SME Resources > Products & Services > Finding out what the market wants

Tags: Marketing, Research

Finding out what the market wants

You need to know the customer needs before you can fill them

Market research

Market research is something that you should do before you start a business and regularly while running your business, even if you were not planning on making a change. It will let you know what your customer base is thinking.

If you are not on-site all the time in your business, it can also be a good way of checking on your customer’s experience. It can be divided into two areas: finding out existing customer opinions and finding out about the world outside of your business.

Market research with existing customers

Customer research

There are lots of different types of research activity you can undertake with customers including:

  • Questionnaires
  • Focus groups
  • Online ratings analysis

For hospitality businesses there are a few straightforward options:

  • Comment postcards or comment books sitting in your restaurant etc.
  • Online surveys on your company website
  • After event email asking for feedback

Typical questions

  • How was the service?
  • How was the quality of the product?
  • What would you like to change/improve?


  1. Use rating scales (1 to 5 etc) for most answers and limit space for comments to a few questions
  2. Try not to create leading questions which hint a customer towards a particular answer e.g. 'How well did the staff perform' implies the staff performed well. Instead it should be 'How would you rate the staff performance?' With answers including; unsatisfactory, satisfactory, exceeded expectations etc.
  3. Download a customer satisfaction card template from the assets section below and adapt for your business

Market research in the wider world

Market research on the general public is much more complex than using an existing customer base.
It depends who/what you are trying to research- make sure you know the questions you are trying to ask before you start.

Industry wide research

  • You can buy market research from companies that specialise in market research reporting
  • Buy a database of emails to send your own survey to
  • Go to your trade organisation and see what research they have undertaken
  • Analyse ratings websites in your industry to see what is valued by customers
  • Go to a market research company and get them to design/complete research on your behalf

Research in a particular geographic area

  • If you are looking at a small enough area it might be worth doing on-foot surveys, i.e. asking people in the street
  • Checking out local competitors can be done easily enough, give yourself a list of criteria to mark them all against
  • Online ratings websites are useful as well, especially if there is one around your local area

Researching a particular group of people

Find out the key questions

  • Who are they?
  • What are their interests?
  • Do they frequent social media websites?

See if you can gather online data and then try and meet some of them. Getting an insight into your target demographic lifestyle is a great way to understand their needs.


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Tools and assets

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External Link

Market research agencies

McCallum Layton on how to work with market research agencies

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Royal Mail marketing

Mailing packages for small businesses

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Market Research Society

One of the leading global authorities on market research

Tool Download

Customer satisfaction postcard template

Get your customer to give you their feedback

External Link

State of the Nation Hospitality & Tourism 2013

People 1st report to examine skills and labour market trends across the hospitality and tourism sector