Market Research

Thorough marketing research is critical to the success of most value-added businesses. Farmers are accustomed to marketing the type of products where there is always a buyer. They may not like the price, but they can usually sell their products into a market just a few miles down the road.

This is not the case with most value-added agriculture projects. Thorough research needs to be conducted to see if anyone will buy your product. And if they will buy it, will they pay an adequate price for you to make a profit. Sometimes you will direct market your product directly to consumers, in which case you need to study consumer needs and behavior. Other times you will sell your product to a middleman or as an ingredient for another product. Regardless, the consumer will be the ultimate buyer of the product, and you need to know the consumer's needs and desires, in addition to the structure and needs of those taking the product to the consumer.

Before you embark on an effort to do marketing research, you need to understand the process. Conducting Marketing Research can help you understand the basics. If you are going to do your own Marketing Research, you need to know the Marketing Research Tools available to you. If your research involves surveying customers and others, reading Identifying Your Customer or reviewing Finding your Facts – A Quick Guide to Developing a Questionnaire will help you quickly get the information. Your research may involve tools like Conducting Focus Groups.

A Do-It-Yourself Producer’s Guide to Conducting Local Market Research explains the concepts behind market research and describes how it may be used to identify and develop new markets. Details are provided about collecting and analyzing readily available local data as well as drawing conclusions about product positioning, pricing and supply/demand determination.

Where to Find Information for Doing Marketing and Business Studies is helpful if you have trouble identifying information sources. Value-added groups often hire a consultant to do their marketing research. Reading Marketing Research – Finding the Best Consultant to Hire will help you get the most out of your research dollars.

The 2002 Census of Agriculture provides a wealth of new information that will help frame production, marketing and policy decisions about American agriculture. This AIC Issues Brief presents some information on the census history and data collection methodology and highlights a few major findings of the 2002 Census of Agriculture for the United States and California.

For more information on this topic, see the links listed below of articles posted on related Web sites.

Understanding Marketing Research

  • Market Research – Small Business Notes -- Market research is the study of markets (or groups of people) you would like to sell your product to.
  • Conducting Marketing Research – Ohio State University -- Effective market research results in increased sales and profits.
  • Market Research - Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development – Helps producers and processors understand the key elements needed to manage a business.
  • Marketing Research Glossary - Quirk’s Marketing Research Review.
  • Market Research Meets the "People Factor" - HBS Working Knowledge -- Great market research doesn't always lead to great results. Why? After a close look at sources of friction between managers and market researchers.
  • Low-Cost Methods for Spotting Customer Trends – HBS Working Knowledge – Here are ten low-cost trendspotting tips.
  • How to Segment Your Market – CCH Business Owner’s Toolkit -- If the universe of all potential buyers is your "market," then the market can be divided up into sections or "segments" based on any number of factors.
  • Niche Marketing – CCH Business Owner’s Toolkit -- Most marketers know that "20 percent of buyers consume 80 percent of product volume."
  • Market Research - CCH Business Owners Toolkit - Describes research techniques that you can adapt to fit your needs and budget.
  • Researching Your Market - - Articles on how to do market research.
  • Analyzing the Market Environment - CCH Business Owners Toolkit - Discusses the competitive environment and cultural trends you need to examine in order to assess your business's place in the market.
  • Don't Get Buried in Customer Data-Use It - HBS Working Knowledge -- Don't blame your CRM technology. Be smarter about collecting and using your data.

Focus Groups and Surveys

  • Survey Says? Identify Your Objectives – HBS Working Knowledge – Done right, surveys can reduce new product risk; generate insights about employees, customers, and markets; and align communications programs with target constituencies. But done poorly, they can derail your organization.
  • Sharpening the Focus of Focus Groups - HBS Working Knowledge -- Focus groups can run aground for many reasons, yielding information that's of little use to your business. Here's how to glean the facts you need.
  • The Consumer Anthropologist - HBS Working Knowledge -- The problem with focus groups? They take consumers out of their natural habitat. So welcome the idea of ethnographic market research, which uses the anthropologist's tool kit of methods and theories.
  • The Manager's Guide to Communicating with Customers Collection - HBS Working Knowledge -- Research on the downfalls of focus groups.
  • Focus Group Research Can Help You Shape Plans - Center for Industrial Research and Service - Most companies have discovered that investing a little to carry out research—about new products, in new markets or among clients, employees or other groups—can reap enormous rewards and help shape the future.

Marketing Research Resources


Conducting Marketing Research


Links checked July 2014.