Market research is a critical component of a business strategy. Understanding the market and more importantly the customers in a targeted market cannot be overstated. Simply put market research is focused efforts to help you understand your customers: where they are, what they need, and what they’re willing to pay for your product or service. The resources you use depend upon what you intend to sell and where you intend to sell it. Some initial questions to consider include:
- Are you an online only business?
- Do you sell a product, service, or both?
- Do you sell locally, regionally, nationally, or world-wide?
The internet is, of course, your first stop. There are three elements of market discovery – customer need, market size and competition. Start researching your target market using these factors. Begin filling out a spreadsheet of valuable information and consider sources. There are several resources available that provide everything from local demographic data to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to industry-specific information. Using data that’s already available will cut down on market research time and expense and allow you to develop a comprehensive view of your potential market.
You’ll want to check trade and other industry groups and publications in your area of expertise. A not-to-be-missed local source is your local city or county Economic Development Department. They collect and regularly update local and regional demographic data. For the Southern Maryland region these resources include:
- Calvert County: http://www.co.cal.md.us/index.aspx?nid=100
- Charles County: http://www.meetcharlescounty.com/apps/econweb/public/listProperties.jsp
- St. Mary’s County: http://www.co.saint-marys.md.us/decd/
Economics and Statistics Administration
Here you can find everything from monthly retail sales to GDP and the US Trade Balance. You can also sign up for email alerts to keep up-to-date with the information that’s important to you.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
BLS provides a wealth of data on everything labor to include Current Employment Statistics, Wages by Demographics, and Industries at a Glance (www.bls.gov/iag/home.html).
There are also third party resources you can use to flush-out your research, but that should come only after you’ve collected what you can on your own. The resource librarian at your local library can also be a good source in helping you access appropriate databases. Local universities and community colleges are also good places to acquire data`.
By Keith Gordon and Kim Mozingo