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Chapter 14 of 120 Chapters [part one]
14. Research: The Critical Information that You need in Order to Succeed
To run a successful business, you need to research and acquire information on your existing and potential customers, your competitors and the economic conditions of your marketplace and target market. Market research [demographics, psychographics, cultural graphics and temporal graphics] is an ongoing process of gathering and analyzing consumer and economic data to help you understand which products and services your customers want, and how to differentiate your business from your competitors in order to generate sales.
So, you may ask yourself, “How do I Conduct Market Research”? It's often difficult to know where to start your research to see if your business idea and target market will be a good combination. A little research can go a long way, so the first step should be to learn more about how to conduct market research. With the internet and various “source data” services, the research will be simple… simple, not necessarily easy. Keep in mind that information on the internet can be “aged” and “not necessarily accurate”… the information on the internet tends to be “opinions” rather than hard facts. Various statistical sources can be used for market research. This type of research is a widely used method of collecting data which involves synthesizing existing research from sources such as books, magazine articles, white papers, websites, etc.
The demographic information you seek will include age, gender, marital status, educational attainment, household income, and leisure pursuits. If you know a customer's residential address, you can get an idea about their income and education. When your customers are businesses, you want information about their size by number of employees and revenue. There are basically three ways to conduct research: by writings, by phone, or online. Written research is a bit antiquated but may still serve best in some forms of research when you want certain questions answered … and then tallied and quantified.
A phone call may be ideal for complex and probing questions that demand interaction between you and your prospective customer, but it normally requires professional assistance. Online research will be very helpful when you need to gather information from a large number within your target market. The online information is a large sampling of “opinions & beliefs”. Most online research, at least in the initial broad data gathering stages, will do very well with an online survey. Research, in any form, will yield data… and hopefully accurate data.
B2C: If your Business sells to consumers, take time out of your business routine to survey them to find the answers to questions like these: Are your current clients mostly men, mostly women, or do they represent a 50/50 mix? Is there a certain age group or range that tends to buy from you? If so, write it down as a range. Are most of your typical clients single or married? Do you know their approximate income level? If not, do you know what zip code they live in? Most zip codes contain homes or apartments that represent specific income ranges.
B2B: If your Business sell to businesses, interview at least three typical businesses you sell to. Find out the number of employees they have and their location to learn about their company culture and the number of subordinates you may have to speak with in order to get your sales message to the decision-maker. When you sell to other businesses, there's a mindset to consider that may be different from your own. For example, you may need to position your product or service differently when selling to a New York-based business compared to a California-based business. In some cases, that difference can be day and night.
Look for Patterns: When you have completed the research, compile all of the information to determine commonalities within your target market. Collecting this information will help you find the traits they have in common, which will help in future marketing. All of this demographic information is designed to create a picture in your mind of your current client. By identifying this client with demographic information, you can use this information later when you begin “lead generation” and to create a specific marketing message targeted toward your ideal client; so take your time and be as specific as possible when completing these interviews. Accurate data support good decisions!
Conducting robust, comprehensive and accurate research is probably the most important function that your business can do. As you know, if the foundation of a home is not built well, the home will not be secure … likewise, a business built upon insufficient and/or inaccurate research will also not be secure. So, invest the time, talent and treasure that you will want for the foundation of your business… and in doing so, your business will be strong and be able to withstand the “weather”..
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