrepreneurs in multiple sectors such as energy and environment, health, and technology. They can help you obtain funding, conduct research, develop prototypes, or bring your product to market.
Visit the Alberta Innovates website for more information.
Government of Canada
Innovative Solutions Canada lets you test your product in federal government departments before it goes to market. They’re looking for innovation in environment, safety and security, health, enabling technologies, and the military.
Visit the Innovative Solutions Canada website for more information.
Talking with other inventors is probably the most helpful thing you can do. Find someone who has been through the entire patent application, research, finance, development, and launch process. It doesn’t matter if the end result was a success or failure—talking about the process is what’s important.