One of the first tasks a business owner does when they start their business planning is to do some market research to understand what customers are looking for and find out how existing businesses fulfill that need.
When you start out as a business owner you will go through a similar process of defining what you want to do, whether there is a need for it and how much customers are willing to pay.
The challenging part for most businesses is that the market is constantly changing and it is important to understand what other businesses (your competitors) offer so that you can compete with them for customers.
That is why market research is so important for all businesses of all sizes.
How does market research work?
In a small business the business owner normally does market research tasks automatically as they hear from customers, neighbouring businesses and friends. Market Research is often done outside of working hours on a smart phone or tablet. As a business grows in size different employees within the business contribute to the market research task. These team members include:
These team members might already have information about competitor pricing, combination offers and product package from places where they have worked previously. If not they need to make contact with competitors and act as if they were interested in using that companies services.
It could be as simple as calling to
- get a price on something,
- seeing if they will match competitors pricing or offers
- finding out what is included in the price
- understanding the key selling features and strengths
Market Research for Bigger Companies
In larger organisations market research information is gathered by several staff members and using a variety of tools, including surveys, feedback, testimonials and even in the quoting and bidding stages of the marketing and sales pipeline.
This means that market research tasks are performed by:
- Sales people or tradespeople who are providing quotes for their products and services
- Customer service staff who are communicating with prospects before they buy as well as customers who’ve made a purchase. These could be divided into pre and post sales support in larger companies.
- Marketing department staff usually gather this information from various departments
When you get serious about market research from the perspective of a digital marketing person you’ll learn about marketing personas and what makes an ideal client. An ideal client could be:
- a company with 3 or more employees
- a man in his 50’s
- a mum with her first child
These marketing personas are important because each person looks values features differently. If you are performing bookkeeping work you might only want to work for a company with at least 3 other staff members because you want to work in their office, want to work with other people or it might be because you know they are big enough to need a bookkeeper for 2 days a week.
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Marketing Department and market research
The role of the marketing department is to take the information gathered by customer service and sales staff and turn it into a new, updated or improved version of a service the business currently offers.
When enough market research information points to the same conclusion the marketing team have enough information to improve the way the business’s products and services are offered. This ensures that the next time the sales person quotes for work they’ll be offering a better solution to the customer at a price that is competitive.
If the marketing department does it’s job right then the main challenge for customers is to decide which of their potential supplies offers better customer service.
Customer Service staff need to do market research
Customer service staff need to answer customers questions both before they make a purchase and after the sale is made. This means they need to have a very good understanding of the products and services that the business offers as well as the business terms, how the services are delivered and what to do if something goes wrong.
Many employers prefer to hire someone who understands the market they operate in and even more so if the job seeker also understand the business and what it offers. Most of the jobs in the underground job market occur when staff are poached from one company because they already understand what is important.
The other market research job seekers can do is to study and understand an employers website. This will make the employer feel right at home when they start talking about what they do and the job seeker is on the same page.
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