Q: Now that I’ve made the decision to leave the corporate jungle and pursue my dream of business ownership, I want to do it right. I keep hearing that performing market research is key before taking that entrepreneurial dive. What do you think?
–D. Christian, Houston
A: I think that you are on the right track by seeking answers to what seems to be the most basic question. Market research is one of the most underestimated tools that small business owners frequently overlook. To play upon your analogy, it’s like positioning yourself for a spectacular dive without knowing how to swim.
Fay Fleming, president of Fleming Communications in Hazelwood, Missouri (314-731-4877), says that “business owners fail to understand the power that lies in the information gathered during research and don’t give much thought into putting money into it.” When, in reality, data found could help companies save and earn money by identifying trends that customers would like.
“Research can assist business owners with determining which of their ideas are profitable or merely a waste of time,” she says. Fleming suggests that there are many methods of “gathering market intelligence.” She lists low-cost ways such as evaluation cards found in stores or offices or distributed through the mail. And once you’ve started your business, always follow up with your clients and ask how they felt about the product or service.