Market Research for Sales and Business Development

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If you’re in sales or business development, and isn’t just about everyone in some form, then having market research which tracks change is crucial to compete. Industry statistics are part of that. If I’m researching a topic, say florists for example, I also search the industry name with words like… association, group, institute, industry, society, organisation, board, council and so on. These bodies often have free industry research on trends, or you can usually buy the information at a reasonable cost. The staff of these organisations are also helpful when you need to find out who the shakers and movers are, and then you can contact them for their insight on particular trends you have observed. Don’t forget that when you do this always ask them if there’s anyone else who they think would be good to talk to.

Tips for Buying Market Research Reports

There are a plethora of published market research reports out there, but some of these reports aren’t from credible publishers. Here are some red flags for me.

  • I look at the pagination of the table of contents and noticed that there isn’t much content devoted to a topic or competitor. Basic I know, but if these aspects are the reason for buying the report, then maybe rethink things. For me, this lack of space often corresponds with just contact details supplied or very generic information. In this case, ask for a sample from the publisher to check the content. You can then appraise the sample to reassure yourself about the standard of English used as well. One sample I requested had such a low level of business English that it was intelligible.

  • With markets like medical devices, for instance, there are many different configurations of what is counted or researched in terms of functionality or size. Another trap I have come across is when studying the markets of mechanical devices and how they are powered eg. electric, battery, petrol, or diesel. Researchers often don’t state exactly what they are counting and for what market segment it is meaningful to.

  • Cookie cutter reports follow the same prescriptive outline - I can spot one of those a mile off. They are heavy on historical detail, the numbers are dated, and there’s nothing future-oriented. There’s little value in these often expensive market research reports IMHO. Foresight is always going to be better than hindsight to get insight and to protect market share. The ROI of you (or me!) spending time doing a recent news search and see what’s going on now is a much better option.

Market Size and Market Value Tips

Market size info for small markets like New Zealand or niche products can be tricky to find. Sometimes, a best-efforts estimation is the only option. Here are some tips to help you if you need some market size or value data.

  1. Define your market first, i.e. by geography, technology, demography, use or sector and stick to it.

  2. Formulate how you will do your calculations. It should be a combination of desk research for any published information and primary analysis to back up any initial conclusions and for sense-making.

  3. Only use reputable data from secondary research. Look carefully at how they have come to their conclusions and double check it. Does it make sense? Is the data they have measured fit with your market parameters?

  4. When doing the desk research, pick up on any trend data that is coming up that will affect future market share, e.g. disruptors entering via new technology, changes in packaging needs, or trends in dietary preferences by customers. This information is valuable as an early-warning indicator of change in the market, allowing you to prepare.

  5. Once you’ve got some market size/ value numbers, make sure that you carefully cite the source data. If you need to do this exercise again, it’s a big help to have the framework of past calculations to start from, and then you can tweak if necessary.

  6. If statistical analysis isn’t your thing, then gather the data and get someone who knows how to forecast and model numbers.

  7. Be transparent - tell people it’s a ‘best efforts’ result, but show how you got to the conclusion you have and what the parameters were. Market size/value is often an educated guess as people, and the choices they make are often very fluid and can change overnight.