5 areas your SME should research

Researching

While some decisions are fine to be made on gut instincts, there are also times when a well informed decision is required and in these instances research is needed to justify the decision. While conducting research is crucial for making certain decisions, it also plays a major part in maintaining awareness of the current market landscape and your position within it.

Research can be conducted to look at a number of things. These areas include:

Competitors – assessing exactly who your competitors are and how they’re doing is crucial to the success of your own business. Conducting research can bring to light things such as their financial performance and any plans to expand their current offerings. This will give you a better idea of where you stand amongst your competitors and allow you to better plan for the future.

The market place – having a clear idea of market demands is vital as these things can evolve gradually over time and can go unnoticed without the required research. Being able to cater for required changes is vital and could mean you need time to adjust so identifying it as early as possible will only stand you in a better position.

Your own customers – researching your customers is a great way of finding out how your business is doing. It may also help to bring to light other information such as consumer buying habits and what really matters to them during their purchasing process. These insights will then allow you to improve the quality of your offering from not only the end product but also the buying experience itself.

The internal running of your business – an area which is often overlooked when conducting research is looking into your own business. While you may feel you know it well, conducting research is sure to uncover some things you may have been unaware of. Getting staff feedback every so often will ensure that you’re always on top on any issues that may be arising and will allow you deal with them before they grow any further.

Technological changes – we live in an age where technology is so influential around us, and most businesses will face technological changes that will affect their business in some way or another. Ensuring you’re aware of technological advancements will mean that not only will you be prepared to embrace new ways of operating but you will also place yourself in line with or ahead of your competitors.

There have been a number of high profile cases where a lack of research and market awareness have led to the downfall of businesses. A prime example of this is Blockbuster’s demise which saw it hit bankruptcy in 2010. The lack of understanding for the potential demand for online video streaming was not recognised early enough and once Blockbuster did attempt to provide an online offering it was too costly for the business. This led to the decision being overturned and their continued offline operation eventually saw the business hit rock bottom as the likes of Netflix grew in popularity.

As an SME it can be difficult to free up the hours to conduct enough research into the internal and external factors of your business and market place. So while the process of researching can be time consuming there are alternatives to getting it done such as outsourcing the process to companies which specialise in conducting research. This will allow you to continue to operate as usual and dedicate more time to the business while the data and information is collected and reported back to you.

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.