Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service
Micro and Home-Based
Glenn Muske PhD
Home-Based and Micro Business Specialist
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheets
are also available on our website at:
Tom woke up one morning with an idea for a new product.
To his carpool friends, he asked if they would ever use such
a product. Tom was doing market research.
Sally always wanted to have a small business. She knew
what she wanted to do but could not decide where to locate.
Market research also uses primary or secondary data in
One day she happened to drive to a new area of town and
the analysis and decision making process. Primary data is
noticed a vacant store that seemed like a good location. During
collected directly for the business owner. It can be a formal
lunch time she went to the library to see what she could find
process like Bob’s surveys performed by students in the mar-
out about that part of town. Sally is doing market research.
keting class, or an informal process like Tom’s questions of
Bob owned a printing service. While shopping for supplies
his carpool group. Primary data also is collected from sources
at the hardware store, he noticed what items people bought.
other than people. Janice’s physical survey of the competition
He wondered why they made the selections they did. Then he
provides her with primary data. Secondary data is information
wondered why his customers made the decisions they did. To
collected and made available to the public to use as needed.
find out, Bob hired the students from a college marketing class
Secondary data can be Census Bureau information, highway
to survey his customers. Bob is doing market research.
traffic counts, building permits issued, trade association sales
In the morning paper, Janice noticed a competitor had
figures, or chamber of commerce statistics.
opened a store downtown. Since she had a client to meet that
Whether formal or informal, primary or secondary, the
morning, so she decided to leave early and take a look at the
purpose of market research data is to help the business owner
store. Janice is doing market research.
make better decisions. Using market research, the business
Any good marketing book will contain numerous refer-
owner can develop an accurate understanding of the potential
ences on how a business owner must do marketing. Market
customer. The goal of market research is to reveal unfilled
research is an organized process to gather, analyze, interpret
needs in the form of a market niche, customers’ needs, a
and utilize relevant information about the business environment
competitor’s weakness, or an unused marketing strategy. The
for the purposes of making accurate business decisions.
ultimate goal is to increase the business’ sales and profits.
Market research focuses on potential customers, existing
Not all data collected is valuable to the owner. Surveying
customers, the competition, and the business environment.
the customers who walk by a telemarketing business tells
The ultimate goal of market research is business success.
the owner very little. National sales statistics alone offer little
Market research provides information useful in developing
assistance in a decision to open a store. The data collection
short, medium, and long-term marketing plans. The objective
and analysis must relate to the question the owner is trying to
of market research is to:
answer. Bob’s selected his own customers as the database
from which to gather information; customers are one of the
1. Identify potential target markets
most valuable data sources for the business owner.
2. Identify customer needs and wants
Should marketing research be done by all businesses includ-
3. Determine if the product or service meets customer
ing micro and home-based firms? Yes. While it is possible to
operate a successful business without it, market research
4. Determine the best promotion technique for each mar-
improves the business’ chances of success. Some business
owners have been called “lucky” or have made good “edu-
5. Examine the competition
cated guesses.” This luck or successful educated guesses
are often the result of observations of the business environ-
These scenarios show that market research can be a
ment – in other words, market research. The best market
formal or informal process. Asking questions to friends, rela-
research programs, however, go beyond hoping to catch the
tives, or family is an informal method of market research,
right information. The best market research programs are
while hiring an individual or agency to do a survey in person,
carefully thought out and planned with a study question(s) in
through written questionnaires, or by phone is a formal way
mind. Micro business owners typically have limited resources.
to do market research. The data can be quantitative (some-
Effective collection and use of market research data improves
thing that can be reduced to numbers) or qualitative (such as
the chances of avoiding mistakes that can consume all those
Janice’s observation of the open look of the competitor’s new
store and the manner in which the owner is greeting each
Can a business owner do his/her own market research?
Certainly the process can be learned and need not be difficult.
Should the owner do the market research? When possible, it
Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources • Oklahoma State University
certainly is cost-efficient. However, like Bob’s use of students
in a marketing class, there are ways to hold costs down.
The purpose of market research is to help the owner
Market research does consume time. It also requires the
gather information and make decisions – decisions about
ability to fully analyze the data. But the most difficult part of
who may buy a product or service and about the competition.
an owner doing his or her own market research is the ability
The information serves as a blueprint to guide future business
to be objective. The owner may be too closely involved in the
business to accept what the research reveals.
To organize market research data, consider using a
When deciding to do your own market research, at the end
SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) format.
of this publication is a sample customer profile and competitor
When evaluating a business, what are its strengths (where is
analysis. These are only two examples of the possible forms
it a leader?) and weaknesses? When evaluating the environ-
that can be used. Remember to structure research specifically
ment, where are chances for growth and what might slow the
to a certain business.
Market research programs provide three types of informa-
Market research identifies the available market, discovers
tion – about customers, about competitors, and in general.
the best method to reach the target market, and asks what
The following kinds of information may be learned in each
the customer needs or wants. Market research is a simple,
structured, objective way of learning about people – the people
who will buy your product or service.
Demographics (age, where they live, where they work,
race, gender, marital status)
Socio-demographics (income, number of children, edu-
cation, home ownership, lifestyle)
Needs, wants, and desired benefits
Past and future purchases (what, when, why, where, how
Products and services that complement or substitute
Use of various media (radio, television, newspapers,
magazines, Internet, etc.)
Who they are
What products and/or services they offer
Price range of products and services
Bull, Nancy and Passewitz, Greg (1994) Conducting Market
Policies on returns, credit, warranties, etc.
Research. Fact Sheet - CDFS-1252-94. Columbus, OH:
Ohio State University Extension.
Parking and store amenities
Gerson, Richard (1996) Marketing Strategies for Small
Staff (experience, customer respect, customer focus)
Businesses. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Chamber of Com-
Mowat, Barbara and James, Ted (1996) Right from Home.
Torres, Nayda and Israel, Glenn (1991) Marketing Fact Sheet.
The physical/geographical area (traffic flow, develop-
Florida Cooperative Extension Service SS-FL18-08.
ment plans, history, growth patterns)
Gainesville, FL: University of Florida.
Sample Customer Profile Form
Do you use a particular product or service?
If you do, would you consider yourself a
Gender M F
Children at home
I currently use your product/service
________under age 6 years
___once a month
____once a week
___once a year
I currently use competitor’s product/service
___once a month
____once a week
___once a year
____less than $20,000
____$20,000 to $35,000
I have used your product/service for
____$35,000 to $50,000
____a short time
____$50,000 to $75,000
Similar products I use or have used are
I shop in your store
I typically buy the product at a
____more than once a week
____once a week
____every 2 weeks
____once a month
____once a year
The quantity of your product I buy at one time is
The distance from my home to your store is
____a single package
____less than 5 blocks
____11 + miles
The quantity of your competitor’s product I buy at one time is
I usually buy these products or services at your store
____a single package
I buy your product/service because
My favorite stores that are similar to yours (and including it) are
First choice ________________________________________
Second Choice _____________________________________
I buy your competitor’s product/service because
Third Choice _______________________________________
Each year I spend approximately this amount in your store
I learned of your product/service by
___word of mouth
Bull and Passewitz, 1994
Sample Competitor Analysis
Checklist - Factors Important to Customers
1. Brand names
4. Warranty service
5. Variety of selection
6. Credit terms
7. Return policy
8. Convenient location
10 Appropriate atmosphere
11. Convenient store hours
12. Experienced personnel
15. Business image
17. Product selection
19. Concern for customers
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Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Robert E. Whitson, Director of Cooperative Exten-
sion Service, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma. This publication is printed and issued by Oklahoma State University as authorized by the Vice President, Dean, and Director of
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