21 Best Market Research Resources for Small Businesses

21 Best Market Research Resources for Small Businesses

When starting your business, it’s crucial to understand your customers. Knowing your customers is key to success.

Your customers are the individuals who need your product or service. You should know who they are, why they want your solution, their preferences, and even their breakfast choices. Understanding all of this will help you attract more customers and create a better product that they will want to buy and recommend to others.

This is where market research comes in.

What is market research?

Market research is the process of gaining information about your target market. It involves finding specific information about your target market and the factors that influence their buying decisions. Market research is a crucial step in your overall market analysis.

As you begin, you must determine the type of market research that will work best for you. The decision should be based on the value of the insights you expect to gain in relation to the time and effort required to obtain the information.

Market research is often mistaken for a complex and costly process conducted by consultants. However, you can and should conduct most of your own market research, and it doesn’t have to be difficult.

After explaining the different types of market research, we will share a comprehensive list of resources for conducting your own research.

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Types of market research explained

1. Primary market research

Primary market research refers to research conducted by you, rather than relying on existing published information. You gather this information by directly engaging with potential customers, either through open-ended questions or obtaining quantifiable results.

Here are a few methods you can use for primary research:

Conduct focus groups

Bring together a small group of people for a discussion led by an assigned leader.

Survey your customers

Distribute surveys to both existing customers and potential customers using tools like SurveyMonkey or Qualaroo. Ask specific questions and remain objective.

Assess your competition

Examine your competitors’ solutions, technologies, and market positions. Complete a competitive matrix or SWOT analysis to streamline your analysis.

Hold one-on-one interviews

Talk to potential customers about their problems and your solutions. Conduct these interviews in their workplaces or remotely.

2. Secondary market research

Secondary market research involves using information that others have already acquired and published about customers in your industry.

Accessing secondary market research data is often as simple as reaching out via email, letter, or phone call. Much of this data is free and readily available online. Here are some ways to gather secondary market research:

Trade associations

Contact industry-specific organizations that serve your industry for information about their industry and markets.

Government information

Explore the U.S. government’s wealth of free data on various topics, which may require some research to locate.

Third-party research sites

Consider purchasing pre-written industry reports from market research companies to obtain information about industries and their target markets.

Best market research resources

With an abundance of information available, it can be challenging to know where to begin your market research. Below are our favorite resources for conducting market research:

U.S. government resources

If your business operates or is expanding in the United States, the following sites are valuable resources for your research:

  1. U.S. Census: A great starting point for data about the U.S. population, allowing you to drill down into specific locations and demographics.
  2. Census Business Builder: A tool to analyze how much people in your industry spend.
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Provides specific industry information such as hiring trends, expense trends, industry sizes, etc. It is especially useful for B2B businesses.
  4. Consumer Expenditure Survey: Offers insights into what people spend their money on.
  5. CensusViewer: A free tool leveraging U.S. Census data and other sources to present data visually and in reports for cities, counties, and states.
  6. Economic Indicators: Provides free economic, demographic, and financial information.
  7. Pew Research Center: Conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis, and other data-driven social science research.
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Industry summaries

If you need information on specific industries, consider exploring these resources:

  1. SBDCNet Business Snapshots: Provides industry profiles describing growth, target customers, and typical startup costs. Also offers a list of market research resources sorted by industry.
  2. Hoovers Industry Research: Provides in-depth industry reports (not free) with valuable data.
  3. IBISWorld: Offers regularly updated, in-depth industry reports that provide insights on market status, outlook, and competition. Some reports are available for free.

Business location market research tools

If you want to learn more about the demographics and customer base in a specific location, consider these resources:

  1. ZoomProspector: Helps you find the ideal location for your business or discover new locations similar to your current one.
  2. MyBestSegments: Provides demographic and psychographic information by zip code or specific segment.
  3. SizeUp: A mapping tool for determining your target customers’ locations.

Survey tools

If you plan on conducting primary research, these surveying tools can be helpful:

  1. SurveyMonkey: An excellent tool for polling a group for business purposes.
  2. Google Consumer Surveys: Allows you to target users from various websites and get instant feedback on your business idea.
  3. TypeForm: A versatile tool for creating forms and surveys, especially on mobile.
  4. Qualaroo: Enables quick feedback from visitors to your website.

Trade and industry associations

Many industries have trade associations that serve as vital sources of industry-specific information. These associations often publish directories and valuable statistical data.

  1. Wikipedia’s list of U.S. trade groups: A comprehensive list to kickstart your research.
  2. Directory of Associations: Another list of associations covering a wide range of industries.

Market trends

  1. Google Trends: A tool to discover what people are searching for and how search volume on important topics changes over time.
  2. Statista: A platform offering statistics and trends on various topics.
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Leverage market research to make informed business decisions

Conducting market research is a powerful way to reduce risk for your small business or startup. The more you know about your customers and industry, the better you can target your marketing efforts and avoid wasting resources.

Although you may have a gut feeling about your customers and their needs, taking the time to validate or invalidate your assumptions can significantly impact your company’s success in the long run.

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