Small businesses should perform research to help guide in critical decision making. Research should be performed before launching new products or services. Research should be performed before laying out a growth plan, marketing plan or making major operational changes. Below are some areas of research that the small business owner should consider.
Current customers are one of the most cherished and important sources of research information. Plus, it is good to have conversations with them from time to time simply to maintain the relationship. How is business going for them? What do they see coming down the road? What problems are they having that you might be able to solve? Are they pleased with your service?
What are your competitors doing? What is their price structure? What terms do they offer their customers? What are their lead times? How does your current product or service compare to theirs? What are their marketing methods and tactics? This research may reveal an opportunity that your company could take advantage.
GROWTH TRENDS in YOUR INDUSTRY and MARKET
What is happening in your industry? Is the industry growing or shrinking relative to the market that your business serves. This relativity is critical. If your market is the state of Oklahoma, that research data is the most critical. Should you choose to expand to another state, then that state’s data becomes critical. Broad, national data can be useful, but it is generally not as useful as data and findings on your specific market. For example, the trends in real estate can be very different from state to state and even city to city. However, national data on trends in interest rates are significant as well.
These generally pertain to methods of doing business and purchasing. For example, on-line purchasing is on the increase and has been for quite some time. Robotics are playing a bigger role in manufacturing. In the B2B sector, payment terms are being pushed out to 60 or 90 days for small businesses. How will this trend affect your cash flow? Can you survive it?
LAWS and REGULATIONS
There are a lot of them and they seem to change frequently. One of the more prominent right now is minimum wage hikes in some states. If you are in a state that is raising the minimum wage, your costs to produce may go up. (Note: even if you currently pay your employees more than minimum wage, you may need to raise wages due to the domino effect.) If you are in a state where the minimum wage is not going up, you might be able to take advantage. Other areas to stay abreast of include additional employment laws, tax law, OSHA, EPA…the list is long.
To be successful, small businesses should perform research before making critical decisions. Don’t be blind-sided by changes in trends, competitors, laws and regulations.
Contact us today for help in understanding how research can help your business be more successful.