Updated – June 2016. What’s the failure rate of small businesses in Australia? According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 60 percent of small businesses cease operating within the first three years of starting.
Creating a business takes a huge amount of blood, sweat and tears. You might think you have a great idea, but that’s not enough to ensure you’ll have a sustainable and successful business in the future.
At Marketing Angels, we know from the experience of working with hundreds of businesses over the years that market research is woefully underutilised by startups and established businesses.
Going into business or making significant changes to your brand or offering without understanding your customers and their needs, as well as what your competitors are doing, is very risky.
Market research can be low-cost and much of it you can do yourself . We’ve identified the tools to help you research your market and test your product/brand or message. But before you start, make sure you work with someone experienced in market research to design the questions to get the right outcome.
Keywords and market research
A simple web search can reveal a lot. The “keywords” that people would use to find your type of products or services on the Internet will show you how much interest there is in these keywords – and how many competitors you have in this market.
Online survey tools for market research
There are several cloud-based research tools to help you design and distribute an online survey – many of which are free. These include:
SurveyMonkey – This service offers both a free account with customizable surveys, and a paid account with enhanced features which includes data analysis, sample selection, bias elimination, and data representation tools. No wonder big brands such as Facebook, Salesforce, Samsung, and Kraft are among those who use it.
Qualtrics – This is an easy-to-use, full-featured, web-based tool for creating and conducting online surveys. It has beginner’s guide for creating a survey, and templates that you can customise based on your needs. There’s also a tool to send and track participation invitations and reminders. You can display survey results, graphically and statistically.
SurveyGizmo – Offers you all the tools you need to create and publish a questionnaire in one sitting. You can preview multiple versions, including displays for tablets and smartphones. The top bar outlines the process from beginning to end whilst every screen offers simple tips to help you understand what you’re doing. When you integrate your SurveyGizmo account with MailChimp, you’ll be able to select and send your SurveyGizmo survey as a campaign.
Google Forms – Allows you to collect information in an easy, streamlined way. All you need is a Google account. You can customise the fields to however you need them. Google Forms also allows you to collaborate or build forms with others in real-time. You can link it to a Google spreadsheet, where the responses will automatically be sent.
Social media and market research
Digitally mature businesses significantly outperform everyone else. They’re more profitable as they create value in new frontiers.
Social media is a quick and effective way of conducting market research. With the broad reach of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and increasingly, Google+, you’ll have unlimited access to polls, blogs, forums, comments, product reviews, direct feedback, etc.
Other ways you can use social media for market research:
Do hashtag searches on Twitter
Set-up a few searches with hashtags related to your brand, industry or product. You can receive instant notifications when customers, clients or competitors use key terms.
The #chocaholic shows brands and words associated with chocolate lovers
Join group discussions on Linkedin
Ask questions within your group. This can provide you with quantitative and even qualitative data straight from the people who matter to you.
A quick question posted in a Linkedin group can be very revealing.
Use Facebook to ask your biggest fans what they think
You can also search for your target audience’s reaction to industry trends using hashtags. When a customer likes your page, you’ll get access to their personal information, such as age, gender, location which can give you important insights into the make-up of your target market. Facebook is also a great way to keep an eye on the competition, their offers and how they are engaging with their customers.
Grill’d use Facebook often to research new product ideas.
Advertising on social media is comparatively cheap and can be targeted by age, demographic, location and interest. Run a competition to incentivise your target audience and be surprised at how much data you are able to gather.
Use the Facebook ad manager to create an ad linking to an online survey.
3rd party research
A simple web search for trends on your industry will usually reveal a free report or survey that’s been conducted by a reputable consulting firm.
A quick web search will often reveal high quality research freely available. Often the work has already been done for you. Sites like the Australian Bureau of Statistics are a wealth of information on trends, behaviours and demographic data.
Old school conversations
Often your own customer base or network of family and friends can provide invaluable feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask them for their feedback via one-on-one phone or face-to-face conversations. Make sure you have a structure for compiling and analysing any results.
Successful businesses conduct market research on a regular basis to keep up with market trends and to maintain a competitive edge.
It doesn’t matter if you’re starting or expanding your business. Market research is essential given your customers can often change their spending habits extremely quick. You just need to be careful about what kind of market research you hang your forecast on.
Consult a marketing expert to make sure you’re investing your money to get the right answers.