Market Research For Your Business - Getting It Right


The business owner who stumbles blindly into their launch strategy may quickly run aground. Far better to begin with a clear understanding of what your market wants and needs. Market research for your business, here's the key essentials for getting it right:

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Most major brands are committed to market research because it helps them to ensure that they understand the ever-evolving needs of their customers. They get feedback in a number of ways and use this data to tweak and fine-tune their product or service. It’s a way to stay competitive and successful.

For smaller businesses – brand new ones that are yet to launch, especially – market research is every bit as vital, not least because a reported 42% of failed start-ups go under because there is no market need for them.

“There's a trend in the marketplace among smaller SMEs that it's OK to be ‘you’ and just do your thing,” says Waterford-based marketing expert Finola Howard, founder of successful online course How Great Marketing Works. “In fact, we need to bring people back to doing market research pre-launch because it is so important.”

In simple terms, market research is all about researching the market in which you wish to operate. This helps a business to understand more about who else is operating in that sector, what people are buying, what they think of your idea, any emerging trends that are coming through and more.

It’s an area that County Kildare-based Irish Dog Foods is committed to – with help from the Market Research Centre of Enterprise Ireland – whenever it is launching in new overseas markets. Before launching in South Korea, for example, head of marketing Darren Keating says that market research equipped his team with vital information about the actual size of most pet dogs over there (small) and also the average spend on pet food (high). It meant that when they were making their pitches, they came across as knowledgeable and experienced, which made all the difference.

Recommended reading: Good Sources of Market Research Information

Tools galore

Whether you are launching or repositioning an existing business, the internet is a good place to start because it will be a near-endless source of information about whatever market is of interest to you.

As well as this, there are industry bodies that may freely share their own research, while innovation foundation Nesta has a free ‘DIY toolkit’, which may be helpful, too. In fact, the options are limitless – you could even contact a rival firm posing as a buyer to get a feel for its customer service.

“I lined up meeting after meeting with shop owners and experienced shopping centre managers, and their input helped show that there was indeed demand”

Peter McCaul, founder, Péarlaí,

When trying to find a niche, Howard says you should try to look at everything that your competitors are doing. “Where they're positioning themselves, what kind of branding they have – what about pricing and who are they targeting? All of this can give you an idea of how they are operating in the marketplace, and if you put all this down on a spreadsheet, a gap will eventually present itself,” she says.

This gap may, of course, illustrate a lack of demand in that particular area – but it could equally present you with a golden opportunity.

Paul McClatchie, founder of Dublin-based financial recruitment specialists Engage People, has been spending the past few months conducting market research that will ultimately enable him to reposition his company and accelerate growth. He’s found that some of the best sources of information for an established company like his are existing customers.

“I ask every candidate I meet about their experience in the market and who they have found to be good to work with,” he says. “Likewise, on the client side, after every conversation I ask about how they have recruited in the past.”

For a wider view of the recruitment and tech spaces in general, McClatchie has found podcasts to be highly informative, too. It is all helping him, he feels, better align his company with the changing face of tech recruitment, where top talent is in very high demand.

A good idea, but will people want it?

Once you’ve identified your niche, the next thing to do is to make sure people actually want what you have in mind. There are a variety of ways to do this, from surveys and polls to focus groups, where you sit down with a group of potential buyers and ask key questions that will inform how you develop your product or service so that it meets their needs.

When he was developing his tech-based shopping centre loyalty system Péarlaí, founder Peter McCaul had a good idea of what his business would eventually become, but he was committed to making sure it met the needs of the market. “I lined up meeting after meeting with shop owners and experienced shopping centre managers, and their input helped show that there was indeed demand, and also let me build the product they wanted,” he says.

It can be hard to know which method of market research to go for, but Howard suggests starting with some serious online research. As for what happens next, she offers the following as a simple guide:

  • Competitive analysis: best for new or existing companies that are in search of their niche. It can be in-depth and expensive or, at the other end of the scale, completely free by going online.
  • Surveys: cost-effective way for start-ups to gauge feedback pre-launch.
  • Focus groups: a good way to gather feelings/thoughts on a topic or problems you want to solve. They can be useful in pointing you in the right direction before prototyping.
  • User testing: often done on a one-to-one basis and a great way to see how a real person actually uses your prototype.

Five tips for beginners

While it can be hard to know where to start, taking a structured, methodical approach to your market research will help you convert your findings to be of the best use to your business. The experts at Explain Market Research share their key tips:

  1. Get out and about. Visit town centres armed with your idea and test it out on the public.
  2. Look beyond friends and family. If you want an objective answer, don’t rely on people who will be sensitive to your feelings.
  3. Go digital. Key questions can be answered by hundreds of people in your target audience in mere minutes via mobile micro-surveys.
  4. Be robust. The larger your test sample, the more the results will help your proposition to stand up to scrutiny.
  5. Engage an expert. Professional, independent support can offer incredible value for a small investment.

Recommended reading: A Useful List of Market Research Questions For Startups or Product Launches

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