If you’ve taken the exciting first steps into starting your own business, you’ve probably come across several references which speak to the importance of conducting market research.

It may help to understand what market research is. Broadly speaking, market research is a subjective look at the behaviour and choices of a selected market. Traditionally performed using questions and answers, Likert scales and a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data, market research can help small businesses refine their decision-making process, and (perhaps more importantly) help them find who their target market is.

With automated software and new analytical capabilities, market research is even more sophisticated and able to reach your potential customer base. If you’re a small business owner, this should come as an exciting opportunity to more deeply understand your potential market and how you can connect with them.

Monitoring The Competition

An important development in market research (particularly for small businesses) is the increasing use of competitive intelligence. Using state of the art software, small businesses can access data scraping technology which searches and analyses the websites of competitors, meaning that your small business can monitor and compete with companies which may have a bigger budget or a more effective marketing campaign or strategy.

Through regular use of such a service, your small business can effectively negate the perceived advantage of a competitor, without the need for multiple departments, staff or analytical tools.

Unlocking Customer Behaviour

Another key use for market research for your small business is in its ability to help unlock customer behaviour and engagement patterns. If you’re trying to capture a particular market or increase your market share, this can be an important first step in the process.

In order to quickly gain this type of insight, you can employ the use of a number of helpful tools, such as tracking cookies built into social media platforms (such as Facebook’s ‘pixel’ tracker) and online survey sites (such as Survey Monkey).

Through online tracking cookies, your business can glean how potential customers reach your site and how they navigate through your pages, including the amount of time they spend on each page. With enough of this type of data, your small business can begin to get a greater picture of how clients interact with your business, and which information they seek out.

Identifying New Markets

For small businesses, identifying leads and capitalising on them can be hard work – especially without the resources or backing seen in much larger companies.

Newer methods of market research (such as web crawling) can help to identify potential leads in (almost) real-time, giving your small business a greater opportunity to identify and convert a new customer lead into a sale. For example, if your business sells websites or domains, your potential customer base might be other new businesses.

A clever way to identify these new businesses and create a list of leads is through the use of web crawling. Using a web crawler on a register of new businesses, you can get data on new leads exported to your business hourly, meaning you can create a pitch to a new customer almost immediately.

Using technology to find your clients can also help you target where to advertise your business. If you find clusters of potential clients in areas or as a part of a certain demographic, it makes sense to concentrate your advertising or future marketing collateral towards these groups.

Market research is a valuable, cost-effective way to come to terms with your potential clients’ needs, while also assessing the viability of future marketing strategies. Evolved methods of market research can actively grow your customer base while giving your small business the boost it needs to compete with any larger peers.