Tag Archives: Research

People-based market research

In our last post we shared methods to conduct business research using a variety of market reports. In this post, we continue the discussion and focus on methods to conduct market research based on input from people. As this approach often means collecting original data from sources it can typically be considered primary research.

Collecting data from individuals can require a large number of data points to arrive at a sound conclusion and therefore often takes a substantial investment in terms of time and effort. We’ll cover five approaches, each with its own drawbacks and benefits, that can applied depending on the key questions at hand.

Cold calls: You can use a combination of LinkedIn and Google to email and call industry experts and customers. If you can establish a social connection (e.g. you went to the same school or lived in the same city) about 15-30% of them should be willing to speak you. Analysts are also a good target for short calls to clarify report findings.

Expert networks: If you have the budget, expert networks, like Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) or Guidepoint, are a great way to line up calls with several industry experts in a short amount of time. Company policies and client provisions may stipulate the exclusion of certain individuals, e.g. those currently employed by a direct competitor of the client.

Offline surveys: In addition to expert interviews you could conduct a large-scale survey to better understand the customer. In-person interviews have the advantage of much flexibility to collect quantitative and qualitative data. Also experienced interviewers can assess the reliability of responses. However, this likely is the most expensive surveying option and mostly used to capture a very specific set of customers. Alternatives include phone interviews or sending questionnaires by mail.

Online surveys: Conducting surveys online can help you reach a large audience at a cheaper price point. Tools like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang help users build and conduct surveys as well as find potential respondents. You can typically decide if responses are only accepted after a personal invitation or if the questionnaire is open to the public. In the latter case, keep in mind that results may be skewed because of a biased, self-selected audience.

Mystery shopping: Test purchases can be conducted to learn about customer service, product features and company recommendations. Typically this approach is used in a business-to-consumer (B2C) settings and while traditionally used in physical stores the approach works for online sales as well. As the shopper obscures his or her real intentions, company policies may include restrictions or guidelines for this method.

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Methods to help collect business market information

As we discussed in our last post, defining a market is a critical first step in developing a strategy. In this post, we’ll focus our attention on methods to collect information required to help define the market.

Methods largely fall into two categories:

  • Based on existing reports – Depending on the size and maturity of your market, reports are an excellent source to quickly grasp market trends.
  • Based on people input – While it can be tedious at times, speaking with industry experts and customers provides a level of detail and color that can help bring numeric data to life.

In this post we will cover the approach based on existing written sources.

Analyst reports: Many markets are well covered by analysts at either a research organization or at an investment bank. For example research houses like IDC and Gartner publish a large variety of technology reports. These reports, however, are expensive and can easily cost $10,000 and more. “Initiating coverage reports” by investment banks tend to have the best market data. These too are expensive but at times at quick Google search may reveal some of the main points/charts being publicly available.

Company reports: Mandatory publications like 10-Ks in the USA and public marketing material can provide in-depth company financial data, capability overviews as well as general market trends. These are free and typically available through a companies investor website. Depending on local legislation mandatory reports can often be obtained from a public register. This is particularly helpful when data of competing players in a market is needed.

Official and statistical publications: In many countries supervisory and statistical bodies (e.g. the PRA in the UK) collect data from market players which is published in detailed or aggregate form. Trends and background information may be shared as well. Because the relevant institutions are public bodies reports are typically freely available. Though depending on national regulations, the availability can be expected for industries with a strict governance due to a high public interest. This often includes financial services, healthcare, telecommunications, transportation and food industry.

Industry associations: Leading market players often establish lobby groups. Among others these mostly publish qualitative and quantitative reports on market development and trends. However, because the associations must keep neutrality towards their stakeholders and assessment or rating of individual companies cannot be expected.

In the next post we will consider options for collecting market insights from the ground up without relying on existing quantitative data and analyses.

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