The following question was asked on Quora: “How do you conduct market research?”
This answer by Cate Riegner, was as simple and concise as we could do, so here is it:
“Think in terms of different methodologies and consider which ones are right for your needs at various stages of business development, product development and marketing:
1. Syndicated/secondary research: This would be research conducted on/for a particular market that provides market sizing information, penetration data, trending data, etc. Search for published findings at trade organization sites, investment sites, etc. The challenge is finding a study that is relevant to your specific needs, and many charge a fee for a published report.
2. Custom quantitative: If you want quantitative data or feedback on a very specific subject related to your product (e.g., behaviors, attitudes, product concept testing), consider doing your own survey. The challenge here is making sure your sample is “representative” of the market you want to study, your survey is designed well (e.g., no leading questions, appropriate scales), you process and report data accurately. There are great, affordable survey programming/hosting tools out there (e.g, SurveyMonkey), but you need to pay for sample, survey design and possibly analysis depending on your needs.
3. Custom qualitative: This might be user testing, ethnography, interviews, blind-shopper stuides, focus groups (either online or offline). People put a lot more weight on quantitative data (because it is statistically reliable), but I am a huge advocate of qualitative research for deeper, richer insights. Don’t discount it just because the sample size is small. The question you need to consider here is: Which approach/method is best for what I want to learn/problem I want to solve? Each of the types of qualitative research I listed above is better for different needs.
4. Analytic data: A lot of data is generated for free online, through traffic logs, blogs, etc. The challenge here is collecting the data and conducting an analysis/generating findings that can be applied to your specific question/problem you are trying to solve.”
Check out all the answers to the above question on Quora.