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5 Ways to Jump-Start Your Market Research

When launching a new company, researching the market is a must. Here's how to get started.

When you're launching a new company, researching the market is a must. Here's how to get started:

  1. Start with the end in mind.
    "Define your goals and why you even think you need to do research," says Laura Sheridan, president of Viva La Brand. Narrowing your focus and being specific will save you time and money.
     
  2. Know who your competition is and how they present themselves.
    "Many times everyone is saying the same thing, so researching helps you differentiate your brand," says Brownstein Group's chief brand strategist Joe Weinlick. Read reviews, buy products and understand the post-purchase experience.
     
  3. Follow your potential customers.
    Leverage online channels to follow them throughout their day on Twitter, blogs or forums. "You're able to watch people who aren't doing something because they think they're engaged in market research," Weinlick says. "So you get the full context of who they are and how they make decisions."
     
  4. Use online surveys.
    SurveyMonkey.com and Zoomerang.com allow you to create surveys, get reports and buy targeted lists. "For every question, you have to ask, 'What if the respondent answers this way?'" Sheridan says. "How are you going to use that?"
     
  5. Conduct in-depth interviews.
    You only need a handful of these to get a feel for your market's needs. Sheridan advises asking open-ended questions and getting feedback from potential customers in their own words: "Your marketing materials should be in your customers' words--not your own."

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This article was originally published in the May 2009 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: 5 Ways to Jump-Start Your Market Research.

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