In this article you will learn how to market research for a small business. This is a very important part of a business plan and should not be skipped. You can make a lot of false assumptions when you start a business plan without doing the proper market research. Market research is essentially asking everyone in your potential customer pool about their needs and wants while thinking out loud with them, that they can hear your questions. In this way, you get to know the ins and outs of your potential customers’ minds, not just their statistical data.

Marketing for small business, targeting sales growth. Profit offers quality information on how to start a business. How to market products and services, creating a successful business

Market research is one of the most useful tools that a business can use to further develop the way it understands customers and maximise the potential for profit and growth. It’s essential for businesses of all sizes and benefits everyone from small start-ups through to multinationals, paving the way for data-led success.

Performing research doesn’t need to be difficult; however, it does need to be complete and inclusive of specific information.

 Create Buyer Personas

Learning how your customers make their buying decisions is important; however, it’s essential that you know who they are. Knowing who your buyer personas are is just the beginning during your research of the primary market.

Buyer personas are fictional representations of your perfect customer. Personas help you develop your strategy, streamline your communications, and visualize your ideal audience.

Some key characteristics that you should focus on including in your business persona are:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Job titles
  • Family size
  • Income

Basically, the idea is to help you use your persona as a guide when you experience real life customers. For all you know, your business may end up having multiple personas and that’s perfectly fine! Just be certain that you’re being thoughtful about the persona you’re planning to optimize. It’ll make things easier when you’re planning campaigns and content.

Conduct a Survey

Use a survey tool like, SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo, to collect insight from your audience. With these tools, you can ask specific questions about your audience’s challenges and solutions. You can also ask qualifying questions upfront to help segment responses and make sure you are getting valid insights. Even better, you can use skip logic, or branch logic, to guide survey takers down a specific path.  For instance, you can ask “Are you a current customer?” to separate your actual customers from prospects in your audience.  Then, you can ask your customers “How likely are you to recommend us?” to get their NPS, while skipping that question for those who aren’t customers.

When it comes to surveys, the more responses you receive from your audience, the more statistically valid the responses are.  So how many people do you need to survey to get solid feedback?  SurveyMonkey has a great chart to help you gauge how big of a group you should survey.

So, what if you need 300 survey responses to be statistically valid, but only have 100 contacts who have completed your survey?  SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo also offer the ability to purchase survey responses from an audience similar to the one you’re trying to target. It’s affordable for small businesses – and completely worth it in the quest to get your product-market fit right on the money.

Host a Webinar

If you want to really find out if there’s a market for your new product or service, create a webinar about it. You can do at least two or three iterations of the invite for this webinar — changing up the product name, description, and features — in order to see what will resonate best with the target audience. Then, once that webinar and the invites have been created, promote the heck out of it to your target audience through email promotions to your database and through social media posts and see what level of interest is generated. 

Webinars are a great platform to share your ideas.  At the same time, they can also be valuable to getting feedback from your audience.  Use a Q&A session after you’ve presented to gauge how successful your new ideas might be.  If only a handful of people show up, but they are promoters who have lots of positive feedback, you might have a great product for your niche.

Getting it right from the beginning

If you are launching a product or service, getting it off to the strongest start possible will be on the top of your short-term objectives. Depending on how far along you are in the development process, researching all of the basics as you go along is an efficient way to do this. Think about the marketing strategy that you want to have in place and see if you can find any other that have used this strategy to see how successful they’ve been. Would people like the name of the service or product? The way it looks? What about the logo? Having everything laid out in front of you will go a long way to helping that the launch of a new product, service or business has the most chance for success.   

Market research may seem like a time consuming process but what it brings to a business is far more valuable. If you are unsure where to start visit the Centre and attend one of our workshops.

Identify Market Segments

market research surveys

Now that you’ve learned about buyer personas, it’s time for you to find a sample of your ideal customers. Doing this is going to help you understand the customer’s buying habits, challenges, and characteristics.

Your customers should be people who recently bought something or who have decided not to make a purchase.

Here are some ways you can meet with them:

  • Create an online survey
  • Conduct phone interviews
  • In-person through the means of a social group

An important factor to keep in mind when choosing who you wish to engage with is starting with characteristics that apply to your personas. Not to mention, it will help you conduct your marketing research.

Increase Engagement

A lot of research firms in marketing have groups of people that they can pull from whenever they need to perform a study. The fact of the matter is a lot of individual marketers are unable to afford that kind of luxury. However, that’s not exactly a terrible thing. All the time you’re going to spend recruiting people for the study may lead to having better participants.

Below is a brief recruiting guide to make things a little easier:

  • Bring up a list of people who have made a recent purchase
  • Have a list of those who made an active evaluation of your product, but haven’t made a purchase
  • Ask for participants via social media
  • Try to leverage your network
  • Make sure you have an incentive

Ask Questions

One of the best ways to get everything out of your conversations is to prepare your questions in advance. Try creating a discussion guide for everything such as a social group, surveys, online and phone interviews. This will ensure that frequently asked questions are covered and you can use the extra time wisely.

It’s worth mentioning that this should not be a script. All your discussions are better when they’re conversational and natural.

Know Your Competition

Figuring out your potential competitors starts off your research of the secondary market. With that said, there’s a lot more than just one company against the other. In some cases, a fraction of a company may compete with another company’s service or products, despite the fact that this company puts more effort in a different area.

Even if you think you know your target audience, conducting market research can be an eye-opening experience. Consumers of today are more powerful than ever. They know what they want and usually aren’t willing to settle for less. And why should they? With so many options out there, the world is their oyster.

Ask and Listen on Social Media

Just as you’ve promoted the above webinar through social media, you can also post polls and straight out ask your audience what they like best about your company and what areas they’d like to see change. This will also give you insight into exactly what people who buy products like yours are interested in. On the flip side, use social listening to make sure you’re hearing what your audience has to say about your business and your industry.

On the flip side, you can use social listening to make sure you’re hearing what your audience has to say about your business and your industry. Hootsuite is a great social listening tool for small business.  You can set up feeds to search mentions of your business as well as relevant keywords.  That way, you can stay in the know about the pain points in your company, product and service offering, and in the industry as a whole.

Offer an Incentive

While doing market research is a big benefit to you, your participants will probably be asking, “what’s in it for me?” You can absolutely offer a reward to people that fill out your survey, register for your webinar, or answer your questions on social media. You don’t have to give away anything extravagant.  Even a $5 Starbucks gift card is enough to say “Thanks for your feedback, have a coffee on us.” A little incentive can help broaden your reach and deepen your insights into your market and target audience.


 Market Research for Small Business  provides a business plan template that helps the small business owners to efficiently plan and start with the least amount of resources. Savvy small business owners take into consideration all resources available to them. When the resources are listed properly, it is easier to prioritize tasks and determine how many resources are needed.

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