“I know I need to do more research before I start my business, but I find it confusing, long-winded and boring. Where do I start and how do I know if I’m doing it properly?”
Does that sound familiar? You’re told you simply must research a business before you get started on it, otherwise you’ll risk losing your hard-earned cash on something that might not work.
So you do endless research for weeks on end, perhaps comparing your business idea with others already out there.
The more research you do, the more pros and cons you seem to come up with. The more ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’ you find, the more confused you become.
The result? You end up feeling completely overwhelmed by it all and don’t make that all important step of starting on your idea.
If you have ever felt like this and endless research is holding you back – STOP!
Here’s how to make your market research more meaningful – and even fun!
It is true that whatever type of business you decide to start, you need to carefully research it.
After all, you need to know who really wants your products or services and how you’ll connect with them – your target market.
If you don’t, you’ll end up taking marketing shots in the dark – hoping you’ll find people who’ll buy from you, but not entirely sure whether you’re aiming in the right direction.
But my advice when you’re first starting out is to test your business or project by getting it out there on a mini-level.
Think of it as a Beta project.
You absolutely do not need a perfect business model to do this, a perfect business plan, or website or fancy business cards (yet).
Don’t wait. Just get out there with what you’ve got and a clipboard and pen.
The whole idea is to:
- see who reacts to your business idea (men, women, mums, dads, teens, etc?)
- see how they react to it (what do they love about it, and why?)
- see what you can learn from it all and how you’ll tweak your business model in the process.
Case Study: One of my mentees is in the process of launching her bespoke cake decorating business Melony’s Delghtful Cakes. She’s a parent with a full-time job so she’s testing the market in her spare time as she goes along. As she needs to be smart with her time and resources, she focuses her research and marketing efforts purely in targeted niche areas. She’s learning about her market and collating data as she goes along, but she’s not holding back from actively getting out there. She’s already catered for one wedding (over 250 cupcakes) and has her first stall at a local fayre this weekend. The positive feedback she’s getting along the way is spurring her on and I know her model will go from strength to strength.
It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes as you go along. In fact, the whole point of your Beta/mini-project is that you’re allowed to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them and tweak accordingly.
This also takes the pressure off you having to be perfect. You can even be upfront with your customers and explain that you’re testing the market to see what really works.
The important thing to do, of course, is to collect data about your customers while you go along.
The type of data you collect will depend on your type of business, but it might be as basic as:
- Age/age range
- Geographical location
- Level of education
- General income level
- Family structure
- Ethnic background
Additionally, you might decide that collecting data on their lifestyle and hobbies is appropriate, such as:
- Free time activities
- Eating and health habits
- Smoking and drinking
- Clubs and organizations they belong to
- Places they frequent
And/or you might break it down by psychographics, the personal characteristics of people:
You may or may not need all of the above – that depends on your business. But be sure to see how what you collect fits in with what you’re offering.
Ask yourself questions such as:
- What do I need to take into consideration given the data I’ve collected?
- What do I need to do more of, tweak, ditch even?
- Am I offering anything that my competitors aren’t? (If not, why not!)
When you put your business out there – even on a mini-scale – you’ll learn tons more about your market than any theoretical exercise can teach you.
Laser Target Marketing
What you learn will enable you to be far cleverer with your marketing efforts – produce laser target marketing.
In other words, you won’t be trying to appeal to just anyone who’ll buy from you.
You’ll know exactly the type of people who’ll buy from you, so your marketing will be targeted and defined to that group.
It will be the type of marketing that will help you to better engage with them, stay in touch with them, seek feedback and discover better ways to help them.
Thankfully, there are a variety of tools that can help you to do this:
- Social Media. Set yourself up on one or two at the most to start with, so that you can maintain a strong social media presence and interact with your audience on a regular basis.
- Blogging. Regularly blog about your business, provide updates and get interaction going among readers.
- Online and Offline Surveys. Conduct surveys both online and off, and analyse results with a view to providing a better product/service or new products/services.
- Feedback Forms. These can be simple feedback forms, which enable your customers to leave anonymous feedback about the product, service or their experience.
All in all, it’s a fluid and ongoing process, one that you will constantly learn from.
But in the meantime, don’t stress or agonise over endless research.
Just get your Beta/mini-business project out there.
Test, tweak, produce according to the results.