Market research is an integral part of ensuring the longevity of your business. Many small business owners often overlook market research – thinking it’s going to be hard or complicated. This is only to their detriment and a great loss to their customers. Market research is an essential and ongoing component of all successful businesses. Here are twelve ways to use market research for your business.

1. Discover Your Target Market – Many people make products, and then try to find a market for them. However, the truth is that you should first find the market you want to work with, then create products for it. Even if you skipped that initially, you can identify and find your target audience so that you can get your marketing materials right at any time. It’s not restricted to the start up stages.

2. Get to Know Your Potential Customers – The market research that you conduct will allow you to get to know your potential customers better. When you know them better, you’ll be able to create customer personas that help with creating content and marketing which really gets results.

3. Develop New Products and/or Services – When you know what is going on in the marketplace you’ll get more ideas about products and services that your audience needs. Selling to a market you’ve already sold to is the quickest way to increase your sales and amplify your marketing efforts. You may get the ideas from reading industry news or from what the competition is doing, but don’t forget to explore businesses outside your own for ideas you can adapt.

4. Refresh Your Marketing Efforts – Sometimes marketing becomes stale and even though your audience doesn’t change who they are, they do change how they feel about things. For example, what was acceptable marketing for companies in the 1960s isn’t acceptable today. You need to refresh your marketing as needed.

5. Determine Who Your Competitors Are – It’s important to identify your competitors so that you can keep an eye on them and what they are doing. Sign up for their lists and purchase some of their products. Don’t copy them, but do use them as a standard bearer so you can be better.

6. Educate Yourself to Become an Expert – The more information you learn about your industry and the market for your products and/or services, the closer you’ll become to being an expert. Reading as much as possible keeps you up-to-date and knowledgeable.

7. Confirm Your Ideas – It’s important that when you have an idea or assumption about anything to do with your business, you do the research to determine if it’s right. Sometimes anecdotal stories are wrong; sometimes a result is an outlier and not true. Only market research can help determine what is genuinely right and wrong.

8. Learn New Opinions – During the market research you’ll also learn totally new ideas and opinions you never considered. You may find during your research that they are wrong or you may find out that they’re right. Only proper research will help.

9. Keep Up with New Technologies in Your Industry – Keeping up with market research will also help you learn about technology as it happens. Every day new technologies are being discovered that can help you with your business. Without research you won’t know about it. It’s easy to get trapped within your four walls and not realize what is happening.

10. Identify New Trends – As you’re doing your research, you’ll start to be able to identify new trends that are happening right now. These trends are things that you need to jump on because as fast as they come, they change.

11. Avoid Marketing Snafus – Business owners who avoid market research are prone to making horrible marketing mistakes. They are at risk of believing their own biases. If you want a laugh and a cringe or two, see Ad Week’s list of advertising and marketing fails.

12. Track Your Own Brand – Many people don’t realize that during market research you’ll also be able to determine how you’re doing as a brand getting information out to the public. If you do not run into your own articles, interviews, blog posts and research while searching, then you need to start working harder.

The fact is, without market research your success is in jeopardy. Some business owners will achieve accidental success but it will be hard to keep up. If you plan for success by conducting market research for your business, you will be set up for success from day one. If you started already, it’s not too late to conduct market research to ensure that you achieve and maintain success.