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Good instincts and intuition certainly play important roles in business. But gut feelings about your customers’ needs and preferences aren’t enough. If you want to minimize risk and improve your chances of success, you need sound and objective data. That’s where market research comes in.

Market research is the process of collecting and analyzing information about the customers you want to reach, called your target market. This information provides you with the business intelligence you need to make informed decisions. Market research can help you create a business plan, launch a new product or service, fine tune your existing products and services, expand into new markets, develop an advertising campaign, set prices, and/or select a business location.

Types of Market Research
Market research methods fall into two basic categories: primary and secondary. Your research might involve one or both, depending on your company’s needs.

Primary research involves collecting original data about the preferences, buying habits, opinions, and attitudes of current or prospective customers. This data can be gathered in focus groups, surveys, and field tests. Secondary research is based on existing data from reference books, magazines and newspapers, industry publications, chambers of commerce, government agencies, or trade associations. It yields information about industry sales trends and growth rates, demographic profiles, and regional business statistics.

The bulk of your secondary research now is available on the Internet thanks to the proliferation of sites that provide or sell data about individuals and companies and because most publications now are available online. 

Using Market Research
Market research allows you to pinpoint a host of key business factors about your market. It can help you identify:

  • Growth trends in your business sector
  • Size of your target market
  • Best location for your business
  • How your business stacks up against the competition
  • Factors that influence buying decisions
  • Degree of demand for your product or service

It also can reveal key information about your customers and prospects, including:

  • Their demographic profile
  • The types of features or special services they want
  • What they like and dislike about your product or service
  • How they use your product or service
  • How often they buy and how much they will pay for your product or service

Once you analyze the results of your market research, you'll be in a better position to create a focused business.

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