What Information Do You Want to Know and Why?
What information about your current or potential customers will help you serve them better? Demographic data and travel patterns can help you determine the feasibility of opening a new location, while knowledge about their daily schedules can help you set more convenient hours of operation.See Whatâ€™s Already Been Discovered.
There is probably more published information available about your type of business and target market than you realize. Among the best sources are the U.S. Census Bureau, national and regional business publications, trade organizations and your local chamber of commerce.
Build on What Youâ€™re Doing
Itâ€™s easy to make market research a part of your day-to-day activities. Retailers can use sales receipts, delivery orders and charge slips to identify where customers live, or monitor inventory trends to gauge the popularity of certain product lines. Tracking orders of daily specials helps restaurant owners determine which dishes are most popular on a weekly or seasonal basis.
Watch the Competition
You can gain some valuable insights by studying the practices of successful competing businesses. No espionage is required. Just be observant about when and where they advertise, the setting and layout of their various locations, operating practices, etc. Remember that their approach may be driven by circumstances substantially different from yours.
Talk to Your Customers
As a small business owner, youâ€™re face-to-face with your customers. Your market research can be as informal as observing customers in the store or doing a survey and as elaborate as conducting a full-scale research program with focus groups and computer-generated maps. A market research firm or ad agency will cost more than a â€œhomemadeâ€ strategy, of course, but you will have the benefit of the consultantâ€™s experience and objectivity.