The Essentials of Market Research

Market research gives you a picture of your target market so that you can create and grow a business that meets their needs. You have to know the people in your market perfectly so that you can connect them to the products and services that are best suited for them. In order to do this, you need to gather and analyse hard data about your audience.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Data

There are two types of data – quantitative and qualitative. Both are essential for creating an accurate picture of your target market.

Quantitative research looks at the big picture. It takes a large sample of over a hundred people or more and uses that sample to look at trends. If you pick one hundred random people in your market, you can probably assume that they represent the general population of your market.

A traditional method in quantitative research is the survey. Through your survey, you may discover, for example, that 70% of the sample finds your new product attractive. You'd then assume that 70% of all consumers would think so as well.

Qualitative research is tricky, but it yields important data that you don't get through quantitative methods. It deals not in numbers but in words, images, impressions and feelings. It's a more in-depth, objective approach where you interact with your sample audience.

A common qualitative method is the focus group. This is where you gather a small group of five to ten people from your customer base and encourage a discussion about your products using a set of questions. Qualitative methods also include interviews and projective techniques like role playing.

Your Target Market Profile

The goal of market research is to create a profile of an imaginary person who is your perfect customer. The profile has to be as complete as possible. It should include not only demographic and geographic information, but also how they feel about things. This is called psychographic data and it's equally important. Psychographic information includes things like how people in your market see themselves, how they use your products, what they're most afraid of, what they hope for in the future, and so on. Some businesses even give this imaginary person a name, like Fred or Simone.

To create your target market profile, take the massive list of traits you've discovered about your audience (demographic, geographic and psychographic). Narrow this list down to the 10 or 12 that you consider most important. This step is harder than it sounds and sometimes has to be reconsidered if afterwards you don't feel that your marketing methods are working.

One added benefit of creating a personal profile is that you can write your sales copy directly as if you were speaking to someone in your market face-to-face.

What You Don't Know

Market research is a process of discovery. You need to be objective and let the data you discover inform you. The deadliest mistake is to make assumptions. Go into your research process openly, assuming that you know nothing about your audience. Rely on the data you discover and not guesswork.


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