As your business grows you will need to conduct market research to:
- Ensure that your are meeting the needs of your current customers
- Evaluate your business idea and growth targets, particularly if you are expanding into new markets or adding a new product line
- Make sure that you are aware of the competitive landscape
- Ensure that you are in compliance with legislative requirements
- Stay on top of current trends
Your existing customers
When you first launched your business, your market research most likely focused on identifying and reaching your target market, and building your market share. This type of research is still important for growing your business, however, you will need to ensure that you focus not only on acquiring new customers, but also keeping your existing customers. Your customers’ feedback and input into both your current and future products and services will be the most beneficial for your business. Survey your existing customers either informally or formally, remembering to:
- Offer an incentive for their feedback through prizing or discounts
- Make questions / questionnaires easy to understand and as short as possible
- Make sure you as some open-ended questions to obtain more detailed and specific responses than just a “yes” or a “no”
- Let your customers know that you value their feedback
Feedback from your customers can help you improve your existing product and service offerings, as well as identify opportunities for growth.
Research new markets
Market research is critical in evaluating potential new markets, products/services or revenue streams. Research can provide you with data that can enable you to make informed decisions about growing your business and whether or not you can achieve your growth targets. As in the start-up phase, you should utilize a combination of primary and secondary research to obtain the required data.
Identifying the competition is an important part of a start-up’s planning process and critical for growing companies. The competitive landscape may have changed since you started your business. Some competitors may have ceased operations, while new competitors have likely emerged. Analysis at this stage needs to be very thorough to ensure that you fully understand your competitors pricing structure, marketing approaches, and strengths and weaknesses. Whether you are expanding your business by increasing sales to existing customers or by adding a different revenue stream, you need to able to confidently address the question: What makes me stand out from the competition?
As you grow your business and expand into new markets and/or products, you’ll need to be aware of and comply with applicable regulations. Here are steps to check to make sure you’re not missing anything:
- Search BizPal to see what regulations might apply
- Research labour requirements if you are hiring staff, including Employment Standards, Occupational Health and Safety and WSIB
- Contact your municipal offices to ensure that you are in compliance with local by-laws and have all of the appropriate licenses and permits in place
- Contact industry trade associations to find out if there are any industry-specific regulations that could impact your growth strategy
Small business owners need to keep up to date with current market trends in order to successfully grow their business. This will enable you to identify opportunities for growth, learn about changes in consumer purchasing behavior, and better understand how to reach your customers in light of emerging technology and social media tools. Here are some tips that can help stay informed about trends in your industry:
- Read industry publications and join industry associations
- Attend community and industry networking events
- Keep in touch with your customers
- Monitor your business to evaluate which products/services are performing well and identify those that are under-performing
- Stay on top statistics for your target customers, including Statistics Canada, Financial Post Markets and databases such as PCensus
For additional information on conducting researching for your business, visit the Market Research section on our website.