If you do nothing else, do this. It will take just 2 minutes.
Go to http://www.google.com/alerts and sign up for alerts related to your business (market). You can create multiple alerts if you want. Think of this as a personal assistant that reads the web for you and lets you know if something new and related to your business comes up.
What is "market research"? What are you really looking for (that you actually give a %&^# about)?
- Who and where are they?
- How many are there?
- Where are they shopping and buying?
- What do they like and dislike?
- What are they looking and asking for?
- What are they praising and complaining about?
- How much will they pay?
- Who is competing with you?
- What do they offer and sell?
- What are their best sellers?
- How much do they cost or charge?
- Where do they market, advertise and sell?
- Who buys from them and how?
- What do customers say about them?
Are You a Local Business? (versus a continental or global business)
Local business serve a local city or a group of nearby cities. A common example of a Local Business is a handyman that serves Salem, Eugene and the cities in-between. Knowing if you are a Local Business or not will help you know if and how to focus your research and your marketing.
If you are a local business, be sure to focus your market research on your target city or cities whenever possible.
Save the URLs for useful searches so you don't have to start from scratch. All you need to do is click on your links every so often to stay up to date.
Free tools to store your links:
1. Google the $%^& Out of the Topic and Market
Especially for local businesses, become THE top local expert. Make sure nobody in the area is more informed than you are.
Did you know Google has an advanced search?
2. Spy on competitor websites
3. OH NO! ONLINE REVIEWS!
Use Yelp, Google and Other Online Reviews to Learn About Competitors
4. OH NO! SOCIAL MEDIA!
Use Facebook and Twitter to find customers, competitors or influencers (best for niches)
This is most valuable for products and services that are unique, niche and/or specialized.
Valuable Search Operators for Twitter Search
- Search for an exact phrase: "dog clothing"
- Exclude something: dog clothing -shoes
- Search your local area: graphic design near:"Albany, Oregon" within:25mi
5. Use LinkedIn to find customers (best for Business-to-Business)
You can search for people, companies and groups by:
- job title
- location (including city)
6. Use Facebook Ads to find customers (best for Business-to-Consumer)
7. Use Google AdWords to learn about customers
Google will ask you to set up a billing account before you can use the tool, but you DO NOT have to actually run an ad campaign and spend any money.