Market research

Doing your own market research

Key points in this article

  • The importance of market research
  • Building a customer database
  • Gathering general market intelligence

Market research is essential for the survival and growth of your business. By carrying out sound research, you’ll keep finding ways to stay competitive and reduce your risks.

Market research is an information-gathering exercise about the wider environment your business operates in. Instead of relying on gut instinct, it leads to informed, solid decision-making. So for example, if you’ve got a business idea, you can use research to estimate your potential market share.

Use our guide to find out more about the different types of market research and how to get going with your own.

Why is market research so important?

Although you can pay consultants to do your market research, the good news is you can easily do it yourself. Aim for research that gives a good mix of statistical information together with feedback and opinions – both types of data are invaluable in their own way.

Asking people directly through focus groups and surveys means you can get answers for exactly the right questions for you. And you can find lots of existing research data from other organisations through:

  • libraries, directories or the Internet
  • trade or industry bodies, or Chambers of Commerce
  • the Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • local council or government business resources
  • your local Business Enterprise Centre
  • ANZ’s Small Business Sales Trends Report
  • ANZ’s Business Insights, for free benchmarking data.

Market research will be an integral part of your business – establishing it, surviving and growing

Use email questionnaires

Email questionnaires are cheap and fast but response rates can be low so boost them with a prize draw or free products.

Ask customers’ permission to email them and offer your assurance their details won’t be sold on. Give them an opportunity in every email to unsubscribe. Make sure you’re complying with privacy and anti-spam legislation – if in doubt it’s always best to check with your legal adviser.  

Create a customer database

Building up a customer database for statistics and surveys is an invaluable research tool. Again, be careful you’re staying within the law – there’s strict legislation around:

  • the type of data you can keep
  • how you can store data
  • how long you can keep customer data for.

Speak to your legal adviser for more clarification on what you can and can’t do with customer information

Capture your own sales data

Create internal systems to capture key information in the everyday course of dealing with your customers and suppliers.

This data can answer questions like, ‘what’s the average value of our sales?’

Give careful thought to the information that will be useful to you and design your systems from there. For free benchmarking data to compare against, try ANZ’s Business Insights.

Gather general market intelligence

You’re almost certainly carrying out informal market research already whenever you:

  • talk to staff and customers
  • check out competitors
  • see what’s in the media.

All good entrepreneurs are constantly listening out for what’s happening in the market.

The founder of Wal-Mart was famous for the time he spent at the coalface of his business. He wandered around stores, talked to employees and customers and rode along with delivery drivers.

By investing time this way, he was able to absorb information about the market he could never have found in his office.

Face-to-face interactions are just as important for gathering market intelligence as your business grows

Getting the most out of your market research

Maximise the return on your investment by making sure you take the results of your market research on board. Feed the information directly into your business plan and marketing plan, and use it to keep fine-tuning them.

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