Market Research: Hello, Are You Out There?
Market Research. Mention those words to a would-be entrepreneur, and you can see the visible mental cringe that occurs. It's like mentioning a bath to your 4 year old, who has already determined there is no need for tubs, or soap. You're never dirty. The would-be entrepreneur has more or less made the same assumption, you're never going to use the market research information, why bother? In case you cannot see the sign here, that attitude will be one of the determining factors that separate the haves from the have-nots. Any successful entrepreneur will be the first to tell you, good market research can make or break your business.
You have a product, and you think it will sell. How do you determine the feasibility of offering the product for sell, in the real world or the virtual world? You have two choices. You can spend a lot of money to get the product market-ready, and then you can spend even more and open up storefronts that will offer your product for sale. At this point, and after all this investment, you're still not guaranteed that there is even a market for your product. How much less expensive would it be to do a little research, a little leg work, and know before you spend the mega-bucks? Market research, when done correctly, can tell you if the potential customer is there, and often, how much they're willing to spend to purchase your widget.
The first thing you will need to do is identify your target market (also referred to as audience). Who would want to purchase your product? Is the product something that only young people would be interested in? The best way to determine this crucial bit of information: ask consumers. You can contact one of the numerous online companies that do nothing but conduct consumer surveys. Relatively inexpensive surveys can be put together that identify and define your product; These online companies then place the surveys on message boards and survey formats for every age, gender, ethnic group, and consumer type out there. It is a very inexpensive way to determine exactly who, if anyone, would want to buy your product. Feedback is guaranteed. If you really want to accomplish a lot with a little, incorporate a section into the survey that identifies how much a consumer would be willing to pay for your product, assuming there is a market. Once you have determined that a market exists, and have a general idea of price limits, you're more than halfway there.
Okay, you know who is interested, and you know what they're willing to pay; now, where are they, and how much expendable cash do they have? Okay, let's go to the online databases providing this information. There are many of these "online databases"; one of which would be the US Government Census Bureau. You would be amazed at the amount of market research that can be done using the information found in just this one database. There are other, commercial databases that store more information about the average consumer than we would want to know in a lifetime. The online databases can be accessed, generally for a small registration fee, or a per search fee. Here, you can input the information you have and request demographics on your particular group of interest. It's amazingly simple to obtain this type of research information, and the benefit it will provide to you in your quest for product "marketability" is unequaled. For mere pennies on the dollar, you can utilize the information already in existence, and determine your product's potential ability to sell.
It's important to note here, that I used the word "potential" market value. There are still no guarantees, even after all the market research that your product will sell. But, if you've taken the time to research your product, you believe in your product's potential, and you've found a viable consumer base that also believes in your product, you're much closer to a successful marketing campaign. You can at this point, take your information and put together a business plan. A good business plan, a good product, and an identified target market, will often open the door to approaching venture capitalists, marketing companies, and lending institutions. This opens the door to successful entrepreneurship.
One more piece of the market research puzzle. How do you locate venture capitalists, marketing companies, and lending institutions that are willing to take a chance on your product? You turn once again to the online databases that track this type of information. There are several organizations to turn to in determining your needs, and determining if there are funding options available. The Small Business Administration, a branch of the U.S. Government, is one of the best places to start. They maintain database information on many of the public and private funding and capital options available for all potential businesses, large and small.
When you stop and think about it, market research quite often leads to more than marketing success.