Market research is an incredibly important part of any businesss plan. And while a business could (and many do) conduct this research themselves, most prefer to use an expert individual or company.
A market research firm analyzes and gathers information about a particular market. They might identify ideal consumers, competitors, conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis or focus group, send out product surveys, examine the effectiveness of a marketing strategy, or any combination of these services. A business uses them to find out the likely success or viability of a product or service, and often before it has officially been launched. The data they provide is invaluable.
The great thing about a market research company is that you dont need a big fancy office to have one. Most, if not all, of your work is done either behind the scenes, or at the office or facilities of the people that hire you. A market research company can easily be started and run from your home.
Step 1: Get the Skills
A market researcher needs to have marketing knowledge, reporting capabilities (in order to effectively present the data), and research skills. They must be organized and systematic, with great people skills (you will be talking to, surveying, and interviewing consumers a great deal). Do you fall short in any of these areas? If so, its time to update your skill set.
Step 2: Gain Some Expertise
Consider taking a class, earning a degree, finding a mentor, or (at an absolute minimum) reading the best books on the subject. You may be gung-ho and want to start right away, but if you dont have the necessary experience beforehand (and maybe you do), you need to gain as much as you can. It not only gives you authority in the field, but it provides the confidence youll need to market and promote yourself in the early stages. If it can wait, postpone your big launch while you go back to school or take a few night (or day) classes. It will pay off down the road.
Step 3: Job Experience
Consider working for an established market research company. Again, this may push your business plans back a while, but the practical experience youll gain is well worth it.
Step 4: Find Your Niche
When it becomes time to strike off on your own, you need to first identify an industry or niche that youd like to focus on. You could attempt to be the market research company for everyone, but spreading yourself too thin at the beginning is always a bad idea. On top of that, youll never gain any traction as an expert or authority if you dont focus. Maybe you love finance, or organic products, or technology. Pick one and run with it...become the market research company for the financial industry in your area, for the organic snack niche, or the gadget and mobile device industry. It doesnt matter so long as its a) something youre passionate about (it just makes it so much easier and fulfilling), and b) a single (but large enough to support you) industry or niche. You can always branch out later to include a second or third one (but try not to go beyond three) later.
Step 5: Write a Business Plan
All businesses should have a carefully considered and written business plan. Its your road map. Lay out your goals, your objectives (the baby steps you take towards your goals), tactics, and strategies. Put your newly acquired skills and experience to the test and research YOUR market: can it support you? Is there enough potential business to keep you going and grow over time? Who is your main competition?
Step 6: Promote, Promote, Promote.
Finding your first client is the hardest. It all becomes so much easier after that (at least in theory). Register with online directories. Create a website (or better yet, pay someone with expertise to do it for you...without a physical office, your website is your calling card, so it better be fantastic) that includes information about you, the services you provide, and how to get in touch. Join market research groups on LinkedIn and other online forums. Participate in discussions. Share your opinions and ideas. Create social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+) and be active on them. Many clients and contacts will either find you or reach out via social media. Its just how the world operates now (whether we like it or not). Consider advertising in traditional media (newspaper and magazines) or via online services like Google Adwords. Just get the word out that youre open for business. The first client is the hardest...but once you land him or her, the next is easier, and the one after that is even easier. Do a great job, and the word-of-mouth publicity will eventually take over.
Other Useful Links
- Market Research (Wikipedia)
- Market Research (Investopedia)
- The 50 Most Innovative Companies in Market Research
You can launch, grow, and operate out of your home providing you have the skills, ambition, and a few key pieces of equipment (a phone, computer, productivity software like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and a reliable internet connection). While you wait, practice your craft by conducting research on various products as if they had hired you. If the research and data is worthwhile, consider reaching out to them. If not, chalk it up to part of the learning process (and never stop learning, of course). Market research is not going anywhere. Businesses need it, and if you operate with expertise and integrity, youll be able to do it anywhere.
Photo Credit: Intel Free Press
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