Conducting Your Own Market Research: An Overview for Small Businesses

Since 1995, David Kiger, CEO of Worldwide Express Operations, LLC, has directed the Dallas-based company he founded. Working to make shipping easier for some 30,000 small- and medium-sized business clients, Worldwide Express also serves as a significant partner to UPS. David Kiger built his business from the ground up and learned through experience and hard work the value of understanding his customers. As you develop your own business, keep in mind some basic ideas that will ease the burden of conducting your own marketing research.

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) advises entrepreneurs first to gain a thorough understanding of their markets. Your market includes not only your customers, but also your own business operations, your competitors, and the wider trends affecting the business climate in your industry. Good market research will enable you to minimize risk, spot opportunities, and identify potential problems.

Market research includes the use of both primary and secondary sources. Surveys and focus groups of potential customers are the most common type of primary source and can be conducted by you or by an outsourced firm. Secondary sources include reference books or databases dealing with leading firms in a particular industry, as well as an extensive number of government resources. Your local public library can be one of the best places to begin your search.

A number of free resources are available online through the SBA and other sources. These include government databases dealing with macroeconomic factors such as employment levels, leading economic indicators, and income and earnings information relevant to your field.

Remember that trade organizations, think tanks, academic institutions, and business publications also offer a wealth of information online.

You may also need to understand worldwide economic trends. U.S. government sources offer information on exporting and importing, finding international partners, and identifying potential overseas markets.