Here is a loop: You sell your product / service to your customers. Customers form a market for you to tap in. And the market will tell you what needs to improve in your product / service.
Break the loop, and your business will suffer.
For the last part, market research is indispensable. You need to research what the market is thinking about your offerings, what your customer base and prospects are thinking about your competitors’ offerings, and whether their expectations are changing (which is bound to happen over a period of time).
To begin your market research, you need to first describe your target market segments. Once you have the segments, categorise your existing and past clients, as well as your prospects, into those segments. Adding previous sales volume or potential sales volume to those segments will add perspective.
Once you have a clear definition of your market, it is time to gather information. The most important aspect is to communicate, irrespective of the medium. A quick phone call with your current clients will give you a lot of insights on how you are performing, and what they are expecting. Focus most on the pain points raised (perceived or actual). “Pain Points” and their solutions, make or break business.
An exhaustive survey is always a good idea! You can create your own surveys and email them to your prospects, ex-clients or current clients. You can also take the help of Market Research Agencies to tap into uncharted corners of your market segments.
Finally, with the data gathered, move on to a SWOT analysis. This breakdown of Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats will not only bring many overlooked insights into the light, but will also give you enough information to plan the future.
Research is a vital element in maintaining the loop. Break it at your own peril.