How Do You Undertake Business Market Research? How To Do It on a Tight Budget?

5. Design a questionnaire or a market research instrument to get the answers to all of the questions that you have. The questions that you developed above could create the basis for your questionnaire. When designing your questionnaire, and once again, this is something that a market researcher could really help you with, use the KISS technique, which of course is keep it simple, stupid! Keep the questions simple and in plain English. Don't be vague or round-about; ask the question clearly and directly. Use both close-ended questions and open-ended questions. Include any instructions that you need right on the survey. On the survey, always go from general to specific questions, not the other way around. Pretest, pretest, pretest. Always pretest any market research instrument you create on your family and friends. In fact, they are good ones to begin surveying but never limit the process to them. You need the input of strangers.

Typically closed-ended questions and open-ended questions are used in the survey. Closed ended questions are multiple choice, yes-no or scale questions---rank something on a 1 to 5 scale. Open ended questions are questions that are unstructured that the respondent would answer in his or her own words and in as many words as they wish. U both types in your research. For example, a local automobile dealerships continually questions its service customers about the service they just received. In a slow automobile sales market, they want to increase their service business and do not want any unhappy customers. Through email, the care dealership sends out a questionnaire on the latest service call. Most are questions about the service process are closed ended and ranked from 1 to 10. At the end of each section is an open ended question that asks if there are any other comments about the service. This way, the dealership can cast a wider net to get other information it might otherwise miss. It could be something like "I was promised to be in an out in an hour and it took two hours."

6. Now, collect the data by filling out the questionnaire or research instrument. Your questions should not push an interviewee to answer one way or the other. The questioner, perhaps it will be you, needs to ask the questions in a non-judgmental way. You do not want to hear what you want to hear, you want to hear what your customer or potential customer has to say. For example, oftentimes around election time, we have seen opinion polls conducted that ask such leading questions as "Would you vote for a candidate who will raise your taxes?" "John Smith has voted 200 times to raise taxes, will you vote for him in the upcoming election?" The person's answer will probably be "no." The results of this survey might well please John Smith's opponent, but how realistic are the results of the research? In the presidential election of 1948, Harry Truman ran against Thomas E. Dewey, governor of New York. One newspaper, with a conservative readership, polled only its readership on who they would vote for. The overwhelming number said they would vote for Dewey. The newspaper concluded from its research that Dewey would win. So confident was the newspaper on the outcome of the election that just as the polls were closing they published a late edition of the paper with the headline: "Dewey Defeats Truman." The red-faced editors later changed the headline as the results came in that showed that Truman had won. In fact, there is a famous picture of Harry Truman holding up that newspaper and laughing.

7. Once data is collected, it needs to be cleaned. Researchers call editing, coding andtabulating the data as cleaning the data. This step can be simplified by starting with a well organized questionnaire. Depending on what you discover with this primary research, you might want to compare it to available secondary research. If at this stage the market research proves you are off the mark, you need to begin again with a more refined idea, a slightly different idea or a completely new idea. If the data is positive, move on to the next step.

8. Present the data. Even if you are doing the market research yourself and you will be the only audience to read the final report, present the data in a well structured, good looking format. Chances are, if the research goes the way you hope it will, you could well be showing this research to potential investors in the business or to bankers and possibly vendors.

Secondary Research Resources

ASAE Directory of Associations Online

Ask a Librarian - U.S. Library of Congress

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Business Research Lab

Center for Business Women's Research

Economic Statistics & Research

Internet Public Library

Population & Demography Resources

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