What is market research?

Market research can help you get insight into your customers and competitors - and ultimately boost your bottom line.

As a small business, do you think market research is something that only larger organisations should spend time on? If so, it’s time to reconsider as your SME will benefit from using it just as much as bigger players.

Whatever your size, and however long you’ve been going - whether you’re established or a start-up - it’s vital to know who your customers are, how to attract more of them and how to make them happier.

And as today’s business environment is more competitive than ever, the more you know and understand about your target market and your competitors the more likely you are to succeed. As the saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’.  

What is market research?

In a nutshell, market research means collecting data about people or companies, then analysing it to gain an insight into a target audience.

It’s based on the principle that you can ask a small sample of people for their views on a subject, and they’ll represent what a much larger group of people also think.

Research can give you the information you need to:

  • understand your customers and boost customer satisfaction and retention
  • identify your target customers
  • get to know your competition
  • develop new products and services
  • find out what people think about your products

The end result? If you can make better decisions for your business, you’re more likely to see an increase in profit.

An introduction to market research

Watch a quick video tutorial from an expert.

How to do it 

Thanks to email and online surveys, it’s now straightforward to carry out simple market research in-house.

The way you research customers depends on your customer base, so you’ll first need to decide what kind of research to do. An online quantitative survey is the best way to gather general trends and opinions from larger numbers. Qualititative research in a focus group, on the other hand, may suit if you have a smaller group of customers you know personally.

You can also carry out social media listening - using social media analytics to track consumer feelings towards your brand as well as your competitors’ brands.

Find out more about the different types of research and what they can achieve for your business here.

When to find expertise

If you feel your business doesn’t have the resources, time or experience to carry out a market research project, think about outsourcing to a qualified agency.

To get the best results from research, it’s key to use the latest analysis tools and research methodologies - and of course good agencies have this up-to-date knowledge.

With so many suppliers available, it can be hard to know who will do the best job for you. The publishers of this website - Market Research Society - accredits organisations and members who abide by the MRS Code of Conduct, and you can find a list of accredited agencies who specialise in SME research using the search facility at the bottom of this page.

Feedback, warts and all

Successful research isn’t just getting access to new information - it’s about acting on it too. Your business will gain most from the process if you’re ready to take on feedback, bad as well as good.

Knowing what to fix can be a hugely useful learning. The key is being able to listen to the things that customers mention most frequently as areas for improvement and take action.

Being brave enough to go through the market research process – whatever it turns up – will help your SME go on to bigger and better things.

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