Large international brands know that the market for each of their products and services is unique, with different customs, competitive pressures and customer expectations depending on the demographics and geographic location of their prospects.

This is true for small businesses as well. The needs and expectations of your various target markets can differ substantially.

Big business would rarely go to market with a new product (or even a new marketing campaign) without conducting market research. You may not have the same deep pockets as the corporates, but you can conduct your own market research with great effect.

Consider potential targets

Consider a photography business that would like to increase its sales of portrait shots. The business owner notes a number of possible target audience groups, which include the corporate market (photographs of executives), professional speakers, small business owners, young families and high school children.

Of these groups, the corporate market is the most lucrative and therefore the ideal group to target in an attempt to increase business.

That’s a great start, but before any marketing and sales materials are produced the photographer needs to get to know this market better and understand which hot buttons are relevant to the people making decisions about purchasing her services.

Identify the decision makers – and ring them

In this example, it would be easy to assume that the key decision makers would be the senior executives that need their photographs taken. But luckily for our soloist, while it would be quite rare to ring the main switchboard of a company and get to speak to the CEO directly, it’s usually not very difficult to get to talk to their personal assistant (PA).

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This isn’t guaranteed, but is worth a try because a PA is often the eyes and ears of a business, knows ‘lots of stuff’, and of course is also the person in the company that’s asked to choose and book a photographer. All of which makes them the perfect people to conduct your market research on!

Keep in mind that PAs are busy people and may also be unwilling to talk to you. Stay focused. You might only need to speak to a handful of people to get some good insights. Perhaps set aside a few hours a day for a week and review your results after that.

Be prepared

When conducting market research, before you make your first phone call ensure that you have a list of questions ready to ask. Also have a pen and paper handy to make as many notes as you can during and after each call.

The sorts of questions our photographer should ask in her market research survey include:

  • What’s important to you in a photographer?
  • When were portrait pictures last taken?
  • What was liked or disliked about the pictures or the process?

Don’t just write everything down. Pay careful attention to the responses to your questions, and if you hear any buying signals be ready to switch into sales mode at the drop of a hat.

Use your insights

If you’ve predominantly asked open-ended questions, the answers and insights will provide important information for you to consider when preparing your marketing materials or direct sales strategies.

For example, if a number of PAs told our photographer that being on time was one of the most important aspects of a successful outcome, he’d be wise to make a note in his brochure about his reliability. He could even offer a guarantee that he’d be on time.

Investing in market research doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars and be out of the reach of small business, and nor does it need to be overly time consuming. Even done on the cheap, research will give you a better understanding or your customers and prospects.

Do you use market research in your business? What have you learnt about conducting market research? And how has it helped you? 

“ Investing in market research doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars and be out of the reach of small business, and nor does it need to be overly time consuming. ”
 
Jo Macdermott

Jo Macdermott from Next Marketing works with business owners in Melbourne who require marketing support. Jo specialises in tactical marketing plans and campaigns that are pragmatic and make a lot of business sense.

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