Five key questions you need to include in your market research

Five key questions you need to include in your market research
Isabel Lydall
Isabel Lydall
Founder and Insight Director
Curiosity and Clarity Ltd

Posted: Tue 25th Feb 2020

One of the problems new business owners often have with market research is simply having too many questions.

It's important to remember you don't need to ask them all. Focus on the questions that will have the biggest impact on your business and the objectives you're trying to meet – and always know why you're asking the question. How will you use the answers?

Here are a few ideas to get you started – and importantly why you should ask the questions.

1. Who are they… no, really, who are they?

Yes, you need an idea of demographics: how old your customers are, affluence, location, whether they have children etc… But you need to go beyond that and dig deeper into their attitudes, aspirations and how they see themselves.

A good question to ask is "how would you describe yourself?" or "how would you like your friends to describe you?".

Why ask this? It will tell you what is important to them – and you may get some surprises! It gives you an insight into how you can help them be more of who they want to be and in your marketing, you can speak to them in their language.

2. Why do they buy your type of products and services?

This is about understanding both the rational "why" and what sits behind it. What is the problem you solve for your target customers?

It always helps to ask "why" more than once. For instance, a possible first answer might be "I buy this brand of cereal bars because I like to give my kids healthy snacks between meals". Fine. But ask "why" a second time and you start to get answers like "because I feel like a good parent when they eat healthily". That gives you a much more emotional and often more compelling "why" to work with!

Why ask "why"? When you know this, you've got your business cracked. Your products and services can be built around meeting customers' needs. You can make sure your marketing tells potential customers that your product or service gives them the benefits they want.

3. What would they buy instead, if your product or service wasn't available?

This tells you who you're competing with and it can go beyond the obvious. For instance, if you're in the gift homewares market, you might not be competing with other gift homewares you might be competing with posh chocolates or wine.

Why ask what else they would buy? At a simple level, it flags up competitors that you didn't know about. It can also help you find new opportunities for where to sell your product, such as brands to collaborate with, and ideas for how to promote or market your product. It helps with pricing and understanding the value customers put on your product or service.

4. When do they buy?

Does your business have predictable sales peaks at specific times of the year or are there particular life events that cause people to look for your product or service? Maybe it's a new job, buying a house, becoming a parent, starting a business or retiring?

Why ask when they buy? Knowing when seasonal sales peaks are likely to happen will help with planning marketing and promotions – and with stock management. If your product or service is one that people need at specific life stages, it becomes easier to find and target people.

5. How does your product or service make them feel when they buy it?

Is it excitement at trying something new? Is it relief at having an annoying problem fixed? Or happiness because they've got something they're looking forward to eating later?

Check that it aligns with the emotions that you're projecting with your brand and marketing. If your brand is all about excitement but the emotion your product or service creates is relief, potential customers will sense a disconnect. Get the two working together and you'll create a brand that potential customers instinctively "get".

Why ask how it makes them feel? Emotion is the deciding factor that makes people buy. So, understanding the emotions people feel when they buy – or use – your product or service is vital to know how to keep people buying.

The right questions to ask will vary depending on your business but these should get you thinking!

Relevant resources

Isabel Lydall
Isabel Lydall
Founder and Insight Director
Curiosity and Clarity Ltd
Isabel is a market research and consumer insight professional with nearly 20 years’ experience of understanding consumers and growing some of the nation’s best-loved brands (and rummaging in the nation’s kitchen cupboards...).     She loves finding out what makes people tick, and why they buy, and her experience - through market research, business management, brand-building, sales, and innovation - means she can cut through the noise and help you find practical ways to improve your business. Business and Marketing skills and experience Food marketing FMCG Heritage brands Brand strategy Advertising and communications Digital and online Sales P&L and budget management Market research skills Research planning and briefing Innovation and NPD Researching with parents and families Focus group moderation Workshop facilitation Survey development and analysis Product / concept testing Brand tracking Data analysis Qualifications and CPD MA Marketing (Distinction) Institute of Leadership & Management Level 5 Member of the Market Research Society (MMRS) Market Research Society Courses (Moderating, Advanced Methods in Qual Research)

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