How to research your market effectively

Prioritising your workload as a small business owner can be tough. So let us add another task to your list.

Always research your industry. Be aware of what is going on. Thorough research on your sector will allow you to better understand your USP, your customers and your end goal. It can also help prepare you for any changes that may affect your business in the future.

Growth Street founder, Greg Carter, points out that you might notice gaps in your knowledge once you start researching: “They call this the Dunning Kruger effect. It is why we feel we have a superior understanding of certain subjects than we actually do. Reading newspapers will not cut it. Only thorough research will get you up to speed with the intricacies of your chosen industry.”

So how should you approach this task?   

What you should know?

Domain knowledge is the thorough understanding of any specialist subject. To fully understand your domain, you will need to consider the following:

  • The history of your sector. How did it start and why did it start? Understand why customers have wanted your product in the past, and why customers will want your product now and in the future.
  • Pioneers in your sector. There are a number of people who have made a name for themselves in the sector you want to compete in. These are the people that you want to know, they may even inspire you to help shape the industry into a better place.
  • Understand your connected industries: Map out the adjacent industries that may affect your business, and keep up to date with any changes that may force you to change strategy. This will allow you to identify any opportunities that you could take advantage of, and keep you mindful of any situations that could have a negative impact on your product.
  • What problems will you be solving for customers? Understanding why customers need you in the first place is key to your business’s success. Make sure you are always providing customers with a solution.
  • What the future holds. You cannot predict this with certainty, but having some perspective on what the future might hold for your sector will allow you to better prepare yourself for any changes that may disrupt your process. Predictions were made about a world reliant on technology, yet still some businesses ignored it. Competitors succeeded and gained clients from the businesses who failed to evolve their products to suit their customers' demands. 
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So how should you gather your information

We promise that the hardest part of your research process will be starting it. As you gather information, trends should become more apparent and your thought process should become clearer, as you build on your knowledge. You should soon understand the differences between what you should be doing vs what you are already implementing.

By efficiently sourcing your information you should save time better spent on other endeavours.

So where should you start?

  • Read everything. Research papers are a great starting point. Packed with credible sources and citing additional resources, these thoroughly curated papers will give you a detailed analysis to help you begin. Continue by reading books, articles, and by watching videos to give yourself a wider perspective.
  • Know your customer. Through surveys, networking and focus groups, you will be able to understand the thought process of your customers. This will give you better insight on how you should tailor your product to your customers' needs.
  • SWOT analysis. A thorough analysis of your business will give you information that will allow you to play off your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. Opportunities and threats should be recognised so that you can understand your plan of action when necessary.
  • Take on any experience that will help you further your knowledge. Learning the different aspects of your business will help you manage any issues that may arise. There are many ways to do this, for example; taking a course in marketing, or spending a week dealing with sales will give you a better understanding of what needs to be done for your business to succeed.
  • Research your competitors. To be able to compete in any space, you need to know your competition. This will help you to figure out what questions you should be asking yourself. How are you unique in the market? What are you doing better? What do your customer’s need, but cannot get from your competitors? Take into consideration prices, quality and locations of your competitors. 
  • Speak to industry experts. Industry experts have valuable knowledge that can help you avoid the same issues they’ve experienced, freeing up your time to grow your business. Expanding your networking circles can open your eyes to new possibilities and help you think of new ways of tackling issues you may have never foreseen.
Why is this important?

Continually researching your sector will benefit your company in the long run. Knowing your market should help you to remain relevant and keep you thinking outside the box. It will also give you a better understanding of what is most important to your business; your valued customers.

Written on in Business Insights