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Market Research – How to Do It



Over the past few weeks, having advised readers how important it is for SMEs to have a business plan when launching a business, we’ve given our you the information and advice that you need to enable you to draw up an effective business plan.  We covered how to write a business plan in four different sections:

·         The Project Idea

·         The People

·         The Money

Last week we took a much closer look at Market Research and why it matters so much when launching a business.  Today, we’re going to concentrate on just how to do it – how to get the information you need to give you the edge when launching and running your business.

If you’re business is at the smaller end of the scale (and most are here in the UK where SMEs make up 99.9% of all businesses), you can collect most of the information you’ll need yourself.  If you’re dead set on taking the road to global domination, however, you’re likely to need outside help!

When it comes to looking for free market information, there are several places you can look to find the necessary statistics on your chosen market.  Despite the fact that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website is so large to navigate your way round, there’s information there on just about anything if you keep at it and look hard enough.  The information includes peoples’ spending habits, how prices change over time, demographics to highlight just a few of the useful types of data available.   

You can also check out the UK government’s YouGovReports which will enable you to gain an insight into your sector or subject.  With more than 450 reports covering over 2,000 topics (including finance, retail, technology, utilities, legal services, media and food sectors) the research is collected from a database of more than 600,000 panellists.  There’s information on market sizes, forecasts and segmentations with added insights from third party resources like trade associations, specialist publications and the ONS.

The British Library is another useful place when you’re looking for information of any kind and it now boasts a Business & IP Centre that will help you start, run and grown your business.  The Centre has been launched in order to support small business owners, entrepreneurs and inventors and has a team on hand six days a week to offer you the advice you need.  You can check out their market research and company databases, book a confidential one-to-one chat with one of their advisors and even learn new skills by attending workshops and mini-masterclasses.  The Centre’s Innovating for Growth programme may, in some instances, provide up to £10,000 worth of support and has ten National Network Centres around the UK, making it an accessible option for most.

If you feel that you need expert help with market research, there are companies that can provide you with research tailored to your individual requirements and will also offer advice on targeting the right people and asking the right questions.

Face to face research can be useful either by asking people on the street to answer a questionnaire (keep it brief for best results) or cold calling.  You should also ask friends and family for honest answers and tell you what they would like most from a product or service.

You can also go online and use social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook) to ask questions.   This will have the added bonus of “advertising” your business to prospective customers, but do be careful not to reveal too much detail.