To run a successful business, you need to learn everything you can about your market - your customers, your competitors and your industry. You want to be the expert in the field of what you do, this is part of the value you will give your customers on top of your value proposition. Market research is the tool that will help you be that expert.
Market research is the process of analyzing data to help you understand which products and services are in demand, how customers behave and how to be competitive. Market research can also provide valuable insight to help you:
Reduce business risks
Spot current and upcoming problems in your industry
Identify sales opportunities (growth)
There are two categories - primary and secondary.
Secondary is info from the experts, they do the talking and data collection on your behalf. They can help you determine the market opportunity by the numbers, also known as market size. Examples include: leaders in the field, market research firms, trade associations, credible journalists, etc. You will want to find a few of these experts talking about your industry for your business plan and you should keep up with them once you are in business as well. Look to these groups/people to help you stay up to date.
Primary research is when YOU talk to customers directly (customer discovery!).
How to get started:
First of all, understand what industry you are in. Use this NAICS site to help you drill down. The site provides industry codes which will be useful in the future when trying to find benchmarks (or standards) in your industry.
Kinds of research that help you understand market opportunity, yes, this is also the product/market fit process.
Customer Discovery (primary research)
MVP (primary research)
Market Research (secondary research)
It is through these forms of research that you will get vital info to confirm your solution is what customers want, that there is buyer behavior to match, and a greater understanding of the potential numbers (customers, sales, etc.) and the industry itself (trends, upcoming changes, benchmarks) to make better decisions and to project future sales.
At times it may lead you down many roads, but research is about exploring all that is out there, then finding what is most relevant to you. This can be very valuable. Remember, the librarians at MCC love doing research if you need help!
Market Research Guide
Farm to Table Restaurant Example
Why do Market Research by Stacie Hargis on the MCC Library Course Guide
Go through the slide show Market Research Guide to see examples
Go through the Farm to Table Restaurant Example slide show to see more specific applications
Learn how to dive into various websites:
Market Research and Competitive Analysis by the SBA - Small Business Administration
The Ultimate Guide to Market Research by Survey Monkey
Review this Website to help you make maps of key demographic, population, and other key details by Policymaps.com
Each of the sections below corresponds to essential market research analysis you should know.
Dig in to find out as much info as you can, then whittle it down to only the most important info that impacts you and your business and the future of your business. Process what the info means and what is most valuable to you moving forward. Then summarize that information into a business plan.
You can use this Market Research document to collect everything in one place.
Key Customers - Market Size & Segments
Market Info & Trends