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6 Common Market Research Mistakes of Small Business

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Whether expanding a new line or starting a business, market research for your small business is a necessary component for success. As any business owner learns soon enough, risks are part of business. With limited resources, entrepreneurs know risk needs to be calculated. Employing market research helps you sort out the risks involved.

The benefits of market research for small business range from finding hidden niches and preserving capital to building customer loyalty and identifying more business opportunities with existing customers.

Before you take the path to greater customer understanding by market research, it's important to know the common pitfalls encountered by small business. Avoid these 6 common mistakes in market research for small business.

Think It's Costly: Bob Kaden, market research expert and author of "Guerrilla Marketing Research" knows too well the challenge small business owners face to afford the costs of conducting market research. Small businesses believe focus groups and surveys are unaffordable. Marketing research costs can range from a few thousand dollars to $25,000 annually.

Should you hire a professional or go it alone? "If you have the time and interest to learn what it takes to do effective research, there is no reason you can't execute the studies yourself at a fraction of the cost it would take you to use a professional," states Kaden in "Guerrilla Marketing Research." On the contrary, Kaden feels a solid market research professional is invaluable. Spend the time to learn what you don't know and need to know.

Try Secondary Research Only: Research comes in 2 forms: primary and secondary. Primary research is first hand knowledge you gain directly from the marketplace and often uses techniques as focus groups and surveys. Secondary research is usually published studies available online or from your library providing broad knowledge about your markets. Learning about your business and industry from secondary research is a good start but primary research allows you to target your efforts and understand customers' attitudes in real time.

Use Web Searching: The Internet has opened up a flood of business information that was once available to big companies or those with money. No doubt conducting secondary market research on Yahoo or Google saves time and money for small business. Search engines mine only a portion of the web and often the good info you need will be part of the deep web or on a paid search like Lexis Nexis. To save money, visit your local library, business center, or college to gain access to the quality information you need at zero cost.

Hit the Wall: Any sizable research project runs into the U-shaped curve. Your enthusiasm and motivation are high at the beginning but as the project progresses you reach a wall. As you start to take in more information, the level of complexity rises. At this point it's easy to lose motivation and cut the research efforts short. Those who persist soon realize it all comes together in the end. To best manage your cycle of motivation for the project, start your secondary market research by getting an understanding of your industry. Don't wait too long to get in the field and talk to potential customers.

Rely on Family Focus Group: A common mistake of new startups is asking those close to you for feedback on your product and service. Those who know you will want to guard your feelings. Friends and family make the worst possible selection of a focus group. You need to talk to real customers about the pros and cons of your offer and use your friends and family as support not market research.

Big Company Attitude: You spent years in your industry and understand customers... who needs market research? You carry plenty of baggage and preconceived notions of customers needs and wants. Test your assumptions on the market for real insight on customer attitudes and behavior.

All too often business owners will downplay the importance of gaining customer insight by market research. It's absurd how many businesses are launched without ever talking to a single potential customer. Avoid the common errors and use market research wisely to position your business for success.

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