When you're doing your own market research, there are some things you should keep in mind.
1. Your information will only be as good as your market research sample.
Be careful when selecting your market research sample group to question. To get useful market research data, your sample group needs to be relevant to and representative of your target population. Notice that in my blind and drapes business market research example on the previous page, I moved from asking customers in the store to questioning randomly selected members of my targeted population. That's because just asking people in the store isn't good enough. Some of them will say "Yes" just because they like me or don't want to offend me. Informal market research is always tainted to a degree by the relationships of the people involved.
2. Design your survey or market research questionnaire carefully.
Make sure that it's focused specifically on the information you need to know, and that you haven't included any questions that may offend anyone. Many people are put off by questions that ask them how much money they earn, for instance. If you offend or confuse them, they won't bother to fill out your market research survey.
3. Keep your survey or market research questionnaire fairly short.
If possible, your market research survey or questionnaire should all fit on one page. Some people are intimidated by long forms; others see multiple page forms as just too much of an imposition on their time.
4. Always provide some opportunity for detailed answers.
Not everyone will take advantage of it, but some will, and sometimes these written-in comments are the most valuable of all.
5. Work out your market research recording techniques first.
Telephone market research surveys are popular, but how are you going to record what the respondents say? If you're orally interviewing someone, will you record them or take notes? The purpose of market research is to gather and analyze the data, so you've got to have a system of recording the data worked out in advance.
6. Set the criteria for the information beforehand.
In other words, market research is a process, which may shut down or be redirected at any time. If, for instance, when I was talking to the customers who came into the store in my blinds and drapes market research example on the previous page, no one expressed any interest in a blind and drape cleaning service, the exercise would be over at that point. But what if 10 customers expressed an interest? Or 32?
Before I ask my customers anything, I need to have the market research process clear in my mind. How many customers would have to express an interest in the service to make it worth my while to continue researching the possibility? Set the market research criteria beforehand, as in, "at least 50 percent of customers need to show an interest in a blind and drape cleaning service or there's no point in moving to the next stage of my market research".
The amount of market research you do is limited only by your time (if you're doing it yourself) or your budget (if you hire someone else to do it). But market research is necessary at all stages of a business's life, if you want continued success. Only market research can truly keep us in touch with what's most important - our customers, and their needs and desires.