Adapt or Perish: Why SMEs Should Invest in Market Research

You’re on a tropical island and you’re standing on a cliff, the sea sparkling as far as the eye can see. It’s hot, and you’re ready to jump into the glorious water below. Do you jump from that cliff?
It depends.

Person sitting on a cliff looking down at what's below, like a business owner should look at market research before making business decisions
Person sitting on a cliff looking down at what’s below, like a business owner should look at market research before making business decisions

Whether or not you jump depends on what’s below. Is it a drop into a deep, refreshing pool? Or is it a deep pool with an undercurrent that could drag a champion Olympic swimmer under? Are there rocks two feet below the surface of the water?

You wouldn’t jump without knowing what you’re jumping into, or if it’s safe for you to take the leap. Why take a similar risk with your company? Market research helps you see what’s below the surface of the water – how customer behaviour, your competitors and the industry and changing and adapting to external forces. 

Why bother with market research?

We’re on the precipice of a global recession and there’s no doubt that we’re in for a fall. In the July 2020 Monetary Report, the Bank of Canada stated that its ‘outlook was uncertain’. Even our nation’s central bank doesn’t know how things are going to unfold after the rebound in the short-term as businesses reopen. The restaurant, travel and retail industries are the hardest hit, according to the Bank of Canada, but they aren’t the only industries that are suffering.

Large investments will likely be cancelled as businesses and consumers alike are cautious about spending. However, with market research, your business will be able to adapt to the changing environment brought about by Covid-19, because you will see 3 things.

  1. Your customers’ behaviour trends and how high a priority your product/services are to your customers
  2. What your competitors are doing to adjust to consumer behaviour and demand
  3. The disruption your industry faces and also how external influences will affect your industry

Market research identifies shifting customer priorities

Situational analysis and marketing research go hand in hand. Using them will identify what is affecting your customers.

If you’re a business-to-business (B2B) company, it’s not enough to know what is affecting your customers. Market research digs a little deeper into what is affecting your clients’ customers. Can your product/service help your customers attract more end-users? Businesses that adjust to meet the needs of their clients and help them attract and retain customers  have a significant advantage over their competitors.

As businesses cut expenses, they’re looking for solutions that will help their bottom line. Demonstrating how your business can adapt to meet your clients’ needs and give them a little extra by showing how your product/service can help them acquire more customers will determine if they will be able to continue to do business with your company. This could be what convinces your potential client to switch to your company from their current vendor.

If you’re a business-to-consumer (B2C) company, market research will identify how your customer’s buying behaviour has changed. It will also uncover general consumer behaviour trends your business can use to attract new customers and increase sales. For example, local businesses can benefit from marketing to seniors as they’re most likely to buy local products and buy from Canadian brands, Mintel, a leading market intelligence agency, observed how seniors are the most likely to buy local products, and buy from Canadian brands. Promoting locally sourced materials and local businesses to this demographic and reminding them that they as Canadians are supporting other Canadians will attract this older demographic.

Adapt or Perish

Just because things have worked well so far doesn’t mean they will continue to do so. Pay attention to changes in consumer behaviour and buying patterns.

H.G. Wells was not talking about business strategy when he wrote “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative”, but it fits our current situation. If businesses don’t adapt to the changing world, they are unable to compete. Even the biggest companies fall if they don’t pay attention to innovation, changes in consumer behaviour, and what their competitors are doing. Remember Kodak? Famous for their camera-related products, they refused to see digital cameras as a threat, and ignored the shift in consumer behaviour and wants. Once a household brand, Kodak is now a distant memory.

Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), often compete not only with other SMEs but also big businesses, and cannot afford to take their fingers off the pulse of the changing world – especially as we’re headed towards what the World Bank is calling the deepest recession since WWII.

Marketing research can help you to do the following:
  1. Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing
  2. Identify how can your business can help your customers at a time when both businesses and consumers are keeping their spending under tight control
  3. Make strategic changes to capture the market before your competitors  can. Focus on those who can afford your products/services for short-term returns. Focus on building brand awareness for long-term returns
  4. Look for a way to build on what your competitors have done, if you’re late to the game, refine it and differentiate your offerings from theirs.

Market research doesn’t have to cost a fortune. What it needs is time to collect the right, latest information and time to analyze the information. Then comes the recommendations and insights that inform business decisions.



Questions about market research or how you can go about it? Reach out.

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