Marketing your business in more than one channel is extremely important if you truly want to grow your business. This is especially true if you know what customers are looking for. Wouldn’t it be nice to rub a crystal ball to see exactly where the market is heading? Well, what if I told you can do just that? It’s called market research.
As a business owner, market research is an essential part of your operation. It can help you to make good business decisions, as well as minimize your risks. Often times though small businesses find themselves in a challenging situation because they do not have the budgets like the larger corporations have to conduct in depth research by a marketing company. So, what can you do?
In today’s article, I talk about three steps you can take to conduct market research without spending any money.
Step 1: Look At What Others Have Done
One of the quickest ways to find out what is going in your market is to look at what others have done. Often times major marketing companies have already published reports that highlight certain demographics, statistics and profiles of your specific market. This type of information is extremely helpful if you are trying to learn more about the geographic area in which you operate.
For example, if you want to know where other people are like your current customers or similar to your customers who may like your products, if introducing a new product in the market will sustain, or even if the size of the market is big enough for your investment, looking at what others have already published is a great resource.
You can also go where the pros go and use some of the same marketing research tools they do. For example, MarketingSherpa is a great web site that publishes free case studies, surveys, reports and excerpts. They are a research firm that specializes in tracking what works, and what does not work, in all aspects of marketing.
Another way to identify opportunities in your marketplace is to look for trends.
Step 2: Look At Market Trends
Everyone wants to know what the latest and greatest trends are so they can capitalize on them. With the craze of the Xbox, Amazon’s Kindle reader, or even being eco-green friendly to the environment, trends are a key indicator to what people will buy. And, of course, if you know what people are apt to buy, you know what to market to them.
However trying to pick what the next greatest thing will be is often times very difficult. To some experts, the stock market drives all the trends, while to others the trends are cyclical in nature. Meaning, what products or services were hot twenty or thirty years will be the next sought after items today.
This concept is interesting if you stop to think about it. With all the resources on the internet today it is easy to research what customers were buying twenty or thirty years ago. For example, take Google Books, it is the largest index of books and magazines in the world.
This is a great resource to use to see what some of the hottest selling items are by looking at what’s on the cover of magazines. We all know that if a product is on the top seller’s list, it is usually featured on the cover of a magazine because consumers are buying it.
But why are they buying it? Is it because the product is such a great product or is it because there was a great marketing message wrapped around it? Whatever the case, you can learn a lot by looking at market trends.
You can also learn what your customers want by simply asking them, which is the next step.
Step 3: Ask Your Customers
Is there any more direct and less expensive way to go then to simply ask your customers what they want? Absolutely not, your customers hold the “keys to the kingdom,” as they say. Your customers will tell you exactly why they purchased the product or service from you, how they heard about you, and even what you can improve upon.
And, if you have a direct sales force, do not overlook this hidden gem. These are the people who have some of the best ideas due to their close customer contact.
Overall, every business should conduct its own market research regardless if you have a budget or not. The good news is that there are a number of ways you can do this without incurring any cost. By knowing what your customers want, you know how to market to them.
To learn other ways to increase your revenue, then make sure you sign up for the special Business Mastery Training webinar.
For other business strategies on how to grow your business, then check out a free business startup and growth training program. If you haven’t signed up for that free course yet, I highly recommend you check it out too.
*Originally published as Issue # 52 – December 16, 2011