Most every organization will benefit from even the most elementary market research. If it does not provide new information, it will confirm what is known.
Market research is the process of gaining information about your market. Preferably, this is specific information about your target market and the key factors that influence their buying decisions. Market research can be casual and limited in scope and, although it may not be “statistically significant” research, it can still be valuable. The value and “degree of fit” may be based on the quality, cost, or the amount of time to acquire the information using these practical market research tools.Determine what form of market research is going to work best for you. Make that decision based on the value you will receive, versus the time and other resources you need to invest to gain access to that information.
Market research is often confused with an elaborate process conducted by a third party that takes a tremendous amount of time and money. It may be important to take a different perspective on what market research is and how it is conducted.
Primary Market Research
Primary market research is research that you conduct yourself, rather than information that you find already published. Primary market research may result from you having direct contact with your customers or the public. This may be through the following types of information gathering.
Secondary Market Research
Market research may also come from secondary sources. This is information others have acquired and already published which you may find relevant. Access to this secondary market research data may be yours for the asking and cost you only an email, letter, phone call, or perhaps a nominal fee for copying and postage. Much of it is entirely free. Much of it is available to search on the Internet.
Where to Find Information on the Internet
There are many websites sponsored by a variety of organizations that can provide you with the business information you’ll need for your business and marketing plans. These provide a beginning, a jump off place for more in-depth research.
Market Data for the United States
Here are sites that provide excellent data within the United States:
Information from Trade and Industry Associations
Many industries are blessed with an active trade association that serves as a vital source of industry specific information. Such associations regularly publish directories for their members, and the better ones publish statistical information that track industry sales, profits, ratios, economic trends, and other valuable data. If you don’t know which trade associations apply to your industry, find out. Look for Associations on the Internet:
The ultimate goal is information. Most of these associations have industry statistics, market statistics, guides, annual references, directories of industry participants, and other industry-specific information. Many provide business ratios by region or by comparable business size. Contact possible associations, visit their websites to see what information is available. When in doubt, call or email the industry association offices and communicate with the managers.
Information from Magazines and Publications
Industry-specific magazines offer a wealth of information on your business and your market. Business magazines are an important source of business information. Aside from the major general-interest business publications (Business Week, Wall Street Journal, etc.), there are many specialty publications that look at specific industries.
Specialization is an important trend in the publishing and Internet businesses. Dingbats and Widgets may be boring to the general public, but they are exciting to Dingbat and Widget manufacturers who read about them regularly in their specialized magazines. The magazines are an important medium for industry-specific advertising, which is important to readers as well as advertisers. The editorial staffs of these magazines have to fill the space between the ads. They do that by publishing as much industry-specific information as they can find, including statistics, forecasts, and industry profiles. Paging through one of these magazines or visiting a website can sometimes produce a great deal of business and market forecasting, and economic information.
Finding the Right Publications
If you don’t already know what magazines focus on your business area, then the best place to start looking is on the Internet:
For traditional printed directories, several good reference sources list magazines, journals, and other publications. They also offer indexes to published articles which you can use to search for the exact references you need. These will be kept in the reference section of most libraries.
Getting the Information
Once you’ve identified the right magazines, contact the editorial departments using their website, fax or phone number and published contact information. Many industry-specific magazines publish statistical editions and market reviews at regular intervals.
Use the indexes to identify published information that might help your marketing plan. When you find an index listing for an article that forecasts your industry or talks about industry economics or trends, jot down basic information on the publication and ask the library for a copy of the publication.
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