Julie Walters, Business Development and Marketing Manager at the Welsh enterprise support specialists, Business in Focus, explains how sound market research can give your start up the foundations it needs for success – and how there have never been more tools at your disposal to get your research right.

Setting up a new business is one of the most exciting ventures – and adventures – anyone can pursue. We are pleased to be on hand to support scores of creative and enthusiastic entrepreneurs set up and nurture their new business to success every year.

While any new venture involves risk, one of our main priorities is to help start ups minimise these risks and to drill down into any unknowns long before they begin trading, so they get off to the most stable start possible.

One of the big questions that gives every entrepreneur cause for doubt and concern is ‘will anyone want to buy what I plan to sell?’

This is one of the most important questions any potential start up can ask themselves. Fortunately, thanks to a host of tools at your disposal, not to mention thanks to the free business training courses we offer our clients, it is one that can be answered with some level of accuracy, giving a potential start up real peace of mind.

When a start up comes to us for support and guidance we help them by signposting to tools and services which will help them to address the fundamental questions at the earliest stage of their business planning, such as: is there an audience for my planned product or service? where will I find them? how will I reach them? what are customers willing to pay for my product or service? who are my competitors likely to be?

In fact, the Business Plan template that is available on our website flags up the importance of knowing your potential market, how you plan to reach them and whether you have already interacted with them.

We see time and time again that the act of carrying out assiduous market research not only gives a start up a firm foundation for success, it also helps the entrepreneur see their business idea and their business model with fresh clarity. It can help them reshape their business in a way that makes it fitter, more viable and responsive to an actual need or niche, rather than to a supposed or an imagined one.

This can be a tricky part of the process for an entrepreneur, since it involves taking a very clear-eyed view of their business venture. Market research may prompt them to make quite big adjustments to their proposed business, but these changes really can mean the difference between long-term success or failure.

Market research can involve fairly straight forward activities – such as asking a focus group of people face to face how they would receive your product, whether they would find it useful, and how much they would be willing to pay for it. Or you might consider carrying our product testing at public events or trade shows.

A host of online tools are on-stream now to help you to delve as deeply as you want to into your potential marketplace. Some of the tools our clients have found useful include Google AnalyticsFacebook InsightsSurvey Monkey, the Office For National StatisticsMoz.com, and others.

Most of these tools are fairly simple to use, low cost, and they can deliver valuable insights into the size of your potential customer base, how they like to be communicated with, what their past purchasing behaviors are, what their wider interest are, and how you can reach more people with similar buying habits and tastes. Some of these market research service providers can supply templated surveys for very specific sectors, so you get access to tailored to your sector or business area, which can be particularly valuable.

Of course, we are all operating in a changing world for consumers, for businesses and for  organisations which collect and use data. The recent unease over Facebook and Cambridge Analytica’s use of data is perhaps ushering in a new era for data and for accountability, so things may change in the coming months and years when it comes to market research tools and using them responsibly. However, insights into customer behavior, buying trends, and other data which helps businesses be smarter and better informed is always going to be invaluable. 

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Business in Focus Limited | Registered Address: Units 14/15, Bocam Park Old Field Road, Pencoed, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan, Wales, CF35 5LJ |
Company Registration No: 02553654 | Registered in Wales | VAT No: 540 8347 48