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Is market research a lost art for entrepreneurs?

In decades past, entrepreneurs didn’t have nearly as much access to data and information. Yet, that didn’t seem to stop them from doing market research. They would pore over whatever information they had and tirelessly seek out more.

The roles seem to be reversed today. There’s more information circulating around the internet than ever before, yet it seems like fewer entrepreneurs are taking the time to determine market viability prior to launching startups.

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Market research matters

Launching and growing a successful business can ultimately be simplified down to two key components. First, you need a valuable product or service that satisfies a pain point or provides significant entertainment value. Second, you need a target group of customers who want to purchase what you’re selling. Some entrepreneurs do well with the first part of the equation, but then fail to consider the second. They just assume that this target market exists and don’t do much investigative work. Unfortunately, this can be a costly mistake.

“The gathering of data, information and facts toward the advancement of knowledge that can assist with decision-making is essential to all organizations,” says Arbour Group. A failure to gather data at any stage of a business – especially when just starting out – can be dangerous.

The good news is that it’s easier than ever to conduct basic-level market research. The internet has opened up a wealth of opportunities for entrepreneurs and you would be wise to take advantage of them. Here are a few ways you can get started:

1. Perform simple Google searches

Sometimes, all it takes is a few simple Google searches to begin your market research. You can find out a lot about potential competitors, palpable pain points, market size, and existing solutions with a few swift strokes of the keyboard.

Will you find out everything you need to know about your target market by using a search engine? Probably not; however, it’s a fantastic place to start. You can gather just enough information to move into the next phase of research – which will likely be a more formal phase.

2. Use social media

Social media is one of the easier and more effective avenues for collecting information from customers. You can use it to gain firsthand feedback from individuals without having to set up formal focus groups or expensive studies.

“It is important to be open-minded and adaptable when conducting market analysis as some of the feedback you hear may not be exactly what you were expecting and hoping for,” entrepreneur Shawn O’Conner mentions. “You may feel attached to your business idea and wish to change nothing about it, but after conducting a survey maybe you find that customers are looking for a slightly different service or additional features.”

3. Partner with outside sources

It’s possible that you’re unable to gather enough market research on your own. This is often the case when launching a totally unique product that the market has never seen before. In these situations, don’t be afraid of partnering with outside sources that specialize in market research. It’ll cost you, but it’s better to spend some money up front than to waste money down the road as a result of selling a product to a market that doesn’t exist.

Make market research a focal point

Market research isn’t something you can gloss over. It’s one of the cornerstones of a successful brand and can mean the difference between launching a product that doesn’t sell and generating millions of dollars in revenue. There are obviously other pieces that play a part, but it all begins with an accurate and comprehensive understanding of your audience.

Feature image: Paul Albertella via Flickr.

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