How to Do Market Research of Small Business Ideas
Even though you have a great business idea, you need to make sure there is a market for it. Advisers, like myself, will tell you to do market research but you may wonder how (without hiring a research firm to do sample testing or focus groups for you which can be very expensive). All of these tools allow you, the entrepreneur, the ability to test and research your business idea to see if there is a viable market for it.
Forums. Forums and user groups are far from dead. People are discussing virtually everything on some forum somewhere. You can do a Google search for forums by typing in your topic name (i.e. “business” plus vbulletin plus forums). So, in this instance your search would be business vbulletin forums. Look for forums with lots of activity and then check out some of the most common questions to find what users are looking for.
Twitter search is a phenomenal way to see what’s being discussed in real time. There are a variety of ways and companion sites to do a a search of topics on Twitter. However, I prefer TweetGrid because you can do up to 9 keyword searches at once to monitor conversations on those topics. You can also broadcast questions about a topic to your Twitter followers if you want feedback on a topic.
Do a Facebook search. Facebook now allows a search of topics, though it isn’t as user friendly as Twitter or LinkedIn. You search will bring up people, fan pages, business pages and some status updates. You can search age groups, cities, industries and more.
LinkedIn questions are a great way to see what business people have concerns about. They are divided into topics so you can search more easily. Like forums, if you are scanning for business ideas, check for topics with the most questions. Always be willing to answer a question or two while you are there.
Check out Yahoo Answers. You can expect a hodge podge of questions on Yahoo’s Q&A site, but that can be a good thing depending on your current or potential business. Categories include Arts and Humanities, Computer and Internet, Consumer Electronics and Home and Garden. If you have a product to sell, Yahoo Answers can give you a pretty good cross-section of concerns of the general population.
Create a poll or or survey to investigate ideas. You can add polls/surveys to Facebook and LinkedIn. You can also set up a survey at Survey Monkey and email it to a target group. For small surveys (up to 100 responders, 10 questions on the survey) it is free and goes up from there. Even 10 questions to 100 responders can give you some really solid information to use in developing your business idea.