Running a business without any concrete knowledge about what’s happening in your industry is about as useful as selling bicycles to fish. It’s nearly impossible to catch a customer because they always seem to slip through your fingers in search of better waters.
So in order to reel the customers in, you need to do your homework – good old-fashioned market research.
Now I know what you’re thinking:
But if you want to get ahead in your industry (or get anywhere at all, for that matter), you need to know what’s happening in the world around you with your industry, your customers, the whole business seascape.
So let’s sharpen our hooks and see if we can catch you some business.
Stay Current & Ahead of the Curve
There’s a saying in the theater world that you need to be on top of your game with every performance you do because if you’re not, there will always be someone ready and waiting in the wings to replace you.
It may sound harsh, but it’s absolutely true. And it’s exactly the same with business. If your company doesn’t put in the time and effort it takes to conduct market research regularly, someone else can swoop in and steal your customers right out from under you. It’s like the cutthroat newspaper world where printers vie to be the first one with the big headline.
And because the business landscape is always changing, that means you need to evolve right along with it.
Be Mindful of Your Competitors
You must always be aware of the fact that your business doesn’t exist in a bubble. Unless you occupy a limited niche market that sells recycled moustache hair to hipsters, you’ll always have a competitive landscape to reckon with, and that’s okay. By studying your competitors and the strategies they use to acquire new business, you can identify gaps, areas for improvement, and gain insight into new, untapped markets.
Starbucks is a great example of this. They identified and capitalized on an unmet need – a small pause in the day to enjoy life away from the chaos of work and home life. Starbucks is not a coffee joint in say, the way Dunkin Donuts is. It’s an experience. They’ve flawlessly created an atmosphere where anyone from college freshman to working professionals could plug into free Wi-Fi and work in comfort while enjoying a latte. By determining what consumers wanted and taking advantage of an unmet need, they changed the way we think about getting a coffee.
Focus on Your Customers
Market research helps you focus on your customers and what their needs are. If you’re planning to launch a new line of swimwear at the end of August, but you find that people statistically do the majority of their bathing suit shopping in May, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, money, and effort.
Research will also enable you to study customer behavior patterns. Do your customers exhibit brand loyalty and prefer sticking with one product or service because they know it works? Or do they get bored with one thing easily and prefer a variety of options? All of this insight is extremely valuable knowledge for your business to have.
Conducting research not only helps you focus on your customers and keeps you attuned to what your competitors are doing, it can also reduce risk by taking a good chunk of the guesswork out of your business strategies. Because throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks was never a great way to go, and it can be very costly.
But by doing your research, you can identify issues that other companies in your industry have come up against and then adjust your strategies accordingly or even abandon them altogether if needed. It can also help to pinpoint any loopholes or gaps in your efforts before you go public with them. For example, if you were planning to open a store in Texas that sells doggie pullover sweaters, but research dictates that more people owned sheep than dogs there, you’d probably want to consider selling in another area, putting your business online, or heck, perhaps you’d be more lucrative making jackets for sheep (you could call them wool-overs!)
But I digress. I think you get the idea here.
Bottom line, if you want to stay current and run a successful business, give the people what they want or need. And you can only give them what they want by knowing what that is in the first place. So go back to the drawing board, do your homework, and learn about what’s going on in the business world around you. Because if you don’t, someone else will.