Have you ever heard of Indian River County? When visiting Disney World, you may have driven through this county on the way to the beach. Florida beaches are nice, especially if you have been running yourself ragged with a bunch of kids for a few days. And best of all, many of the beaches are free! Speaking of free, did you know there are many “free market research reports” on the internet, including reports at census.gov that will tell you that Indian River County is one of the fastest growing counties in the country?
A quick trip to www.Cenus.gov shows free market research reports on the top 100 fastest growing counties in the country. Economic theorists might suggest that focusing on the top growing counties might lead to better business results because of economic growth. You can download Excel files to play with at http://www.census.gov/popest/housing/HU-EST2008-top100.html.
There are many other free market research reports at sites in addition to www.census.gov. Quite a bit of information is available at www.sba.gov and many other .gov sites. You can do a “Google” for market research and .gov and .edu sites. Are you interested in reports in India? Then put “free market research reports India” into your favorite search engine. Are you in your car and can’t do a Google. Use your hands free phone and 411 your local librarian and she may find some information for you.
But a word of caution is in order, because how one uses the information is just as important as the information itself. When we teach market research at the University level, we often say that research is like a loaded gun. Do not hand the gun to a baby.
So let’s say we’re interested in Harley Davidson and I also find Harvard University credible. With a little searching I can find a report on Harley Davidson @Harvard.edu: (http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/501009-MMC-ENG)
This report is even listed by Harvard professors responsible for Market Research curriculum. It didn’t cost a cent to find it and it is a report from a world class university on Harley Davidson without a crimson tuition bill.
This is not to say that just by finding a report we are now as knowledgeable as someone teaching market research at the university level. Look for more than one article before concluding something where you are actually going to make a serious business decision. Chances are pretty good you didn’t go to Harvard and even better chances that Harvard isn’t letting us teach their class any time soon.
Additionally, know what some of the top mistakes are when using market research data. Surveys and market research in general measure “perceptions” among the general population. Do not treat the general populations’ opinions like they are marketing experts. They are experts on they think individually, but that doesn’t mean they know how to sell your products to the market. Make sure that report you are reading is recent and relevant to your market.
Research is often a picture in time and perceptions change. Who did the researchers talk to? How many people? Was it done by a real independent third party or is this report a PR stunt?
Just because a “free marketing research report” says there is a sufficiently large market for a product, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to get a piece of that market. Are any of the potential customers aware of you? If not, then it may bankrupt you just to get people aware of you against the competition.
Make sure that you are counting the market correctly. Was the survey among people that are only a small part of the overall population? I often see entrepreneurs who make the mistake of saying we did a survey, and 40% were interested in our product and therefore we think that 120 million is our market target. How did they get that? Well they took the entire population of the USA as 300 million and they are going to get 40%. This neglects the fact that they may be selling a product like solar lights or garage doors that are actually being sold to “households” not the population overall. So you have to factor out people renting and other people that won’t be buying for their household. Additionally, many people are “interested” in solar lights. Many fewer are definitely going to buy them.
And then, once buyers are correctly identified, an organization has to be able to compete with a compelling offer that offers an emotional connection and innovative product. So often times, the free research leads to a need for more research. Most research gurus will say, the best research is often paid research, so that an organization has research that is relevant that the competition doesn’t already have too.