Accurate and thorough information is the foundation of all successful business ventures because it provides a wealth of information about prospective and existing customers, the competition, and the industry in general. It allows business owners to determine the feasibility of a business before committing substantial resources to the venture.
Market research provides relevant data to help solve marketing challenges that a business will most likely face–an integral part of the business planning process. In fact, strategies such as market segmentation (identifying specific groups within a market) and product differentiation (creating an identity for a product or service that separates it from those of the competitors) are impossible to develop without market research.
Market research involves two types of data:
- Primary information. This is research you compile yourself or hire someone to gather for you.
- Secondary information. This type of research is already compiled and organized for you. Examples of secondary information include reports and studies by government agencies, trade associations or other businesses within your industry. Most of the research you gather will most likely be secondary.
When conducting primary research, you can gather two basic types of information: exploratory or specific. Exploratory research is open-ended, helps you define a specific problem, and usually involves detailed, unstructured interviews in which lengthy answers are solicited from a small group of respondents. Specific research, on the other hand, is precise in scope and is used to solve a problem that exploratory research has identified. Interviews are structured and formal in approach. Of the two, specific research is the more expensive.