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How to do the market research for your small business

As a small business owner, you probably know that marketing your products and services to the right demographics is crucial to your success. You wouldn't want to advertise your services as a dog groomer, for example, at a local hair salon; instead, you would probably find more success at a pet store or dog park.

Market 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.

The following are just a few easy, inexpensive market research tools you can use to determine what you can do to improve your products and services.


A survey is beneficial because it can help answer questions about particular interest in a product or service. It can also help gauge customer satisfaction.

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.

One of the benefits of a survey is the ability to word the questions in such a way that give you a clear-cut, quantitative answer. Keep your questions short and to the point. You can offer yes/no questions, multiple choice, or fill in. Make sure the survey won't take longer than 5 or 10 minutes to complete. If you are mailing surveys, make sure the postage is pre-paid.

Document inventory

You should be keeping documentation or some sort of tracking system of what your customers are buying or not buying from you. 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 very popular.

Talk to employees and customers
Your employees are the ones who interact with the customers the most. Encourage them to relay all feedback to you, as well as ask them what they notice customers seem to be purchasing more or asking about the most. In addition to learning more about your customers, you will also make your employees feel more valued as well.

You can also talk to your customers yourself. As a small business owner, you have more contact with them than larger businesses have, placing you at an advantage. This informal type of market research can have a great impact on the overall success of your business.

There are a number of different market research methods you can do on your own that will be very beneficial to your small business. Surveys, comment cards, documentation, and just speaking with your customers and employees can help you to better target your market.

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