Tag Archives: market research

Market Research – An Important Foundation for Success

Market Research – An important foundation for success

Most people, when starting or running a business, are so enamoured with their idea, product or service that they believe that naturally everyone will feel the same. This is a common mind-set, which to some extent is needed, to fuel the passion and determination that is critical to running a successful enterprise.


However, the drawback of this, is that in the excitement of wanting to start-up quickly, the most ignored aspect of planning for business, is carrying out market research.  Quite often the mere phrase strikes terror in the hearts of many, as images of shivering in the local town centre with a clip board are conjured up.  This is understandable, as the idea of speaking to complete strangers is daunting enough, yet alone canvassing opinions about a business idea!  Be reassured that market research can be a completely natural process and even quite enjoyable – honest!

What is market research?

Market research is the act of collecting data through both primary and secondary means, to determine if there is sufficient demand, in your area, for the product or service you wish to sell.  Primary research involves speaking directly with individuals or companies that you have identified as potential customers.  Secondary research is information that has already been compiled by larger agencies and is on a larger scale, more about this later.


The term market research is very commonly misinterpreted.  I can honestly say that 99% of the time, when I ask a client what market research they have carried out, they reel off a list of other businesses that are already operating in their chosen field, in other words, competitors.  This is in fact competitor analysis, which I will discuss in another blog post.

Why is market research so important?

Why is research important?  Because the success of any enterprise depends on several factors:

Is there a demand for your product or service?  If so, where – is it locally, more regionally or somewhere else altogether?  Are your potential customers already accessing similar services from competitors, if so what are there feelings, are they happy or ready for a change?  What is the average spend, what are the most popular products or services and how often are they likely to return for repeat purchases?

This is a brief overview, I will shortly be compiling sample market research questionnaires for you to download and adapt, with further support offered if required.

Market research can also help you determine what market share you will need in order for your business to remain viable and to earn a realistic income.

Myth – market research is just for start-ups

Market research is not just ‘homework for start-ups’.  It is a fundamental exercise that is the lifeblood of any business.  Yes, it is more prudent to get to know your market when you are in the early stages of setting up a business.  Yes, through being in business for any length of time you do get to know your customers better – BUT – do you actually listen, take time to reflect and adapt your business on a regular basis?  If the answer is no, then maybe it is time to go back to basics and use a more formal feedback exercise to make sure your business is still relevant and not in danger of slipping into a rut.  It can happen to anyone, think Woolworths, HMV!  Big companies that failed to respond to rapidly changing customer needs and when they did, it was too late, competitors had already jumped in and stolen the show.  I will compile a guide shortly for those who have been in business for a while and want to carry out formal feedback

What are the pitfalls of not carrying out market research?

Taking time to talk with people and getting valuable feedback on your business idea is a huge opportunity to save yourself time, money and heartache.  This is because it is important that when you start-up that you fully understand your customers, their needs and expectations and behaviours.  Without these insights, you do not know who you are talking to, what language to use, how much to charge, where to advertise or how to persuade them they can’t live without your product or service.  You may as well stand at the top of a mountain and shout into the wind!

This is why research is crucial.

How do I carry out market research?

I believe that there are three main reasons why people avoide carrying out primary market research:

  • Lack of confidence in approaching strangers
  • Fear of the likely response
  • Simply not understanding how to go about it

Once the mystery surrounding the above is removed, it all suddenly makes sense and many embrace the process and are inspired and motivated by what they learn.  I will compile a guide for this shortly that will be available for download to make your research clearer.

Secondary data

As I mentioned earlier, there is also information in the public domain around certain industries, sectors and consumer behaviour, which can provide great insights into the wider arena that you may be hoping to operate within.  Here are some examples:

Internet forums – particularly for niche businesses centred around a specific interest or past time, start discussions or read past posts.

Ebay completed listings offers great data on how well certain products are selling

Government statistics for the whole of the UK (www.statistics.gov.uk).  The Office for National statistics ONS provides Census data, population demographics, income levels and social and regional trends (www.sns.gov.uk)

To obtain more detailed data you may have to pay, particularly for information on particular market sectors.  Two common sources are: Mintel (www.mintel.com) and Datamonitor (www.datamonitor.co.uk).

Trade Journals and Magazines can also offer industry specific information.  Also is there an overarching institute or regulatory body for your sector?  For example, counsellors can join the BACP, which demonstrates that they voluntarily subscribe to ethical standards and in return they will receive resources, information and training to keep their knowledge up to date.  They would also be a great source of marketing information.

Finally, a word of caution

Try and avoid friends and family giving you feedback as potential customers, they may be either too positive or too negative!

Please subscribe to this blog for more postings on how to carry out market research and to receive downloadable guides.

You can also contact me via Facebook  or Twitter @kingfishermktg

I would love to hear from you, particularly if you wish to discuss any issues this post has raised for you



What Is Your Proposition?

What Is Your Proposition?


What is your business proposition?  Puzzled by the term itself?

Your proposition is basically what you tell the world that your product or service is.  It sounds simple, but actually it’s the most common cause of confusion in business.

I have attended networking events and ‘oh so that’s what you do’ or ‘oh so that’s what he/she does’ is not an uncommon phrase, unfortunately.  This is not said about new recruits, but quite often about people we see all the time.  It is only when the opportunity arises to put the meat on the bones, either through a 1:1 or 10 minute presentation that the penny eventually drops.

So if you are not clear and concise in communicating exactly what it is that you do, your business is suffering.

At networking events for example, the temptation is to try and cram your whole offer into a 60 second pitch.  It is more effective to segment your market and concentrate on one at a time over a few weeks.  This gives your peers chance to become more intimate with your service, gaining greater insight and thus be able to obtain more quality leads and referrals for you.

Another reason that consideration to proposition is important is product life cycle.

Have you been around for a while?  Hopefully you have a healthy portfolio of income streams.  Where are they in their life cycle?  Are they a fad?  Are they new, cutting edge?  Are they still relevant to your clients or a bit outdated?  Have you saturated the market in a particular location?  Do you need to cast your net wider geographically?  Do you need to drop some lines and give thought to fresher modes of income?  Is what you offer quite expensive?  Do you have low cost items that are quicker to convert or hook new customers in with?

A lot of questions that require a lot of contemplation.

I find that quite often marketing is just thought of as pretty logos, advertising, social media and websites.  The proposition, income streams, relevance, product life cycles and geography are completely ignored.  This is dangerous.

Have you carried out any market research in the last two years?  If not then you could be losing touch with your customers.  Send out questionnaires to existing and loyal prospects but also reach out to those you have not engaged with yet.

Purchase market data.  Mintel and other agencies carry out analysis of markets all the time, so the work may have already been done for you.

I am still in the early phases of my business and am still test trading.  My proposition has already changed.  I pay attention to what businesses are asking me for, then I position myself so that I can solve their problems.  It is not about me deciding what I do and forcing it onto the local business community.  It is about staying in touch with the real issues and being on hand to deal with them to free up their time.

These problems never stay the same but can change rapidly and without warning, so if your business is still the same as it was five years ago, a rethink is very much required

Please subscribe to this blog as I will shortly be producing a number of downloadable guides