Careful market research is the key to understanding your business, your customers and your competition. Here are some tips for researching effectively.

In order to define your target customers, as well as decide how best to serve them, you need a clear understanding of who they are and how they behave. Market research is the key to understanding your audience and the surrounding economic environment – you can’t develop a business plan without it. Here are some tips to conduct market research as effectively as possible.

1. Decide what kind of research you need

There are different ways to conduct research depending on the goal you want it to accomplish. Market research can generally be defined in one of two ways: primary or secondary. Primary market research is research that helps you answer questions you have about your individual business. For example, are you looking to expand your product line and wondering what new products might interest your customers? Are you curious about what your customers think of your policies, like pricing, shipping options or turnaround time? Primary market research is research you conduct on your own, without the help of existing resources, to help you answer specific questions like these.

Secondary market research is based on existing studies and surveys and will help you get a better understanding of the industry as a whole. Secondary research can provide you with information about the demographics of your area, like population, average age and income, as well as economic trends within the industry and other important data. Secondary research can help you identify potential customers, suppliers and competitors, and give you a more detailed picture of the local business landscape.

2. Identify the most effective way to conduct your market research

If you decide you need to conduct primary research to help answer key questions about your business, you’ll have to collect the data yourself – nothing will already be done for you. Will your local customers be receptive to meeting face-to-face to answer some questions, or will a questionnaire, phone call or online survey be more likely to get results? Make sure the questions you ask are closely aligned with the goal of your research, and keep your surveys as brief as possible while still allowing you to collect the info you need – you don’t want overload your respondents with too many questions. You might even consider offering an incentive like a discount to encourage people to respond, but make sure the incentive is something of particular value to your customers – you don’t want to attract respondents who are only in it for the incentive (for example, cash may not be the best option).

If you’re looking for secondary market research, there’s a wide variety of ways you can access existing information about the industry or your local community. There’s no shortage of online sources, but you have to make sure they’re credible before using their statistics and reports to assist your decision making. The business section of your local library and your chamber of commerce can provide you with plenty of reports and studies that can help you shape your business plan. There are many trade associations in the screen printing and promotional product industries, like SGIA, PPAI and ASI, that can also be valuable sources of information.

3. Make an effort to understand your competition

While you look for resources to help you conduct market research, it’s easy to overlook one of the most important resources of them all – your competitors. Because you’re competing for the business of the same target market, you need to understand what sales and marketing strategies your competitors use effectively, as well as areas in which they’re lacking which might be opportunities you can take advantage of.  Some questions you might ask during the course of your competitor analysis include:

  • How do your competitors engage customers and prospects? Are they active on social media? Do they host events like open houses or workshops for the local community? How do they advertise?
  • How do your competitors’ websites perform compared to yours? Do you have a healthy online presence to make it easy for potential customers to find your business?
  • What products or services are your competitors not currently offering that you might offer to your advantage? Is there demand for these products and services, or do your competitors not offer them for a reason?
  • How do your prices stack up against your competitors’? While you shouldn’t preoccupy yourself with matching or beating your competitors’ prices dollar for dollar, you have to make sure your pricing strategy doesn’t render you uncompetitive – either too high for customers to afford, or too low to make ends meet.

Try to put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes and ask yourself objectively which screen printing shop you would choose if you needed a project done. What do your competitors do better than you? What do they do worse? This will help you find areas in which you can improve, as well as areas that can give your business an advantage over the competition.

Your screen printing business can’t succeed without careful market research to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. When you know what questions you want answered, you can decide on the best type of research for the job and how to collect it. Analyzing yourself, your competitors and the target market you compete for will provide you the fundamental information you need to develop intelligent marketing and sales strategies to make your business thrive.

Looking for more information about researching your target market or planning your business strategy? Check out these blogs:

How to Identify Your Target Screen Printing Market…and Expand to New Markets

Tips for Setting (and Achieving!) Smart Goals for Your Screen Printing Business