Market research can be one the best uses of funds at a small firm, but, typically it seldom gets done. The reasons include lack of funds, little or no experience with market research, no time to do the research, and often the autocratic styles of entrepreneurs don’t allow for third party feedback.

There are many uses of market research including competitive analysis, customer satisfaction, brand awareness, message testing for advertisements, employee satisfaction, and new product development. Generally speaking, all research requires the help of a third party since a third party conducts the research without bias. This is often hard for entrepreneurs to understand.

The best place to begin when you need market research is with secondary research which is pre-existing research. Already prepared, secondary research is on the shelf and can be inexpensive or even free. Sources include:
– Trade journals (a good source of technical trends)
– Market research firm publications
– Trade associations
– Magazines
– Internet resources
– Conferences
– Multi-client studies
– Subscription services

When more specific research is needed, custom or primary research is the preferred choice. Primary research is original research that is conducted for one client. Primary research can use qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.

Most primary research starts with qualitative market research techniques to determine the key issues or problems. Qualitative research uses open-ended questions that “fish for answers” using techniques such as:
– Focus groups with a professional moderator
– Intercept interviews at the place of business or point of purchase
– Telephone interviews seeking opinions
– Pre-arranged interviews with target executives
– Email focus groups for the convenience of the participant.

Once the key issues or problems are identified, quantitative market research techniques are typically employed to verify the qualitative findings by polling a sample of the population to give a statistically significant picture. Quantitative techniques may include computer aided telephone interviews, in-person interviews, mail surveys, and e-mail surveys.

Market research is money well spent by the entrepreneur.

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