There's no better way to waste your money than on a product no one wants. In the world of business, research is critical. If you don't have the right data, you can't make smart decisions, and if you're not making smart decisions, you're going to be one sad entrepreneur.

In this post, I'll give you some tips on how to make sure you're getting the most out of your market research and how to incorporate it into your product development process.

Let's get started!

Use social listening to gather insights from conversations online.

You can use social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to gather insights from online conversations. This practice is known as social listening.

Understanding what people say about your brand or topic of interest is a great way to gain insight into how you can serve your customers better. For example, suppose they complain about a lack of a particular feature concerning one of your products. In that case, this could indicate an opportunity for you to create a new offering or maybe update the product with new features that address their pain point, giving them more reason to choose you over the competition. In this instance, it’s not just what they’re saying that matters; it's also how they’re saying it—a common flaw in poorly executed market research studies is the inclusion of open-ended questions that leave too much room for personal interpretation.

Good market research involves asking respondents clarifying questions after collecting their initial feedback: so that you get at least some idea of what customers are trying to tell you—and then adjust your strategy accordingly.

Talk to your market and ask questions.

The next step will be to gather and analyze data about your target audience. There are two primary ways to do this: qualitative research and quantitative research.

Quantitative research includes surveys and questionnaires, which can provide an overview of the potential market for a product or service. This type of research helps collect data in a standardized format that can easily be used in statistical analysis. It’s an excellent method when you want to determine the size of your market and get feedback on product designs, prices, and other factors that are important to your customers.

Qualitative research uses focus groups, interviews, and case studies to explore attitudes and opinions regarding specific products or services. This is usually done by bringing together a group of target market members to observe how they use products or react to proposed marketing messages. Qualitative methods like these allow you to gather deeper insight into customer needs (and thus inform innovation). Focus groups can also help you identify specific segments within your target audience that may show more interest in a particular product or service offering than others do.

Below are some of the things you can use market research for:

Building better products, not just one-offs
Developing new products
Improving existing products
Identifying new markets
Entering new markets
Identifying new customers

Run a competitive analysis.

Competitors are a great place to start.

Why? Because they face the same challenges as you, they have likely come up with some innovative solutions. They’re also trying to keep up with new trends in their own right. To do this, conduct a competitive analysis: look at what your competitors are doing, how they're doing it, and how well (or poorly) those things work for them. Look at both your and your competitors' market shares and market share trends. You can even look at areas where you think they may be neglecting opportunities in the market that you can take advantage of; this is especially useful if there's a new trend on the horizon that has yet to be explored by anyone in your industry or niche.

Keep an eye out for emerging technologies, products, and services that may threaten your existing business or disrupt the market for a new one.

You should keep an eye out for emerging technologies, products and services that may threaten your existing business or disrupt the market for a new one. Consider how Uber has completely transformed the transportation industry in just ten years. Uber’s app and business model disrupted traditional taxi companies by providing a more cost-effective, convenient way for people to get from point A to point B. If you want to stay competitive, you’ve got to be aware of not just what competitors are doing, but also technology that could potentially change your industry altogether.

For example, if you own a grocery store, it would be wise to pay attention to companies like Instacart and Shipt. These online grocery delivery services have grown in popularity over the last few years because they make shopping easier than ever before. The last thing you want is for your customers to stop coming into your store because they have found a better alternative online!

As another example, let’s say that you are planning on opening up an accounting firm in Georgia. You may want to look at Georgia’s list of eligible occupations under H-1B visas—if accountants made this list, then there may be some international competition entering the market soon which could impact your profits if you don’t plan ahead!

Pay close attention to your competitors' customers. They are potential customers for you as well.

Your competitors' customers are potential customers for you as well. Don't be afraid to reach out to them and ask what they like about your competitor's products, what they'd like to see improved, and if there is anything that would make them switch over.

How do you find these people? Start with your own market research tools. You can also do a little digging on social media. See who's talking about your competitors, look at their followers' profiles and demographic information, and see if anyone is talking about switching brands or bouncing back and forth between different options in the market.

Ask your customers what they want next.

To learn about the improvements your customers want, you can use direct customer feedback in many different ways. Here are a few:

  • Customer Reviews: Review websites and social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter offer immediate feedback from your customers. You can see exactly what people like and don't like about your products and determine which changes will create the most impact.
  • Surveys: These are a great way to get detailed information directly from your target market, but you have to make sure no one is left out. If you give potential customers a survey they cannot complete, there's no point asking them for their insights. Keep surveys short and focused on relevant areas to your product development.
  • Social media listening tools: Using social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite Insights or Brandwatch allows you to identify trends across all of your digital channels. Searching for keywords related to your brand reveals plenty of valuable information about how people feel about it online — both positive and negative — so that you can better understand what motivates them, allowing you to use this information for future product development.

Be aware of the customer journey and how it has changed over time.

When it comes to market research, another critical component is the customer journey. The customer journey is the “path” that a consumer takes through all your company's touchpoints in their quest to become a customer of your brand. It includes all the ways consumers are exposed to your company—from seeing ads for your products on Facebook to reading about them on blogs and asking their friends for recommendations.

The catch with this concept of the customer journey is that it's not really a linear path anymore. In years past, you could start by marketing directly to potential customers. They would follow an orderly path through different stages of awareness and interest until they made their purchase decision. Today, it's much more complicated than that. The customer journey is now a complex web of many different touchpoints—some subtle and some overt—that affect a person's purchase decision (or non-decision). This makes measuring how successful you've been with market research much more difficult.

Watch customer reviews and other customer feedback on sites like Twitter and Amazon.

Has this happened to you? Your company comes out with a new product and you can’t wait to see what the customers think of it. But then, a few weeks later, your social media and marketing team come to you with some bad news: Once customers got their hands on the product, they all hated it!

Ouch. If only there was a way to know how customers feel once they start using products…

Well, good news: There is! By monitoring what your customers are saying online—specifically on customer review sites and other social media sites like Twitter and Facebook—you can get valuable insight into how people feel about your products and customer service. So next time you launch something new, make sure you have systems in place for collecting that data.

So there you have it! It's not hard to create a better product if you know how to use market research.

You can use the same techniques for any business or industry—even if your business isn't about making products. For example, if you're trying to improve customer service in your company, start by asking customers what they want from your company, then go from there.

Have fun with it!