Knowing your audience is key to your business success: if you understand what they want, then you can tailor your marketing to your customer’s needs. Market research is one of the most useful tools you have to help you understand exactly what those needs are.

Read on to find out: 

  • What market research is and why it’s a good idea
  • How to go about researching your target market
  • Market research examples: Surveys, Quora and Reddit
  • The pros and cons of Facebook groups 
  • Competitor analysis 
  • Using analytics 
  • Asking your audience
  • Amazon reviews

What is market research and why should I do it?

As the owner of a small business, market research is a way to understand the market you’re selling to, what problems your target audience is facing and how your product or service can help to solve them. It gives you actionable data you can use to create targeted marketing materials, build lead generation campaigns and increase conversion rates.

As well as improving your existing products, market research can help you maximise the launch of any new products or services. Launching a new product as quickly as possible is one thing but being patient and carrying out market research at the development stage will give you the strongest possible start. It will also save you from problems you have to correct down the line, or stop you wasting resources on marketing strategies that don’t work if you get it right from the outset.

How to conduct market research

There are several market research methods that work well for small businesses which are budget friendly:

1. Surveys

You don’t need an audience of thousands to make effective use of customer surveys. Send out a customer feedback survey after every order or provision of service. You can ask questions such as the decisions that led to the order, what they liked, what could be better and so on.

You can also send surveys to people who didn’t buy. If, for example, you had a visitor to your website who put items in the basket but then didn’t complete the sale, you can ask why they changed their mind. 

Better still, you can automate the emails to trigger at certain points of the buying cycle through marketing software, so you can concentrate on other areas of your business while the results come in.

2. Quora and Reddit

Quora is a social media platform where users submit questions on any subject and answer questions on areas where they have expertise. When you’re conducting market research, you can see the questions that are being asked around your chosen topic, which can prompt further ideas and investigation. It’s quick and easy to set up and you’ll get notifications on subjects you’ve tagged. Best of all, it’s free to use.

Reddit is another useful site, ranked as the 18th most visited site in the world. There is a lot of irrelevant stuff on there but among it you can uncover some insightful conversations around topics related to your business. You can also drill down into specialist topics which can set you apart from your competitors. For example, instead of simply researching ‘bodybuilding’, you could ask questions around, and specialise in, ‘vegan bodybuilding for men’.

3. Facebook groups

Facebook groups can be a goldmine of useful information. Even if you don’t have your own group, you can glean actionable insights related to your industry from user posts, links and conversations. 

Simply reading through the conversations is a good place to start. Later, you can join groups and engage in conversation, or set up your own group and ask the questions on your mind. If you’re on another business’s page, particularly a direct competitor, be careful about what you say but ultimately, it’s a great source of free information.

4. Competitor analysis

It’s worth researching your competitors. What do their websites look like? What messaging are they using to attract customers? Is there anything they do particularly well that you could learn from, and are there areas where you think you could do better?

You won’t always know if your competitors’ strategies make them more successful than you but, at the very least, solid market research may provide new ideas. Collect all the information you can that competitors display publicly, and subscribe to their email lists to see what they’re sending out.

5. Using analytics

Using tracking and analytics on your website in conjunction with your marketing emails and adverts will tell you how your customers and potential leads behave. You’ll discover which of your marketing activities are the most popular and which ones didn’t do so well. 

Google analytics is a powerful tool to track data on your website. Your marketing software can record email opens and click throughs to your website and you can follow up by sending automated emails based on that behaviour.

As well as analytics software, there are content marketing sites where you can pay to find out the most popular content topics, the most competitive keywords and how many searches those key search terms receive. 

6. Asking your audience

Nothing beats hearing feedback directly. A one-to-one conversation with a customer will usually give you deeper insights than survey results. Whether you have the chat face-to-face, over the phone or via email, with the right questions, you’ll uncover plenty of actionable information that you can weave into future marketing strategies.

7. Amazon reviews

If you’re running a small business that sells products, reading through Amazon reviews  of products similar to your own can help you learn valuable information on how to market your goods. It’s free, a vast resource at your fingertips and requires nothing more than your time.

Good market research doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Checking in with your audience periodically to find out their latest needs and wants, will be invaluable in helping you gain that competitive edge.

While you plan your market research, make sure you’re keeping on top of your business finances. Designed to help small business owners save time and money, Countingup is the business current account that automates bookkeeping and simplifies tax returns. Find out more here.