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Creating a Market Research Plan

By Barbara Whitaker, writer
Mar 02, 2011
Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
> Marketing

Tools on the Web make market research easier than ever

You may think you have the best idea ever for a business or product, but without laying the proper groundwork it could easily go the way of the Edsel. Not only do you need to size up the competition, you need to identify who will buy your product, how much it will cost, the best approach to selling it and how many people will demand it.

To get answers to these questions, you'll need a market research plan, which you can create yourself or pay a specialist to create for you. A market research plan should provide a thorough examination of how your product or service will fare in a defined area. It should include:

  1. An examination of the current marketplace and an analysis of the need for your product or service
  2. An assessment of competition
  3. Data about customers
  4. Direction for marketing in the upcoming year
  5. Goals to be met

Create a step-by-step research plan

Market research plans are typically broken down by task and start by defining the problem or opportunity. Your plan should include objectives and the methods that you'll use to meet them, along with a time frame for completing the work.
Small Business Administration's useful step-by-step guide to marketing research will help you define your needs, create a budget and timetable, select your techniques, collect your data and analyze your results.

Find the information you need

A marketing research plan is only as good as the information on which it's based.
Ohio State University includes questions to ask consumers when doing research.

Let someone else do the work

If the thought of trying to create you own market research plan seems daunting or just too time-consuming, there are plenty of other people willing to do the work for you. Market research firms can charge into the thousands of dollars for a market research plan, but there are ways to get help more affordably.
  • Outline your plans carefully and spell out objectives.
  • Examine as many sources as possible.
  • Before paying for any information, check with librarians, small business development centers or market research professors to ensure that it's not available free.
  • You may think you'll need to spend a hefty sum to create a market research plan. Not so: There are plenty of free and low-cost sources available, especially through university business schools that will guide you through the process.
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Barbara Whitaker
Barbara Whitaker
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