A chapter member guest post by Christina Motley.
Market research, a critical component of a strategic business plan, is an organized effort and systematic approach to gather and interpret information about a company’s target markets. Market research discovers what customers want, need, or believe, as well as how they act.
Findings deliver different perceptions from all audiences, including, but not limited to, executive committee members, current and former employees, independent contractors, current and former customers, prospects, industry analysts and shareholders. The results ─ which typically include a market overview, industry trends, competitive landscapes, and data about competitor’s products and services ─ can provide valuable insight to help business owners and leaders determine the most effective way to launch new products or services; to make decisions about the company’s fundamental marketing mix of positioning, products, pricing, promotion; and ultimately to manage their brand reputation.
There are a variety of quantitative and qualitative, primary or field and secondary or desk research methods used to collect comprehensive market data. Combinations of types of research help validate and verify research findings. A Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats (SWOT) analysis takes into consideration the internal organization, external environment, industry, competitive landscape and marketplace. A look into Political, Economic, Social and Technological (PEST) influences can provide additional market intelligence about market growth or decline, and as such the position, potential and direction for a business. A Five Forces Analysis evaluates five key areas, including the threat of entry, the power of buyers and suppliers, the threat of substitutes, and competitive rivalry, which provides additional insights, allowing the researcher to rank competitors. Additional research methods include conducting interviews, developing and distributing surveys, holding focus groups, auditing existing information such as business plans and marketing efforts, review of industry/trade/social media outlets, competitors’ advertising expenditures, examination of industry and analyst reports, and online research, among others.
Many proven strategies and winning approaches exist to help businesses gain market intelligence so they can come from a position of strength, and therefore, succeed. Market research is one of many useful tools to help companies determine if they have the right product or service, in the right market, at the right price with the right story to tell.