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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Sourcing information about your market - checklist

Market research can help you understand your customers' wants, needs, tastes and spending habits. By using published market information and your own field research, you can get the data you need to target new opportunities. Find out the steps involved.

  • Do your research before launching new products or services or making changes to your business that will affect customers, such as introducing new opening hours or changing location.
  • Aim to discover what existing and potential customers want by using quantitative (desk) and qualitative (field) research.
  • Write down the questions you want to answer. Do you want to know where your customers live, for instance? What other products they buy? What they value in your offer? Having questions to answer will give your research a sense of purpose.
  • Make use of existing information. Ask your trade association or local chamber of commerce whether they have market reports and statistics you can use - some of which will be free.
  • Find free online information about overseas markets from Government sources such as Open to Export and associations like the Institute of Export and International Trade.
  • Take care how you interpret any external data you collect. It may have a slightly different focus from the question you are researching or be out of date.
  • Make use of your own business data and do your own field research. Conduct a survey or get together a focus group to ask existing and potential customers what they think of a new product or service or other changes you are considering making.
  • Consider using a market research agency to do some field research for you - it will cost more, but they may get better results. Look for an agency with experience of working with other businesses in your sector.
  • Look at the general economic outlook as well as the outlook for your specific sector. You should also check for other external factors, such as upcoming legislation, that could affect any plans you have.
  • Research what your competitors are doing. Do they have new products or services coming up? How do they compare to you in terms of price? What do your customers think of them?
  • Use your market research to develop your marketing strategy. What you find out could justify changes to your pricing, the way you present your offer, the customer groups you target, your branding, and so on. Use the information to improve your business and increase your sales.

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