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How to do market research for your business idea

Last updated

3 April 2024


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Hugh Good

As an entrepreneur, having a business idea can be truly exciting. However, transforming your vision into reality and achieving success is the challenging part. Conducting market research will test the viability of your business idea and ensure it fits your target market.

Market research provides valuable data that ensures your business idea resonates with customers and generates demand. If the research confirms consumers are interested, you can build a business delivering the product or service. If not, you can use the findings to adjust your idea so it reflects what customers want.

Conducting market research and analyzing the results can mean the difference between success and failure. Let's look at how you can do market research for your business idea and turn it into a thriving enterprise.

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What is market research?

Market research refers to analyzing your business's target market to evaluate the viability of your business idea. You will learn why, or even if, consumers want to purchase your service or product, their spending habits, and their purchasing decisions.

By understanding the market, you can:

  • Make better products

  • Improve user experience

  • Offer competitive prices

  • Find ways to attract the most customers

Market research is critical to starting and growing a successful business.

Why is market research important?

Consumer behavior plays a crucial role in determining the success of a business. Your consumers will not only buy your products or services but will also either warn against or recommend your company to others.

Understanding what your customers want and how they think, feel, and make decisions is the first step in delivering their needs.

There are many reasons for conducting market research. Let’s look at the most important ones.

Gives you a better understanding of your customers 

Market research will help you, as an entrepreneur, better understand your target customers. You will gather insights into their:

  • Demographics

  • Pain points

  • Buying habits

  • Preferences

As such, you can tailor your products or services and create a customer experience that appeals to your potential customers. Market research can:

  • Drive customers to your store, product, or service

  • Help you turn clicks into conversions

  • Maintain a customer-centric approach

  • Build loyalty and trust

Helps businesses make informed decisions

Market research not only provides data about customers but also uncovers market trends and growth patterns. This minimizes your reliance on gut feelings, assumptions, and guesswork.

You can set realistic goals and make the right choices for your business. You'll know:

  • What to expect in the future

  • What will work in the market

  • How you can reinvent your business to stay relevant

Making data-driven decisions will boost your chances of getting it right the first time.

Identifies opportunities for growth

Market research helps startups identify opportunities to improve and gaps they can fill. You may pinpoint new customers who could benefit from your business idea. These could be in areas where your business does not have a presence or is falling behind its competitors.

Market research can also reveal partnership opportunities with businesses that already have an established customer base with your target audience. It can also identify the shortcomings in your business idea and help you avoid expensive mistakes.

You can also uncover opportunities for product bundles, add-ons, and other value-adds that increase your profits. Having the right knowledge can help drive profitability.

Minimizes risks

Every business deals with a range of risks including:

  • Legal

  • Compliance

  • Operational

  • Financial

Business risks usually arise when there's uncertainty around profits, strategy, and other elements. These risks can significantly affect a business's bottom line, including its reputation among consumers, leading to:

  • Lower profits

  • Inefficient processes

  • Possible failure

Conducting market research will help identify the potential risks associated with your business idea early on. You can stay informed of laws and regulations, refine your workflows and processes, and develop risk-management strategies that reduce the chances of failure.

Establishes product or service viability

As an entrepreneur, the last thing you want is to invest resources and money in an idea no one wants or needs. You can use market research to test your business idea before investing.

Market research for your business ideas will help you to;

  • Understand what the core product and its features need to look like

  • Gauge market demand

  • Gather information about your competitors' actions

This will help you validate or refine your initial business idea based on the collected feedback and data.

Shapes marketing and branding strategies

An effective marketing strategy ensures your business stays in sync with your customer base. To create successful campaigns for your business, you must know and understand customers to reach and connect with them.

Market research can help determine how you communicate information about your products or services and your marketing channels. You can develop an informed marketing strategy that puts your business ahead of your competitors.

Types of market research

Primary and secondary market research are the basic types of market research. However, as technology and marketing become more sophisticated, entrepreneurs can use new ways to discover valuable information that can create better insights, and better product and service experiences.

These market research methods include:

  • Brand awareness research

  • Competitor analysis

  • Market and customer segmentation

  • Pricing research

  • Customer satisfaction and loyalty research

  • Product research

  • Campaign research

  • Customer research

The type of market research you choose will influence your critical business decisions. Therefore, select the right research methods to help your business stay relevant, adapt, and compete. Entrepreneurs can use different types of market research to allow for more granular data collection.

Primary vs. secondary research

Primary research

Primary research involves collecting new data from original sources. This involves going directly to your target market or employing a third party to conduct relevant studies on your specific customers or market segment.

Primary research methods include:

  • Focus groups

  • One-to-one interviews

  • Surveys

  • Consumer observation

Data is collected directly from respondents, allowing you to gain specific insights tailored to your objectives. This may include a firsthand perspective on consumer preferences, behaviors, and trends.

Primary research helps you to:

  • Create buyer personas

  • Improve your business idea

  • Segment your market

Secondary research

Secondary research involves using pre-existing data from various sources to gain insights into your target market and industry. This includes reviewing reports, studies, and data collected by others in your industry.

Secondary sources include:

  • Industry reports

  • Internet search engines

  • Government publications

  • Statistical databases

  • Academic papers

  • Industry experts

From secondary research, you will gain broader industry perspectives, competitor strategies, historical data trends, and context for understanding market dynamics. Since most of this information is freely available, secondary research is more cost-effective for startups.

How to conduct market research for your business idea

1. Define your target market

Entrepreneurs can only gather meaningful insights once they know who to include in their market research. Otherwise, you may waste resources collecting unnecessary data.

First, define and understand your target market. Work out which types of consumers will be included, their interests, and how the data will be collected.

Ask these questions to help you:

  • Who is your target market as a whole?

  • How old are they?

  • What characteristics, interests, desires, pain points, and needs do they share?

  • Where do they buy similar products?

  • What are their income ranges?

  • Where do they live?

  • What major challenges do they face?

The idea is to visualize your audience and understand their actual characteristics, buying habits, and possible challenges. This allows you to develop marketing research that targets people who are interested in what you offer or plan to provide.

2. Develop a market research plan

Like any other business process, market research requires an effective plan to be successful. You should know what you're trying to accomplish and the information you'll need.

Your market research plan should include the following:

  • The issues your business idea addresses

  • Clear objectives and goals

  • The research methods you'll use to achieve those objectives (the research design)

  • The estimated time frame to complete tasks

  • The required budget

  • Any ethical issues or other considerations that may arise

Planning your market research can save you time, effort, and money. You'll not only target the right audience but also invest in the right sectors and align your research with your business objectives.

3. Study your competitors

Knowing your competitors, what they offer, and how they position themselves in the market can help set you on the right path.

Research your competitors':

  • Brand reputation

  • Overall strategies

  • Marketing campaigns

  • Revenue or sales volume

  • Other activities

This can help you determine how to differentiate your business from theirs and learn from their strengths and weaknesses. You'll understand the business landscape and be better able to assess your chances of success.

4. Conduct a SWOT analysis

A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis is a powerful way to analyze your business idea. It will help you assess your internal capabilities and the external market conditions to identify potential advantages and challenges.

A SWOT analysis usually entails the following:

  • Strengths: This involves identifying the strengths of your business idea. Some common strengths you can evaluate include your idea’s competitive advantage, efficiency, and unique qualities.

  • Weaknesses: Weaknesses are usually areas where you can or should improve. Common areas of improvement include things your competitors do better than you and internal factors that make it challenging to achieve your goals.

  • Opportunities: These are ways you can grow your business idea and make it more profitable. These are opportunities open to you, trends you can take advantage of, and ways to turn your strengths into opportunities.

  • Threats: Threats include everything that poses a risk to your business idea. These can be things that prevent you from entering the market or achieving success and growth. Threats to your business may include emerging competitors, a changing regulatory environment, and the possibility of losing relevance.

Typically, strengths and weaknesses are internal factors you can control, while opportunities and threats are external factors that can be anticipated. Conducting a SWOT analysis allows you to identify areas to focus on, build, and work to overcome.

5. Run surveys and focus groups

Surveys and focus groups are effective ways to fully understand your target market and competition. Surveys are straightforward and can be cost-effective to conduct, and the data is relatively easy to analyze. You can use online platforms that deliver surveys through online forums, social media sites, and other convenient means. Your surveys should contain a variety of question types, including:

  • Open-ended responses

  • Rating scales

  • Multiple choice

Focus groups involve gathering a small group of individuals (usually 5–10) to answer questions and provide feedback. The groups are led by a moderator who asks questions, allows discussion, and keeps the conversation moving in a productive direction.

Market trends and industry reports keep you updated on what's happening in your industry or target market. This includes changes, shifts, and recurring trends within a particular market or industry. They give valuable insights into:

  • Consumer preferences

  • Economic factors

  • Emerging technologies

  • Other aspects that may shape the market's future

You'll learn more about key metrics such as revenue, sales, average selling prices, and growth opportunities. They provide a solid overview of market dynamics and the factors driving it. After reviewing these, you'll be able to identify:

  • Growing industries to invest in

  • Barriers or threats you may face

  • Your major competitors

7. Analyze data

After conducting your research, you'll have information and data to analyze. We recommend using a system that helps you organize your collected data to find actionable recommendations. This can include:

  • Sorting your data into groups

  • Identifying patterns

  • Creating distinct customer personas

You can also use the SWOT framework, spreadsheets, or data visualization software to arrange and analyze your information. When reviewing, look for information that will help you answer your objectives and critical questions.

8. Summarize findings

Once you have analyzed your data, you can summarize your findings in a simple, shareable format. This can be in the form of a summary report containing insights, recommendations, and resulting strategies from the data analysis. You can then share what you learned during the research and analysis with your team members.

Your findings should help you identify:

  • Gaps

  • Opportunities for growth and improvement

  • Answers that fulfill your objectives

This will help guide product development, marketing strategies, and other crucial decisions that drive success. You can also use summarized reports for future marketing and branding efforts.

9. Validate your business idea

Validation involves evaluating your business idea against the information gathered through market research. This helps ensure your business idea has the potential for success in the marketplace.

You can validate your business idea by determining whether:

  • There's a need for your product or service

  • There are enough potential customers

  • You can do better than your competitors

  • Your customers validated your idea

  • You're solving a problem

  • You can attain the highest rewards and achieve long-term success

Think about the assumptions you have about your business and validate them with real-life situations and data. Assumptions can include:

  • Your business model

  • The value you believe your products offer

  • Your desired pricing

You can also test your products or services with real users to get their opinion and see how it works in the real market. You can then modify your business idea based on what you learn.

10 common market research questions for a new business idea

The market research questions you choose will play a vital role in creating an accurate buyer persona and capturing valuable insights. Select questions that will help your business collect precise information about your target market, audiences, and competitors. 

Here are some common market research questions for startups:

  1. Who is our ideal customer? What is the size of our target market?

  2. Who are our biggest competitors? How are they doing business in this market?

  3. What are the problems we'll solve for our target groups?

  4. What regulatory or compliance challenges might we face in this specific market?

  5. What are the current (and predicted) trends impacting the market?

  6. Who would purchase this product if it were available today?

  7. What challenges do you currently face in [relevant industry/problem area]?

  8. What features are most important when considering a [product/service]?

  9. What types of brands are boycotted and why?

  10. Which aspects of our advertising or marketing message are most compelling?


When should you conduct market research?

In ever-changing, highly competitive markets, businesses should always know what's happening in their industry. Therefore, entrepreneurs should be strategic about when to conduct market research.

Typically, you should conduct market research:

  • Before and after launching a new business

  • Before and after developing or launching new products or services

  • Before and after entering new markets

What type of market research is best for startups?

Most startups use secondary research because it's quick and more affordable. However, you can also use modern tools to design robust market research studies. Startups can also benefit from conducting primary research if resources allow.

Should you be using a customer insights hub?

Do you want to discover previous research faster?

Do you share your research findings with others?

Do you analyze research data?

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