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Who Are Your Customers?

Find out by researching your market.

The most successful businesses flourish not only because they provide innovative products or services, but also because they fill a specific niche in the marketplace. As an entrepreneur, it's essential to learn as much as you can about your market and your product's potential consumers before launching your new business.

You need to know your market inside and out to develop an effective product or service people will pay good money for. Is your business idea something enough people want or need? Who are your likely customers, and how much will they be willing to pay? Who are your main competitors, and how many are there? Discovering the answers to these and related questions will require conducting some market research of your own.

The goal of market research is to learn who's most likely to buy your product or service and how many such people exist. Entrepreneurs go about this in a variety of ways. Some administer surveys or conduct personal interviews with consumers in their communities. Others research statistical and business information in local libraries and information about competitors at the local chamber of commerce. Often, several methods are combined into a comprehensive market-research project.

The depth and breadth of market research varies according to the distinct needs and prior related experiences of different entrepreneurs. As such, our Building Blocks entrepreneurs have returned to discuss the types of market research they conducted before launching their own successful businesses.

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This article was originally published in the August 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Who Are Your Customers?.

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