The 5 steps of the market research process

Market research is a valuable tool that can help businesses better understand their prospects and customers. Regardless of industry or business size, these insights can be useful for determining the future direction of an organization.

Whether you’re considering launching a new product or service, targeting a new market segment, or entering a new geographic area, market research can guide your organization in making the right decisions and mitigating potential risk.

Follow a strategic market research process like the one below to ensure you get relevant data you can learn from.

The 5 steps of the market research process

1. Define the problem you’re trying to solve

The first step in the market research process is to clearly identify the problem you’re trying to solve or the opportunity you’re considering. “The market is segmented into different parts, and from that a target audience is fixed,” says Daniela Sawyer, the founder of FindPeopleFast, a SaaS platform. “The organization then creates a team to oversee the data collection.”

It’s also important to ask yourself what the objective of the market research is and what you want to get from it. For example, do you want to understand why your company is losing market share? Are you considering launching a new product line and wondering how your target audience will react to it? Consider the causes of the problems your organization is experiencing so you can focus the questions in that area.

By defining the results you want to achieve with your market research, you can more effectively determine the questions you need to ask and the way you need to ask them. For exploratory research — which is an effective way to garner answers to a specific problem — you may decide to conduct focus groups or in-depth interviews with key stakeholders.

If you want to know more details about a market segment (a form of descriptive research), surveys and personal interviews are most effective. To understand cause and effect relationships, a form of causal research is necessary, such as estimation and analysis.

2. Design your research process

Collecting data is the most important aspect of market research, notes Sawyer. It can help determine critical aspects of the business, such as product demand, brand value, and customer viewpoints.

Once you know what problem you’re trying to solve, the next step in the market research process is to develop the market research framework you plan to follow. To do that, you’ll need to determine whether you’re going to use primary research (data you collect yourself) or secondary research (data that a third party has collected) or a combination of the two.

The market research plan not only outlines how you’ll conduct the research but also how you’ll analyze the data once you’ve gathered it. Your market research plan should include the following information:

  • The main problem you’re trying to solve
  • A clear definition of the information you’re trying to gather
  • The method(s) you’ll use to gather data, such as surveys, feedback questionnaires, and user tests (Sawyer notes that effective ways to gather data also include direct interviews with the target audience.)
  • The questions you’ll ask in the market research process
  • The sample size of your market research or how many people you’ll include in your research
  • Who on your team will conduct the market research or whether you’ll outsource it to another organization
  • Who will analyze the data you collect and develop reports from the information you’ve gathered
  • Who will review the reports and act on the market research
  • The schedule for the entire market research process

Outlining these pieces ensures that the market research process runs smoothly — and that there’s a plan of action once you’ve gathered the data. Many organizations conduct market research but neglect to follow through. If you don’t analyze the findings and plan to address what you’ve discovered, the exercise of data collection will be useless.

3. Use software to collect data

To put your plan in place — especially if you’re conducting primary research — it’s vital to have the right software for the job.

For an end user, providing information should be easy. If your software isn’t user-friendly, you may not have many participants in your research, as they may get frustrated and stop answering questions.

From an organizational perspective, you should avoid using software that requires a lot of setup and configuration time. “Collecting accurate data is the biggest challenge,” says Sawyer. “It’s a very time- and effort-consuming process.” Often, organizations can’t keep up with data collection unless they have a tool that makes the process easy.

Jotform is the ideal tool for automating data collection because it’s easy to use, both from the business and consumer perspective.

Marketing teams can use the hundreds of available templates to quickly develop surveys and questionnaires. Each template is easily customizable, so you can tailor form fields to address the problem you’re trying to solve. Examples of templates include demographic surveys, questionnaire sheets, user experience surveys, and much more.

4. Convert data into an insightful report

Once you’ve gathered the data with easy-to-use software, it’s time to learn from it. The analysis process is critical to the market research process, as it helps organizations better understand their prospects and customers.

When conducting analyses, look for trends within the data — but be sure to leave any assumptions you had behind. It’s important to avoid applying your biases to the data you’ve collected. Write up a formal report that outlines the process you used and the findings you’ve gleaned so you can share it with the relevant stakeholders.

Jotform Report Builder is an effective tool for converting the data you’ve collected into beautiful visual reports. Whether your research involves polls, feedback forms, or prospect questionnaires, you can turn them into visual insights within seconds. Using attractive charts and graphs will make it easier to glean insights from your market research, so you’ll be better equipped to make solid business decisions.

The reports are easy to share with others using a link, or you can convert them to secure PDFs. And in just a few clicks, you can customize your market research reports with your own branding.

5. Take action based on your findings

“Market research determines the demand for any product in any particular region,” says Sawyer. “It also helps show the best way and time to launch a product.”

Unfortunately, many organizations never reach this last step of the market research process. Either they’re not able to analyze the data properly, or they simply don’t communicate their findings to decision-makers within the company.

Regardless, this is one of the most important steps because it leads to action. How will your organization apply the findings to shape the future of the business?

Keep in mind that the market shifts continuously, so the data you’ve gathered is valid only for a short period of time. If you wait too long to put your insights into action, they may no longer be relevant or helpful.

Always relate your findings to the original problem or opportunity you identified in the first step of this process. For example, if you wanted to know how prospects would feel about a price increase, consider whether you’ll increase your prices based on the data you’ve collected and if so, by how much. Will you increase them all at once or stagger the increases slowly over the course of a few weeks?

The market research process can help businesses illuminate opportunities, mitigate risks, and resolve problems before they become larger issues. Now that you know what the process looks like, you can get started right away to lead your organization in the right direction.

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