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Gathering market research

buisnessmeeting26238539.jpgMarket research is an important part of not only marketing your products and services, but determining the satisfaction levels of your customers. There are a number of marketing tools and research you can do yourself for your small business that can help you make the best choices and find the right customers.

Some of the goals of market research include determining:

  • The demographics of your target customers, such as age, gender, occupation, location, and so forth.

  • The size of the market now, and how big it is expected to be in the next 5 or 10 years.

  • Specific segments within your target market that you can focus special marketing attention on.

There are a number of different ways you can gather your market research. A few of these include:

Test marketing

This is a product launch to help determine how your market will react to a particular product. This can be helpful because the testers serve as a representative sample; if they like or dislike the product, it is assumed that a larger market of the same demographics or specifics will also respond favorably (or unfavorably) to the product. From there, you can decide whether to go forward or to modify the product before trying again.

Customer satisfaction research

This type of market research helps you determine how your existing customers feel about your products and services. Using a variety of methods, you can determine what your strengths and weaknesses are, and then make improvements.

A few of these methods include:

  • Surveys: Surveys are a very useful form of market research. When worded correctly, they can help answer questions about particular interest in a product or service while at the same time gauging customer satisfaction. There are two main types of surveys: mail and phone. You can do either telephone surveys or mail surveys. Many people are eager to fill in mail-in surveys, particularly if they receive something in return. A mail-in survey differs from a comment card in that it is actually mailed to the customer. If you opt for a telephone survey, be careful not to bother the customer during what you know are particularly busy periods or during lunch time.

  • Comment cards. This is one of the easiest ways to determine how a customer feels about your products and services. A comment card can literally be just that - a card the customer actually fills out. Typical comment cards have questions on it specific to the services or products provided, as well as a space for the customer to leave any comments. You can leave comment cards in your store, mail them out to your customers, or include them with the receipt. A comment card can also be electronic and delivered via email.

Inventory tracking
An indirect form of market research includes inventory tracking. If you don't already, get a tracking system in place so you can see which products your customers are buying and which products are going unsold. While there are definitely lulls in sales, as a general rule, if you notice a product that is consistently underselling, consider doing away with it and replacing it with a product similar to one that is more popular. But make sure not to do away with seasonal inventory that can be reused.

Gathering market research is important for determining what customers want or don't want and help you better tailor your products and services.

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