Best Procedures and Strategies to Globally Sell Your Products Online and Offline
There is an increasingly international marketing and this involves tailoring the campaign to the ways different regions and cultures respond to Direct Marketing. International marketing is no longer an option, but a strategic imperative. Businesses that focus primarily on their domestic markets will be left behind as their competition gains “first mover advantage” in the international marketplace. To acheive this, one has to be in possession of relevant global targeting strategies and in order to successfully obtain high score in global audience, you must ensure that your brand of products or businesses must send a unique and relevant information that individual customers in different regions and cultures specifically can identify with and comprehend.
Initiating and maintaining international audience in business requires a lot of structured strategic procedures with constistent improvement and development from time to time. This dedicated strategies structured and implemented with a view to penetrating the international market can be refered to as Global Marketing. In another words, Global marketing is the process of adjusting a company's marketing strategies to adapt to conditions in other countries.
The purpose of this article is to carefully elucidate and analyse the procedures and strategies which have been studied and tested over time with conclusion that if well implemented can go a long way in directing companies and business owners through a better approach to possibly increasing and improving their international marketing standard.
Strategic means to sell yourself to the world.
STRATEGY 1: Internet Marketing
Internet Marketing (also known as eMarketing, Web Marketing, or Digital Marketing) is an all-inclusive term for marketing products and/or services online and like many all-inclusive terms, internet marketing means different things to different people.
Going global is even easier than it has been in the past. Small entrepreneurs can market their product overseas from their living room, while large corporations have access to consumers across the world 24 hours a day by using the Internet. How is this possible? The Internet and the increasing growth of technology make it easy to reach consumers with websites. Many companies recently are expanded their market across the globe. Fortunately, it has been a very easy process due to an E-commerce framework that is available. E-commerce is the buying and selling of products or services over electronic systems such as the Internet. Using the Internet to sell to international consumers is a very low risk business decision. Companies do not have to tie up huge financial investments through franchising or direct investment.
The emergence of the Internet in the early 1990s and its gradual commercialization through the early 2000s would coincide with the globalization of media and cultural products. Brands around the world have since attempted to take advantage as well as keep abreast of the commercial, technological, and cultural trends around Internet marketing.
The Internet truly flattens the world… a fact that brings opportunity to U.S. marketers with an international component to their businesses or a desire to do business globally.
Advanced technology has made Internet Marketing a great success
The Internet and new technologies have allowed companies to easily expand to overseas markets. So many businesses are becoming dynamic, having to equip their websites in a way that allow international orders. Internet also provides a tremendous database for companies to use to build their customer base. Software has been developed to translate between languages, which makes communication with international customers easier for companies to implement. There is also software that provides currency conversions.
Even if you want to make use of email alone, global marketing becomes an inexpensive reality. But the primary place for business to be done on the Internet is, of course, the World Wide Web.
Surf the Web, and you quickly realize that you can very easily penetrate yourself beyond internationsl borders and that is an extremely compelling reason why global Internet marketing — and the e-commerce associated with it — is predicted to escalate so dramatically in the next several years.
Marketers with global goals are now establishing mirror sites and multiple-language versions of their Web sites. Internet translation tools are available that make this easier to do. It is only a matter of time until those marketers use their Web sites to accept and fulfill orders online from customers worldwide.
From the analysis above, Internet Marketing has achieved the followings:
Territorial Expansion of Markets:
Marketing no longer has to artificially stop at a country’s borders. An Internet marketing program can make a global initiative not only possible but also practical. A company’s Web site can be mirrored in several languages, and it can address country-specific issues. An intranet can be established to provide low-cost, instant communications with every sales office, sales representative, distributor, and retailer worldwide. An extranet can be used to admit partners, suppliers, and customers into select portions of the intranet. The Web site can be promoted inexpensively throughout the world with links on other Web pages and in email newsletters. Simple, inexpensive mailings can be executed in each target country to drive prospects to the corporate Web site.
Encouraging Global Marketing Partnerships:
Internet marketing makes joint ventures attractive and easy to implement. A marketer can join together with one or more partners whose products or services complement the marketer’s products or services. Then members of this consortium can pool their resources. They can execute cooperative email campaigns by sharing each other’s lists or form a collaborative Web site that features their solution set. They can also use their own extranets to speed communication with sales and marketing personnel from all participating companies throughout the world.
Establishing a worldwide customer service:
In an era that emphasizes customer service, a marketer can now use the Internet as the foundation for 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year customer support. The way a company services its business customers differentiates it from its competitors. The Internet can facilitate online customer service centers and provide customer-only information, service, support, and, in the case of software and information, live product. With the advent of Internet telephony, companies will be able to interconnect the Internet and voice response; customer service will take on a new level of quality.
It should be pointed out, however, that despite all the apparent benefits of global Internet marketing, marketers cannot take other countries and their populations for granted. The European countries are a good example. Europeans live on a single continent, have open borders, trade freely, and are moving to a unified European currency. Yet each country retains its distinct personality and its own language. And, in the case of marketing, individuals in each country will likely react differently to promotions. However, if you are going to make a serious effort to market in Europe or anywhere else in the world, you would do well to learn about the likes and dislikes of the business and consumer populations in each target country as well as understand local languages and regulations.
Going global with Internet marketing makes a lot of sense, especially when the required strategies are implemented.
The Internet's most obvious benefit is the elimination of geographic and time constraints. Organizations have quickly realized that operating costs can be significantly reduced by moving services from physical locations into the digital world. Employees can work remotely from locations hundreds or even thousands of miles away from office headquarters, delivering the same services to clients and customers as employees working on-site. Virtual help desks can be outsourced, allowing technical staff to log into online systems to assist customers located in distant cities, states, and countries.
Immediacy, i.e the quality that makes something seem important or interesting because it is or seems to be happening now, is a common factor that applies to global marketing, as it allows brands to reach consumers in various ways and offer a wide range of products and services simultaneously. The scope and reach of the Internet is especially beneficial for companies looking to deliver public relations, advertising, and sales messaging consistently across a broad and diverse audience.
The costs of traditional media (television, radio, print and billboard advertising) limit this kind of reach to multinational markets. For small businesses, eMarketing opens up access to potential customers around the world, all for much less the cost than traditional advertising.
The Internet's accessibility and low barrier to entry enable anyone with an Internet connection to book a flight, test drive a service, or purchase a product with just a few clicks of a mouse. Moreover, the perpetual nature of the Internet makes business occur 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 52 weeks per year. By speeding the time between the delivery of marketing communications and the gathering of consumer responses, the length of the consumer buying cycle is reduced and the volume of lead generation
One of the biggest challenges of global marketing is not only communicating a consistent message and brand image, but developing a deep understanding of the cultural differences that separate consumer markets from one another.
Luckily for global companies, web monitoring and tracking tools have become increasingly sophisticated and offer insights into consumer behavior both online and offline. The nature of the Internet is such that users tend to organize themselves into far more focused groupings and in greater concentrations than in offline settings. For example, social networking websites and personalization features can offer valuable information for global marketers looking to access hard-to-reach and overseas markets.
Getting down to the root of Customer cultures and beliefs
STRATEGY 2: Grass-root Marketing
Grassroots campaigns is one of the major branches of Guerrilla Marketing. Guerrilla marketing is an advertisement strategy and concept designed for businesses to promote their products or services in an unconventional way with little budget to spend. This involves high energy and imagination focusing on grasping the attention of the public in more personal and memorable level. Some large companies use unconventional advertisement techniques, proclaiming to be guerrilla marketing but those companies will have larger budget and the brand is already visible.
The main point of guerrilla marketing is that the activities are done exclusively on the streets or other public places, such as shopping centers, parks or beaches with maximum people access so as to attract a bigger audience.
The major aim of Grass root marketing is to win customers based on individual. A successful grassroots campaign is not about the dissemination of the marketing message in the hope that possible consumers are paying attention, but rather highlights a personal connection between the consumer and the brand and builds a lasting relationship with the brand.
It is very important to set up individuals on ground that are rooted in the local culture, that have lived and worked there all their lives.These marketers still must have a global mindset, but also understand the local data sources and media market. Good privacy and data handling policy are also part and parcel of everything global marketers need to consider and evaluate. This is not only essential legal practice, it is good marketing. It's also a way to learn which media they want to receive them. To make global campaigns more cost efficient, identify and use your assets, like an original online experience. Best practices can also be identified and shared across markets. There are also audiences that are global in nature. If you think about youth today and their exposure to trends, entertainment, properties and behaviors, you find huge amounts of correlation. Structure your business to tap into these similar trends. Focus on driving everything from local insights upwards to a big global insight on which you can build.
Over time, grassroots marketing has evolved, but the primary goal has always remained the same: to spur movement within a specific target market.
Businesses across all industries long to spark movements and inspire changes, but the challenge is that most don't have the budget or human capital to make this desire a reality. For example, it's easy for a business to say, "We want to help people understand the importance of sustainability in our industry." Saying is quite different from doing, though. In order to push this initiative, you need time, money, and influence.
The good news is that you don't need a million-dollar campaign budget to spur movement. Thanks to grassroots techniques and the power of social media, it's now possible for small businesses to produce major changes without breaking the bank.
In essence, grassroots marketing campaigns are designed to cost-effectively leverage available resources to accomplish specific goals that require considerable traction from a number of parties or entities.
Generally speaking, grassroots marketing makes sense when one of the following situations is present:
Minimal marketing budget:
Traditionally, grassroots efforts have been used when there's a very small marketing budget. The reason is that grassroots campaigns thrive on word of mouth and natural placements, as opposed to paid media.
Specifically targeted audience:
Another common reason for pursuing grassroots efforts is that the audience you're attempting to reach is very targeted. For example, let's say you're trying to engage African - Americans under 24 year who live in New York and watch English Champions League, It's difficult to justify paid advertising when you have such a small audience. Grassroots efforts, on the other hand, give you more control over your audience.
High Interactive Audience:
Another situation where grassroots efforts are preferred is when the audience you're targeting craves personal attention and interaction. In other words, it's a better way to interact with people, as opposed to consuming content through paid marketing efforts and strategically placed advertisements.
Throughout history, grassroots efforts have been used by brands to increase sales and drive word of mouth marketing, but these same tactics have also been used to spur significant social movements.
Perhaps one of the more recognizable instances of this happened during the civil rights movements of the 1960s. While history tends to reflect on very specific and calculated events, much of the movement was fueled by grassroots efforts.
More recently, we've seen how grassroots efforts can lead to large-scale social movement in the form of Occupy Wall Street--the 2011 movement in which millions of people sought to purify Washington.
"The Occupy Wall Street movement is a conundrum for corporate media because it grew from a truly grassroots movement--a spontaneous group of people who could no longer tolorate the old ways of doing things.
Taking the lessons learned from businesses, as well as large-scale movements like the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011, it's possible for modern brands to extract valuable teaching points and spur movements of their own. And in 2016, this means using the best resource available: social media.
Impact of Social Network in Grass root Marketing:
If you want to meet influencers where they are, you need to be using progressive social media platforms.
Periscope, when it emerged onto the scene, became a popular platform for grassroots campaigning. In fact, it's about as grassroots as you can get on social media. Companies have been using the platform to provide sneak-peeks into exclusive events, behind-the-scenes videos, live announcements, celebrity takeovers, and more.
While progressive social media networks like Periscope may be extremely popular right now, it's hard to ignore the power of traditional staples like Facebook and Twitter. The latter has long been a powerful force and its impact in sparking social movements is well known. In fact, the #BlackLivesMatter campaign is rooted in Twitter. Recently, the #PrayforParis and #BringBackourGirls campaign also started on Twitter.
Ultimately, you have to do what makes sense for your brand. This means asking yourself questions such as: Are my target audiences using social media? Which platforms are they using? Who are my biggest influencers? How is the competition using social media to spark grassroots movements? The answers to questions like these will point you in the right direction.
Grassroots efforts have long been used to instigate change and fuel movements. Whether it's something as important as the civil rights movement, or something as small as a movement to increase awareness of a specific product, a grassroots campaign can do the job.
In the past, grassroots efforts have involved canvasing neighborhoods with mailers, talking with people on the streets, and encouraging loyal customers to speak out. In 2016, social media is at the heart of any successful grassroots campaign. Using the tips and examples referenced in this article, who say you can't infiltrate the global Market?
For anyone starting a new business, marketing and advertising are essential. There’s no point having a fantastic product or service if no-one knows about it. And today’sobsession with social media means that simple marketing strategies have never been more effective and the number of people you can reach out to is endless.
Most big companies have their own marketing teams and often they have huge budgets to utilize, but with start-ups it’s a completely different ball game. So, what do you do when you don’t have the funds or a marketing guru to help you? Just put your creative hat on and push your message across using Grassroots Marketing techniques.
Grassroots Marketing is a cost-effective way to reach your target audience usingsimple techniques like word-of-mouth, door-to-door sales, competitions - with your product or service forming the prize - and as have mentioned, guerrilla marketing strategies.
Grassroots marketing techniques that any business need to adopt:
1. Chat to people.
Networking and recommendation is vital as a free marketing tool. The averageperson encounters hundreds of people a day and with the Internet and social media this is constantly growing. Speaking up and being willing to talk about what you do is what separates entrepreneurs from success and just ‘getting by’. Every person you encounter could potentially be a sale and the key to a vast social network.
2. Be present at local events and campaing about remote shippings and delivery services.
This could be an international village fete, a sporting event, a free concert, a fun day. You don’t have to actually be there in person (although that helps) but finding these events and advertising your business with flyers or posters is a great way to reach specific demographics. Let your audience know you can get these products and services delivered even at their remotest door steps at a give away and very affordable cost.
3. Think about brand placement.
Today we’re constantly bombarded with brand messages, so we’ve learned to filter out some of the noise. You need to think about where and how you position yourselfand by targeting busy areas where your key demographic will be you can get a head start. For example, if you have a product or service that targets college students, get your brand noticed at the entrance to a University campus with flyers, posters or billboards.
4. Get creative.
Because we’re faced with hundreds of brands in our everyday life we tend torecognisrecognize the brands we’re already familiar with and block out the brands that are new to us. To avoid this, you need to be unique when you’re trying to reachnew and potential customers. You need to stand out from the crowd.
And this is where it gets exciting; where you can push all the boundaries and get creative with guerrilla marketing. With this style of advertising, low-cost tactics are used in a bid for maximum results - so it’s perfect for start-ups. Unconventional, whacky marketing tactics can have a massive impact.
It’s fair to say that no-one can predict how successful your marketing efforts will be. And there’s a lot of trial and error involved for any new business. Everything we’ve talked about above can get the word out very cheaply, but the rate of your success really comes down to how much effort and consistency you apply when you’re reaching out. Short-term sacrifice for long-term gain.
STRATEGY 3: Global Diversity Marketing
Today’s technology has enabled businesses of all sizes to become global. Global Diversity Marketing, with its intimate knowledge of diverse cultures and distribution strategies, is positioned to take businesses to the next level. Customers in different cultures have different values, experiences, expectations, and ways of interacting. Even within a culture, such differences will be apparent between different subgroups—not just ethnicity, but also age, gender, profession, religion, family size, physical environment, and more and all these affect the marketplace. As the marketplace changes, “one-size-fits-all” marketing has become less effective.
Diversity marketing involves acknowledging that marketing and advertising must offer alternative ways of communicating to these diverse groups. With that knowledge, diversity marketers aim to develop a mix of different communication methods, in order to reach people in each of the diverse groups present in the market
Effective diversity marketing means adapting the message to the market, instead of trying to adapt the market to the message. A poor attempt to reach diverse customers would be to develop an ad campaign first, and then try to tack on a multicultural aspect (for instance, by using the exact same advertising, only with pictures of African-American or Hispanic individuals). The effective diversity campaign starts with the multicultural context in mind. Market research is done on the target consumers—not just their buying habits, but their values, ideals, perceptions, and methods of communication. Today’s diverse consumer base is fairly advertising-savvy; they can spot the difference between an authentic message and a copy-pasted message with a new color palette.
Marketing teams don’t absolutely need members of every ethnic group, but nonetheless should be actively recruiting talent from diverse perspectives. Too often, a group of like-minded individuals can decide that an ad campaign looks good to them—without considering if it would look good to other audiences critical to the success of their product. Marketers must test advertising methods in focus groups and small trial runs to collect information about how cultural groups react to their efforts.
As a diversity campaign is developed, the profile of the target audience should also develop, and further diversify. Again, Hispanics are composed of many different subgroups. Similarly, there are many differences within black communities—they are not just a single, like-minded market group.
Establishing contact with, and investing in the targeted communities is an important component of a diversity marketing strategy. Such activity does more than simply establish a reputation or mindshare in the target group—it also connects the business to community leaders, and gives them more context for communication methods and expectations. Working alongside individuals inside the community enhances the credibility of the business. In contrast, working without their input is likely to result in misdirected and/or ignored messages.
Diversity is one of the core growth principals of entrepreneurship with the concept of following a simple proposition: the more audiences you market your services or products to, the more opportunities you create to generate revenue. Accordingly, the more diverse potential customers that you have in your pipeline, the more opportunities you have to increase your revenue.
Some diversity marketing strategy acknowledges the globalization of the business world and the need for even the smallest businesses to market to multiple demographics. “One size fits all” doesn’t cut it in our rapidly changing world and different demographics respond to different cultural nuances. Regardless of the channels you’re using, your marketing messages needs to be flexible and be designed for the cultural markets you are looking to attract.
Important Procedures for Diversity Marketing:
1. Enlarging your Horizon.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the majority of people in the United States will identify as people of color within the next 40 years. And statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce show that the minority business community is growing at twice the rate of the general business population. So it makes simple mathematical sense that to be a successful business you need to have an effective marketing plan in place that focuses attention on these emerging markets.
2. Mirror your Desired Demographic
Decision makers at global companies and minority-owned businesses often want to engage and buy from companies that look like them; and they want to see this diversity at senior-level positions. Therefore, both your workforce and sales force should include members from the unique markets you are looking to attract, and these employees need to be able to identify and respond to the cultural nuances that shape global business meetings. “For global companies, diversity is no longer simply a matter of creating a heterogeneous workforce, but using that workforce to innovate and give it a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” a 2011 Forbes survey on diversity states. “Competition for talent is fierce in today’s global economy, so companies need to have plans in place to recruit, develop, and retain a diverse workforce.”
3. Communicate Your Diversity Plan
Finally, once you’ve put your diversity plan in place, you need to communicate it to your desired marketplace.
STRATEGY 4: Research
Marketing research is "the process or set of processes that links the producers, customers, and end users to the marketer through information; information used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve understanding of marketing as a process. Marketing research specifies the information required to address these issues, designs the method for collecting information, manages and implements the data collection process, analyzes the results, and communicates the findings and their implications.
It is the systematic gathering, recording, and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data about issues relating to marketing products and services. The goal of marketing research is to identify and assess how changing elements of the marketing can impacts customer behavior.
Market Research, however is any organized effort to gather information about target markets or customers. It is a very important component of business strategy.The term is commonly interchanged with marketing research; nevertheless, expert practitioners may wish to draw a distinction, in that marketing research is concerned specifically about marketing processes, while market research is concerned specifically with markets.
Market research is one of the key factors used in maintaining competitiveness over competitors. Market research provides important information to identify and analyze the market need, market size and competition. Market-research techniques encompass both qualitative techniques such as focus groups, in-depth interviews, and ethnography, as well as quantitative techniques such as customer surveys, and analysis of secondary data.
Market research, which includes social and opinion research, is the systematic gathering and interpretation of information about individuals or organizations using statistical and analytical methods and techniques of the applied social sciences to gain insight or support decision making.
Marketing research can give a business a picture of what kinds of new products and services may bring a profit. For products and services already available, marketing research can tell companies whether they are meeting their customers' needs and expectations. By researching the answers to specific questions, small-business owners can learn whether they need to change their package design or tweak their delivery methods--and even whether they should consider offering additional services.
"Failure to do market research before you begin a business venture or during its operation is like driving a car from Texas to New York without a map or street signs," says William Bill of Wealth Design Group LLC in Houston. "You have to know which direction to travel and how fast to go. A good market research plan indicates where and who your customers are. It will also tell you when they are most likely and willing to purchase your goods or use your services."
When you conduct marketing research, you can use the results either to create a business and marketing plan or to measure the success of your current plan. That's why it's important to ask the right questions, in the right way, of the right people. Research, done poorly, can steer a business in the wrong direction. Here are some market-research basics that can help get you started to avoid mistakes.
Market research helps you understand your competitive position, spot opportunities, reduce risks and make better decisions. Following the guildlines below, Market Research has proved to be a great medium to comfortably infiltrate the global market. These guildlines includes:
1. What you need to know
Be clear what decisions you want to make before you undertake research. Identify the crucial data that you will be able to act upon.
Who your customers and potential customers are
- If you sell to individuals, you need to know their sex, age, marital status, occupation, income, aspirations, wants, needs, lifestyle habits, etc.
- If you sell to businesses, you need to know their size, sector, buying patterns and service requirements. Which individuals make or influence the buying decision?
- How large is the overall market? What are the main market segments of similar customers?
What their purchasing behaviour is
- What products do they buy, in what quantities, how often?
- When do they buy? For example, any variations at different times of day or seasonal trends.
- Where and how do they buy? For example, do they buy online or at physical outlets? Do they buy direct or through intermediaries such as retailers?
What influences customer behaviour
- What are the key factors that make them choose one product or service rather than another?
- How much are they prepared to pay? How price-sensitive are they?
- Which media and online information reach them?
- Where else do they get product information and recommendations?
- How effective are your current marketing and sales campaigns? What is your brand image?
- How satisfied are potential customers with their existing suppliers and what would it take to get them to change? How satisfied are your customers?
What your competitors offer
- Who are your competitors?
- What products and services do they sell? How do they market them? How do their pricing and positioning compare?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses? What is your 'unique selling proposition' (USP) that makes customers choose you?
How might the market change
- What are the key market trends? What changes can you expect in external factors such as new regulations or technologies?
- How is the competition likely to change? For example, improvements in existing products or the emergence of new competitors altogether.
2. What kind of information?
Use 'quantitative' research to find hard facts
- For example, how many people or businesses you can target and how they spend their money.
- If you are doing the research yourself (or having it done for you) you need to base your research on a big enough sample to give statistically reliable data. For example, a survey must usually involve questioning at least 150 people.
Use 'qualitative' research to assess attitudes
- This focuses on how potential customers think and behave. The aim is generally to cover a few issues in depth.
- Participants are encouraged to give detailed answers and discuss their opinions, rather than just replying to a strict questionnaire. Qualitative research is often done in small groups, known as focus groups.
- Allow plenty of time for qualitative work. It always takes longer than you expect.
- Qualitative research is harder to analyse than quantitative research.
- Talking to customers and 'keeping your ear to the ground' are familiar low-key forms of qualitative research.
Decide how in depth you need the research to be
- Exploratory research can provide quick clues to aid real-time decision making. For example, if you want to assess local awareness of your product to see whether a leaflet drop would be worthwhile.
- More detailed research can put flesh on the bone, helping to inform your planning.
- Knowing what you hope to achieve helps you decide how much it is worth investing in the research.
Identify the most reliable and cost-effective ways to obtain the information
- Desk research, using information that is already available, is the cheapest and quickest. It can be very useful for broad-brush exploratory research.
- You may need your own field research to get detailed information relevant to your business.
You may already have valuable internal information
- The key sources are account records, sales reports, customer records and records of queries and complaints. These can yield valuable data about sales volumes, buying patterns, customer size and location and causes of dissatisfaction.
- Do not ignore informal feedback from your employees but beware of personal bias.
- Your internal sources may not be set up to make access to this kind of data easy. You may need to change your methods of recording information.
Two quick questions
Micro businesses often cannot afford extensive marketing research. But they can carry out some quick and useful DIY research. Half a day on the phone to your customers can make a vital difference to your chances of success.
Identify 20 top customers and ask them two questions
- "Who do you see as my competitors?"
- "What makes you use us, rather than the others?"
See what you discover
- The answers to these simple questions may indicate new possible target markets.
- They may also lead you to shift the emphasis of your marketing to promote the benefits perceived by your existing customers that you hadn't previously considered.
3. Desk research
A lot of information is available at little or no cost from public sources.
Check with relevant trade associations
- Trade associations often collect data from their members, which could give you a good insight into your industry.
Use libraries and universities
- Some libraries and universities store statistics.
- University departments or experts working in your field may have data they can provide free of charge (or at low cost).
Find official figures
- Government databases are a useful source of statistics. The government-run Office for National Statistics provides free data on various issues.
- You can find a wealth of freely available information online. Make sure the data is recent and from a reliable source.
Use trade publications and websites
- Many specialist trade publications offer free subscriptions or unrestricted access to their websites.
- Check business magazines and the business pages of the national (especially broadsheet) newspapers.
Consider buying existing research
- You can purchase market reports and research on your industry or potential customers from specialist research companies. For example, Datamonitor, GlobalData, the Economist Intelligence Unit, Euromonitor or Mintel.
- A wide range of data is available, with detailed, highly specialised reports costing a few hundred pounds each. Always check survey dates, as old data can be dangerously misleading.
4. Field research
Field research is more expensive and difficult to organise than desk research. The usefulness of field research depends on the sample, the researcher's skill and the interpretation of the data that is collected.
Use questions to reveal what people think
- The best form of questioning is usually face to face (singly or in groups).
- Interviewing by phone is cheaper, but demands good technique and may be less revealing. People may resent the call, or you may not have their full attention.
- Postal questionnaires are cheap and can be included in existing mailings. Email is even cheaper. Make questionnaires easy to respond to.
- All written surveys produce low response rates and those who reply will be a self-selecting group, which may be untypical.
Use observation to reveal what people do rather than what they say or think they do
- Use experiments to see what people will do in a particular, controlled situation. For example, will people choose your cakes in blind tasting tests?
5. Can you do it yourself?
Non-specialist desk research can usually be handled in house. DIY field research will only work if it is set up properly, right from the start.
You must be clear what data you require
- If you are carrying out your own research, it is likely to be qualitative. You are less likely to have the time or budget for statistically valid field research (for example, uncovering the size of your potential market).
- See What you need to know and What kind of information?
You will need the right skills
- For example, in designing questionnaires and running focus group discussions about new products or advertising. If you and your employees do not have relevant experience, it may be a false economy to complete the research in house.
- You need to be aware of data protection rules and other legislation relating to research. Street interviewers need local authority licences and identity cards.
You must give the individuals doing the research enough time to do it properly
There must be a realistic budget to cover the costs involved
- You may have to pay for the printing, and perhaps mailing, of questionnaires.
- You may have to pay to hire a hall or even a research lab, where you can video the discussion and observe people's reactions through one-way mirrors.
- You may have to pay focus group participants' travel expenses. Participants are often paid a small incentive. This is usually £50 to £75.
- Input and analysis of the data you collect takes time and skill and may need to be out-sourced.
Plan your questions carefully
- Avoid leading questions and questions that people can answer without any real commitment. For example, people may well say that they would be interested in a new product - but that doesn't mean they would actually become customers.
- Questions that require more thought may be more revealing. For example, asking potential customers how often they would buy rather than whether they would be interested.
- Open questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no are likely to get a more detailed response.
- For face-to-face or phone interviews, use a script so that all the participants in the study are asked exactly the same questions.
Use research fairly and accurately
- Choose a realistic sample for your research. Do not base market research on the opinions of your friends and family. You risk hearing what they think you want to hear - rather than their honest opinions.
- Don't take negative responses personally. You can often learn more from criticism and improve your business because of it.
- If possible, ask someone you trust who isn't connected to your business to analyse the data.
- Be ready to act on what you learn. If your research delivers a clear negative signal, don't ignore it. Change your plans to take into account what you have learned.
- Failing to do any market research.
- Carrying out market research once - and never finding out how things changed afterwards.
- Being unclear about what you are trying to find out or asking questions in the wrong way - and getting the wrong information.
- Cutting costs by using small samples or just asking a couple of friends - and getting misleading results.
- Interpreting statistical information wrongly and failing to see when one or two opinions distort the overall picture.
- Analysing information too optimistically - and then kidding yourself it supports your preconceptions.
6. Using an agency
Consider using a specialist, especially for surveys
- Specialists, such as market research companies or marketing consultants, have the time and the expertise to do a thorough job.
- Customers sometimes find it difficult to voice complaints to a supplier. Some might also suspect that you're trying to sell them something.
- You may find it difficult to be impartial if you do the research yourself.
Find an agency
- Ask for recommendations or find a market research agency through the Research Buyer's Guide published by the Market Research Society.
- Find out what kind of reputation the agency you are considering has, both in general and for the kind of research you want. What do previous clients say?
- Decide how comfortable you would feel about working with the research agency. Do you trust the people you have met? What relevant experience and qualifications do its employees have?
Be realistic about the likely scale of fees
- Using an agency may only be a realistic option if your budget is at least £3,000 to £5,000.
- A freelance researcher may be a more affordable option.
- Find details of your trade association through the Trade Association Forum directory.
- Search for government statistics from the Office for National Statistics.
- Search for market reports and research from Datamonitor, GlobalData, the Economist Intelligence Unit, Euromonitor or Mintel.
- Find a market research agency through the Research Buyer's Guide published by the Market Research Society.
- Find out more about market research and working with market research agencies by downloading the ISBA Guide to Market Research from the Market