Simple 5-step market research process

As a business owner, you always hear about market research’s benefits, but every time you plan to start market research, you’re stuck because of the information overload about the perfect market research process. 

The problem is not about excessive information on the topic, but in outlining a process that suits your growth needs. While market research is a dynamic topic, we’ve outlined a straightforward market research process that can help you get started within hours in this article. 

So, let’s dig in!

Step 1: Define the goal, problem or opportunity.  

Before you start market research, ask yourself, “Why do you want to conduct market research?”

  • Are you trying to solve a sales problem? 
  • Do you see an untapped growth opportunity? 
  • Do you want to improve your marketing strategy? 

Or something else…

Your market research process should always seek answers to a well-defined problem. Finding these answers will allow you to begin your research with a clear goal and will help you pick the right approach, methods, and market research tools.

A great way to clearly define a problem or objective is to write a high-level problem you are facing, outlining the causes for the problem, and then thinking of the ways that can help you find answers. 

market research goal setting process
Market Research Goal Setting Framework. Source: B2B International 

For example, when John Deere wanted to increase its market share, it started market research to get closer to the customers. The goal helped them identify blind spots — being too product-focused and relying on dealership feedback for market research. Instead, they onboarded product staffers (category experts), who interacted with real consumers, to the research process. The staffers brought a consumer-centric mindset to the existing product-focused research group and helped them become category leaders and acquire a 62% market share in a specific category. 

If John Deere didn’t set a goal, they would have focused their market research process around finding how people feel about their product, which was not a very productive approach for their needs. Sometimes, the real target group doesn’t even know the product exists, let alone have a perception about it. 

So, you must have a clear goal in mind before you begin. This will help you move to the next step of building a concrete plan to conduct market research. 

Step 2: Develop your research plan.  

Two people defining their market research process at a desk.

Once you have a clear goal or opportunity to chase, it’s time to outline a few steps to gather market research insights. 

Take the process of creating a research plan seriously, as this will define how you conduct market research. This step should document answers to the following questions: 

  • Will you use primary or secondary sources to gather insights? 
  • Who will you include in the study? 
  • Will you interview just key individuals or create a focus group? 
  • How will you use technology and AI to gather insights
  • What secondary sources are you planning to research? 
  • Can you access customer reviews to gather insights? 
  • How will you address statistical errors or sampling bias? 

Market research can get pretty expensive when done traditionally. So, it’s essential to create a structured research plan. This will help you stay on the path without wasting money or resources. 

If we go back to John Deere’s example, market research was explicitly planned around conducting ‘exploratory’ research. This included conducting in-depth interviews, one-on-one, triads, small groups, and traditional focus groups. All focus groups had functional specialists rather than generalists, which was pre-decided to gather the right kind of insights. 

Once you’ve outlined the direction and approach, add timelines, delegate responsibilities, gather the appropriate tools, and start collecting data. 

Step 3: Gather relevant information or data.  

This step shouldn’t be hard if you have planned the market research process well. Just follow your plan to gather qualitative or quantitative data per the objectives. 

Start conducting surveys, record the data, and categorize based on consumer segments when using a primary research method. Market research and survey tools like TypeForm will help you gather data and record insights for analysis in the next step. 

If you’re opting for a more straightforward approach, then you can use Google for market research and record information in Google Sheets. 

You can also use AI to speed up the data collection process during the secondary research. For example, if you intend to use customer reviews for market insights, then you can automate data collection using a tool like GapScout

GapScout scans the internet for relevant customer reviews, collects relevant information and presents insights on a central dashboard. You can use it to speed up your market research and discover opportunities, identify pain points, or achieve your research goals faster. 

Read More: How GapScout Works 

Step 4: Analyze data and record insights. 

Man highlighting market research data at a desk.

Whatever way you gather the data — through focus groups or secondary research, you should spend time finding answers to your initial goals (and research problems). 

The best way to do this is to organize your collected data for analysis. 

If your research includes quantitative insights, start by recording collected data in a spreadsheet and categorizing all information based on ratings, rankings, yes/no answers, or any other criteria. 

You can then use graphs and visual representations to identify patterns, trends, averages, or any other metric to support your initial hypothesis (question/goal). 

When dealing with qualitative research data, categorizing questions based on concerns, questions, strengths, weaknesses, and pain points is a great idea. Such categorization will help identify common trends, patterns and micro-insights faster. 

Step 5: Take action based on your market research findings.  

The last step is all about using the info gathered through your market research process to drive decision-making. 

If you are a business owner, usually, this step will involve doing a lot of leg work to tweak your marketing, product development, proposition, branding, or executing something to solve a business problem. 

But if you want to present the market research data to CXOs or other stakeholders, here is what you should do: 

  • Record how you gathered the data. 
  • How is the data linked to the insights? 
  • How can the insights be used to solve business problems? 
  • Suggestions and recommendations for branding, marketing, or business concept.

Bringing all the data to a single place will give you a reference point whenever you need to make a business decision. This will also help you utilize market research insights to drive future changes to the pricing, development, marketing strategy or other verticals. 

Market research best practices you must follow:

1. Create a SMART objective. 

Always create a SMART goal for market research. This will help you stay on track and take the full benefit of your investment in market research. To make sure your research objective is SMART, follow this quick checklist:  

  • Your problem must be SPECIFIC — no vague questions or problems should be targeted. 
  • The objective must be MEASURABLE — there should be a way to quantify the solution. 
  • The goal must be ACTIONABLE — businesses should be able to act based on answers or insights found during research. 
  • Your problem/goal must be RELEVANT — problems should be relevant to the business.
  • Market research process must be TIME-BOUND —  you should have set deadlines to find answers to the problem. 

2. Never ignore your competition or audience. 

Even if you are doing secondary research that doesn’t involve your audience, never forget about measuring the consumer pulse. Failing to run a customer-driven market research process will lead to skewed insights. 

Also, keep your competitors in hindsight. Research the problems your competitors are not solving for the consumers. This will give you a lot of meat to derive relevant market research insights. 

3. Build a real-time market research repository.  

Market research is a never-ending process. Data from the first market research for your business will help create a foundation to optimize your business proposition further. 

So, always see market research as a cyclic activity and have a customer repository handy. 

A tool like GapScout that analyzes real-time customer feedback can help you move to an agile market research process that will feed data to your marketing, branding, and growth initiatives on an everyday basis. 

It is never too late to start your market research process!

Market research is a long and tiring ordeal for business owners. Thankfully, technology has helped improve the pace of conducting market research so that you are always up-to-date with the latest trends

Artificial intelligence and tools like GapScout can help you start market research quickly and stay on track through continuous insights powered by real-customer data without wasting a lot of time and money.

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Anmol Sachdeva
Anmol Sachdeva
Anmol is an independent content marketing consultant who loves to write actionable pieces on small business growth, marketing automation, market research, and growth as a solopreneur. Reach out on Twitter.

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