You may have a great idea for a product or service, but will people want it? To find out, you need to conduct some market research. When your business gets bigger, you may be able to pay for consumer surveys on an existing product or one that’s in development. Until that happens, you’re probably going to rely more on astute observation and sound judgment. Look closely If you’re developing a retail product, spend some time observing how consumers buy and use similar goods. For example, if you’re thinking of selling organic produce, spend some time observing consumer behaviour in farmers’ markets and grocery stores. Focus on understanding what attributes of your product will be most important to your customers. Once you know what those key features need to be, you can emphasise how your product is better than other alternatives. Test your product Putting a product or prototype in small local stores can help you gauge consumer response and then make any necessary modifications. Develop good relationships with your local business community. Create your own focus group Your family, friends, acquaintances, and former colleagues can act as your own survey group. Show them what you’re developing and ask for honest feedback: Would they use it? Will it simplify their lives? How could it be improved? Once you’ve spent some time listening and observing, you’ll be in a better position to decide whether your product or service will be relevant and useful to potential customers, or identify changes you may need to make before you go to market. Do you know who your potential customers are? Are you convinced they will buy your product or service? Is someone already doing what you’re doing? It really pays to know your competition.