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Market research

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Imagine trying to run a profitable business without reliable market research.  It would be like trying to drive a car blindfolded. 

You sit in the driver’s seat with your hands on the wheel, but you can’t see the potholes, the curves, or any part of the road ahead. 

You can’t see what kind of traffic is coming toward you, and you can’t tell what the other drivers are doing. 

To arrive safely at your destination would require either incredible luck or nothing short of a miracle.

Market research offers business managers a picture of the environment in which they operate. 

It is the eyes and ears, the map and the traffic report of the entrepreneur.  Market research gives decision makers an awareness of the road and the traffic.

It tells them what cross streets to anticipate, which turn to take at the intersection, whether the traffic copter is circling overhead and what to do about it, and what kind of weather to expect for the journey. Good market research can thus facilitate informed decision making.

What does market research cover?  Broadly speaking, it covers the market and industry. 

Markets are “all people who have a specific, unsatisfied need or want and are willing and able to purchase a product or service to satisfy that need.” 

An industry includes those organizations striving to meet the needs of a market.  In his 1980 classic book called Competitive Strategy: 

Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors, Michael Porter defines an industry as “the group of firms producing products that are close substitutes for each other.” 

Within an industry, importers, suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors (all of which generally manifest themselves as companies) come together to bring goods and services to the target market or target customer. 

To understand a target market, the researcher must understand the industry within which it fits. 

Conversely, to understand an industry, the researcher must comprehend the markets that the industry serves. 

Illustrates how the pieces of the industry/market puzzle come together in one particular case.

Product managers, sale representatives, market researchers, competitive-intelligence professionals, business development specialists, and technical writers, as well as presidents, chief executive officers, chief financial officers, and investor relations personnel all need market and industry research. 

Who gathers this market and industry information depends on the situation; librarians, market research personnel, and competitive-intelligence professionals within companies all conduct market and industry research. 

At one time or another, however, most business professionals do their own market or industry research. 

You can use the techniques outlined here to guide any market search, and ideally, they will lead you to the most useful and cost-effective sources.

Market and industry research is used within companies and enterprises to enlighten tactical decision making and to develop longer-range strategic marketing plans, which in turn guides product development, business development, product positioning, product price, technology, distribution, and promotion. 

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