When you come up with a new business idea, it can be tempting to jump right into developing the product or creating an impressive marketing plan. But first, you need to make sure that there are people out there who will want what you are selling. No matter how great you think your business idea is, without doing proper market research, you could be headed for disaster.
Determining if there is product-market fit is critical for startups, which is why we’ve compiled the best ways to quickly do market research. These tricks will help you establish the right product and sell it to the right people.
What is Market Research?
Market research is the strategic method of gathering information about the market, including your target audience, your competition, and the entire industry, with the goal of helping you position your brand or product. It is the foundation to build your business on, which is why entrepreneurs should take the time to do it right. Market research will inform almost every decision you make, from product development to unique value propositions to marketing tactics.
When you do market research, you should focus on:
- Your audience demographics
- Platforms your audience uses
- Competitors’ unique value propositions (UVPs)
- Interests and needs of your audience
- How to connect with your audience
- Challenges your audience faces
- Size of the market
- Industry trends
- If there is a real need for your product
There are two different types of market research: primary and secondary. Primary refers to the research you are asking your audience, such as through surveys or in focus groups. Secondary, on the other hand, is all about collecting data that already exists.
Why do I need market research?
The findings from your market research will guide your decisions moving forward. You will know how to sell to your target audience and what marketing tactics work — or don’t work — on them. It will ultimately increase your sales and conversions.
Market research is also helpful because it gives you a competitive edge over your competitors. You can study them, learn their strengths and weaknesses, and discover a unique way to position your brand. You might learn what the struggles are in the industry overall, preparing your business for challenges it will face as well.
How to Quickly Do Market Research
It’s worth it to be thorough in your market research, but you also don’t want to spend too much time on it. You need to use smart tactics to gather information quickly.
Before starting your market research, you need to identify your target audience. It might change or become more specific as you do your market research, but you should start with a general idea of who will use your product or service. Imagine your ideal customer. What do they look like? How old are they? You should start your market research with a basic idea about your target audience’s:
- Relationship status
- Job title
As I mentioned, these might change as you do your market research and learn more about who your potential customers are. You need to start with a basic idea in order to guide your first steps of market research. Write down as many descriptors as possible, then make it a goal to check in with them throughout your market research to make sure they are still true.
Use Social Media
Analyze your following
If you already have a following on social media, you can use tools to learn more about your following. Study the demographic and psychographic information of your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. You can use software like Followerwonk to analyze their social media profiles.
Poll people on social media
Go to Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Quora, or Slack and find a community that your potential customers interact with. Then, post a question or poll. Some sites have business forums specifically designed for people to ask questions and receive insight about different subjects. You will be able to learn about your audience’s specific needs and pain points by asking them directly. If you are using Twitter to ask a question, make sure to tell users to include a custom hashtag so you can find their answers. You can also encourage followers to retweet your question by offering them entrance to a giveaway or some company swag.
Read what they’re saying
One of the easiest ways to learn about your target market is to read what they post on social media. Find online communities on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Slack, LinkedIn, YouTube, and forums or message boards. Read what they are talking about and what they are asking each other, then interact with them. The questions you ask will get more honest feedback when you are active in the online community rather than just posting as a business.
Send out surveys
Sending online surveys is a simple method to ask your target audience lots of questions. You can create and edit surveys online, then send them to mass audiences with ease. Include questions about your audience’s basic information, such as their approximate age, gender, education level, location, household income, and profession. You should also ask questions to uncover their needs, wants, and buyer behavior. If you do use surveys for market research, keep in mind that data can be skewed. Only a portion of the survey recipients will fill it out, so you might get a certain group or type of person providing you with answers.
Do a search query
There is a lot of data on buyers and industries already out there. When doing market research quickly, utilizing available resources is extremely important. A quick Google search can uncover plenty of data on your target market. Using your industry, type “____ market analysis report filetype:pdf” or “____ market trends filetype:pdf” into Google or Google Scholar. The search should turn up data from organizations that include useful information. Keywords like “survey” and “pdf” are especially useful, and locations or date ranges can be important. Chances are, there is plenty of research readily available on your target audience. You just need to find out where it is and how you can use it.
Seek out government statistics
Local and federal government agencies collect vast amounts of information that is accessible to the public. You can find these reports on government websites, or by contacting the institutions themselves. The local chamber of commerce of your target audience will likely also have up-to-date information about the surrounding population, including average income, family size, profession, age, and ethnicity. This information can be extremely useful.
Study their media consumption habits
Your audience’s reading and listening habits can tell you a lot about them. One way to see what your audience is reading is to go to Amazon and search the books in your business industry. See which books are the most popular among purchasers, then briefly look at the topic and voice of the books. You can use this same approach for looking at podcasts and blogs that your audience is listening to and reading.
Ask university professors
University professors are regularly involved in research projects, and they might just have some findings that can help you. Browse professor’s university profile pages to see what type of research they have done. If their work appears to align with what you are doing, reach out to see if you can view their research or talk with them about their work.
The University of Utah has a wealth of research available on its online database. You can easily search topics and view research papers through its extensive research tools.
The importance of competitor research
Don’t forget that a big part of market research is understanding your competitor. You should learn what other companies are selling products and/or services similar to yours. Read about what they offer and how much they are charging. Learn about their UVPs and which ones are most valued by their customers. Research their strengths and weaknesses.
Some ways to research your competitors are:
- Read reviews to see what their customers are saying
- Ask their customers personally what they like or don’t like about the competitor
- Visit the competitor’s website and see how they structure the page, what images they use, and what their tone of voice is
- Visit their pricing pages to see how you would compare
- Check their social media pages to see which ones they are most active on, and which posts are getting the most interactions
- Purchase the product/service and test it out
- Type into Google your industry and “market players” or “market share.”
By doing competitor research, you will learn what marketing campaigns work for your audience, as well as what people like or dislike about the company. Their weaknesses might become your strength. Maybe they don’t have great customer service or they don’t offer a range of product options. You can meet the needs of their customers and take some of the market share by giving consumers what they want.
Some businesses with similar products/services in non-competing geographies might even give you some useful market research information. You’re not risking anything by sending them a message or giving them a call to ask questions about their market and what they’ve learned while in business.
Use these market research tools to quickly learn about your target audience, and whether or not your product or service fits their needs.