Doing your own market research?
January 29, 2010 9:17 AM   Subscribe

My friend is trying to start a business and is currently writing his business plan. He needs to do market research, but is having trouble finding the information he needs on google or other searches. Any tips on how to do market research for free without paying for a consulting service? If that is the only way, what is the pricing like for those services? Thanks!
posted by tessalations999 to Work & Money (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This is way too vague to be answered.

What's the business/industry which he is trying to research?
posted by dfriedman at 9:18 AM on January 29, 2010

Response by poster: He is trying to start a spiritual center with a yoga studio and a store in Northern California. It will have a yoga studio, meditation classes, and sell spiritual books and health food items. It will also have an organic garden and sell the produce. His 'edge' is that is a homeopath and organic gardner, who has managed a health food store, and his wife is has taught meditation at a hindu ashram for 25 years. He wants it to be 'green' and eventually more and more energy efficient once he has enough capital to buy solar panels, etc.

He is still trying to determine the right location because he wants to do more research first.
posted by tessalations999 at 9:23 AM on January 29, 2010

Go to your local business library (if there is one nearby), they should have access to industry databases like Hoover's or Thomson. You can find all sorts of information on the industry/companies.

Also from my experience, librarians can be quite helpful with any questions.
posted by pakoothefakoo at 9:25 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yep, your city library's main branch should be the first stop. Find their reference section and have a browse through the 300s. Use their electronic database to search your local paper for relevant articles. Ask for help from the librarians and be persistent if they seem reticent. Read everything and take notes.
posted by carsonb at 9:30 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are usually a few local small business centers in most locales. Google for more.

These can help and likely help point your friend in the right direction.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:30 AM on January 29, 2010

Is this a business plan being done at the behest of a bank or investors, for the benefit of partners or shareholders, or for his own planning purposes? Why does he "have to" include the things you mention?

Not that they're bad, but it really impacts the answers.
posted by rokusan at 9:32 AM on January 29, 2010

Consider contacting similar businesses in locations that are not close enough where the owners would consider his startup competition. Ask them all the hard hitting questions he needs and about the things they'd wish they'd known before they opened, etc.

This strategy worked great for my girlfriend and her sister when they launched their event planning business and they even learned about a great website they could buy cheap leads from so it was definitely worth the time/effort.
posted by Elminster24 at 9:46 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some universities have small business research centers that should be able to help you quite a bit.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 9:54 AM on January 29, 2010

He needs to find and talk with customers, as many as he can. He should start by finding competing businesses and building a picture of what the market look like. The market is just these businesses and the people that patronize them.

I would start with a couple of Northern CA cities where you would expect such a business to do well, say Berkeley & Santa Cruz. Then using the internet/yellow pages etc locate and evaluate all the businesses that would fall in his chosen market. Visit them, talk with the owners/shop assistants, be up front and say I'm thinking of opening this kind of business (one assumes in a different city). Ask them what works what doesn't, how well their business has done, how long they've been in business. If it looks like a thriving success in those locations I would then start looking in locations more similar to when I intended to open.
posted by Long Way To Go at 10:09 AM on January 29, 2010

A research librarian, especially at a university, should be able to help. Libraries have subscriptions to lots of useful databases with industry and market information.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:28 PM on January 29, 2010

I am a marketing consultant. Your friend should talk to the business librarian at the local library. They should also have handouts that explain.
posted by acoutu at 4:32 PM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

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