Researching Your Ideas
Neil Bromage has run his own small business and is a freelance business writer working on a range of newspapers including The Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph and Financial Mail on Sunday. This book is based on a wide range of columns and Q&As written and answered by Neil for Business Link over a number of years. He is based near Preston, Lancs.
Market research is vital for any business as it determines whether or not people will want to buy what you have to offer. It can provide valuable information for your business plan and strengthen your case if you are going to the bank for money. The three main areas of research worth exploring are:
1. Your customer base
When carrying out market research on your potential customer base ask yourself who your clients are. How many are there? Where are they? How can they be contacted? Who controls their decision-making process?
2. Your customer demands
You should also consider what your prospective clients actually want: what services do they most need? When are they likely to want your services? How much would they be willing to pay you? Can you package your services in a particularly attractive manner?
3. The competition
You can’t complete effective research without also considering your competitors. Who are they? If there is no competition, why not? What are the competition’s strengths and weaknesses? What types of indirect competition exist?
Much of this information can often be found at the following sources:
- Libraries: Reference libraries are particularly useful; the commercial section often contains reports on various market sectors and competitors. You will also find directories of organisations by industry type, which could be a valuable resource.
- Trade associations: most of these have specialist libraries on market sectors.
- Trade publications: magazines or news-sheets can give you up-to-date information on the movements of the industry and your competitors.
- Exhibitions and conferences: make contacts, promote yourself and examine the competition.
- Telephone directories: Yellow Pages and Thomson’s list all your local competition. You can check out those from other areas at the reference library.
- Companies house: for details on limited companies and copies of their audited accounts.