Scotia Advice+ logo

Market research is commonplace

Market research doesn’t need to be complex or time consuming. In fact, it’s something that every business in Canada does, often without even referring to it as market research.

You’ve probably already gathered information about the feasibility of your idea including:

  • Customer preferences
  • Demand for your product or service
  • The best location for your enterprise
  • If you’re developing a formal business plan, it’ll most likely include information about the marketplace, your competition, and your target customers

Primary information

The most useful information is often what you collect firsthand, within your own market (or prospective market) and through your own operations and customers. With this ‘primary source’ market research, you can find out:

  • Why customers will choose your business
  • How you can gain your customer base
  • How you can retain them

Depending on the size of your initial customer base, you’re likely able to gain primary information through person-to-person conversations with your customers (e.g. face-to-face, online or by phone).

However, as you continue to add customers you’ll find it more challenging to respond to them individually. So, you may want to consider other ways of gaining customer insights.

Secondary sources

Market research can also be gathered through secondary sources such as:

  • Online
  • In a library
  • Through a trade publication

Using surveys to gather more detailed information

Customer surveys can be administered directly (e.g. by a salesperson) or distributed in a non-invasive way (e.g. visible placement of customer feedback forms or questionnaires at your place of business, or within mailed invoices).

If you maintain a website, you can also include multi-level surveys for customers at little or no cost. There are numerous online options available for DIY surveys, and many of them are free. Links to 
the survey should feature prominently on your homepage, in e-mail and other correspondence with your customers.

Researching prospective customers

This can be a little more difficult. People don’t often respond well to unsolicited email and telemarketing. The direct mail approach is less restricted, but has a relatively low response rate.

Face-to-face approaches such as at a consumer or trade fair where target customers will be present are likely to be more successful. Providing incentives can increase the response rate. For instance, offer a coupon, discount or sample for completed surveys.

Employing focus groups

Other methods of gaining primary research include"

  • focus groups: a gathering of consumers who’re brought together to discuss a product.
  • personal interviews: one-on-one sessions with consumers.

Offering product samples and dispaly comparison products at these events is a good way to generate discussion.

The range of questions you may raise during a market research exercise will vary from product to product or service to service. It should include questions to determine:

  • Preference: flavours or features
  • Consumer behaviour: How often will people use it?
  • Pricing: How much will people pay?

Compare feedback

A first and easy step you can do to improve your market research is to turn your initial customers’ feedback into data. Keep a record of the feedback you receive from new customers and compare customers’ preferences and complaints. This will give you a data set from which you can start drawing conclusions and shaping strategy.