Thursday, 24 May 2018 12:39

The Nature & Importance of Business Research

Author:  Sam Ashe-Edmunds

 Source: This article was published smallbusiness.chron.com By Sam Ashe-Edmunds - Contributed by Member: Barbara Larson

Research on aspects related your business, such as your target customer, marketplace trends, production processes, and financial practices, can help you predict trends, project sales, spot opportunities, and avoid potential problems. Understanding the nature of different types of business research will help you use data to maximize your sales and profits.

Reasons for Business Research

Business research can help you determine what potential customers want, which can guide you toward the development of better products and services. It can keep you abreast of what your competition is doing and help you spot marketplace and industry trends. Research lets you analyze how your departments are performing, and then compare their performance against projections to determine if you need to make adjustments.

Types of Business Research

Employ a variety of business research types to maximize the benefit that data can provide your company. Conduct customer surveys and focus groups of potential customers. Join your industry’s trade association to access its research studies. Perform budget variance analyses every quarter to determine if your revenue and expense projections were correct or if you need to adjust your budget. Keep tabs on the competition to determine if they’ve changed their products, where they’re advertising, what they are charging, and where they are selling. Check your website traffic data to determine who’s visiting your site, what pages they’re accessing, and which keywords bring people to your site. Sites such as Quantcast and Alexa can give you valuable data about your competitors’ website traffic.

Choosing Methodologies

Depending on your budget, you can conduct research in a variety of ways. Online surveys can provide you with quick, easy-to-understand data. Websites such as SurveyMonkey let you administer short surveys for free, charging a fee for more expansive surveys. Telephone surveys of current customers let you spend more time and solicit open-ended questions. A focus group lets you get a small group of potential or current customers together to discuss their ideas, suggestions and thoughts in ways that produce the information you might not have considered. Mail surveys cost more, but let you reach a large number of highly targeted recipients, depending on what mailing list you use. Analyzing your sales by distribution channel, territory, sales rep, price point, margin and volumes helps you determine where you should focus your marketing efforts.

Outsourcing the Work

If you aren’t expert at conducting research or don’t have the staff to perform this type of work, consider hiring a research firm to assist you. They can give you a list of options, allowing you to increase your research effort as your budget allows. Research firms have access to tools such as databases, phone banks, and email programs that you might not be able to afford, helping you gather data you otherwise couldn’t.

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