Understanding your market takes research. In order for you to understand your competitors and your customers, you’ll need to as much information as you can get. There are many ways to gather research to help you gain more insight into your consumer’s buying behaviors, your competitor’s strategy or how to launch a new product line.
There are two types research that you can utilize - primary research and secondary research. Primary research is the type of research that you conduct yourself to your specific parameters. It could be phone calls that you make to friends that are in your target market, focus groups that you put together or hiring a research company to conduct research for you. You can send out your own survey through companies like Survey Monkey or Ask Your Target Market. Secondary research is research that already exists – census bureau, reports, trade journals, articles, etc.
It’s best to start with secondary research and let it determine how you conduct primary research. Secondary research should prompt you into asking more questions that you could answer with primary research. Once you start digging, you'll identify holes in the research that can be filled with primary research.
Once you’ve defined your target market, gather as much secondary research as possible. Read census reports, previous surveys and articles from credible sources that you trust. Gather, gather, gather. Once you’ve gotten as much information as you can, it’s time to translate it. You will be able to find common threads within your findings. It’s these threads that will help you identify information you might be missing or identify connections you hadn't thought of before. For example, if you are starting a handmade jewelry business, you might find in your secondary research that a certain neighborhood in your town is where a lot of your target market lives. You also find out that your target market also really loves yoga. You realize that it might be advantageous to scope out some of the yoga studios in that neighborhood to do some observing. Are there a lot of ladies attending yoga classes that are wearing jewelry similar to yours? Do they seem like the type of ladies that would wear jewelry similar to yours? Here’s an opportunity for you to gain some primary research. You could simply ask a few of the women to fill out a quick survey about your jewelry or their jewelry wants and tastes. You may go further and ask the yoga studio owner if you can set up a table in her waiting room for a few hours on a Saturday. You can sell some jewelry while asking for feedback.
There are so many ways to gather research from conducting a focus group, holding an online survey, to hiring a research company. Either way, you’ll need to do some type of research in order to be competitive. Don’t assume you know everything about your market or your target audience!