Need Help with Business Planning? Use Market Research!



market-research-tablet.jpgWith the start of a new year, manufacturers are beginning to focus on strategic planning for 2020 and beyond. During this process, many ask themselves: What are my competitors doing? Into which industries should we diversify? What new products or technologies are in the pipeline for my industry?

Although some might not realize it, all of these questions and more can be answered using market research. Market research is a systematic approach to collect and interpret information about business environments, customers and competitors for the purpose of strategic decision-making. This is accomplished using four types of data:

  • Primary quantitative data – statistical data collected internally, such as a survey of current or former customers
  • Primary qualitative data – unstructured, observational data collected internally, such as an interview with subject matter experts or focus groups
  • Secondary quantitative data – statistical data collected by another researcher, which could include published data from the U.S. Census Bureau
  • Secondary qualitative data – unstructured, observational data collected by another researcher, such as an industry journal or publication

Data can help companies analyze various aspects of an industry such as competitor growth, financial outlooks, economic overviews and potential technology disruptions. When companies combine this external data with their own internal company data, it helps the management team strategize and make more informed business decisions.

Over the past five years, the Research Services Team at The Center has assisted a wide variety of manufacturers in using market research to answer their most important questions – and many have grown their businesses as a result. Here are just a few examples of how market research has supported manufacturers around Michigan:

  • An automotive aftermarket supplier was interested in exporting products to different countries, but didn’t know where or how. To identify the best possible areas to target, researchers looked at which countries were the highest importers of their product type, which countries were the easiest to access and had strong distribution networks, and how tariffs were impacting the market. From there, the research team was able to prioritize and identify two countries that would be the most viable options for the client. After finding a grant to fund their business trips, the client then traveled to each country to attend trade shows and connect with prospective clients, enabling them to gain several additional contracts.
  • A client that specializes in engineering services wanted to diversify outside of the oil and gas industry. The client had already identified the region it wanted to serve. Research was conducted to identify which industries were thriving in those geographical areas, which industries invested capital expenditures on equipment and structures and which industries had the strongest financial outlook. Metal stamping and pharmaceutical were found to be the most promising options. As a result, the client worked to identify networking opportunities and joined several relevant industry associations, which led to new contracts within both industries.
  • A manufacturer of powertrain components was experiencing declines in sales and had no idea why. Using an online survey of customers to do a basic competitor analysis, the team identified a main source of the issue. Competitors noticed the changing nature of vehicles and worked to develop products that were more flexible and relevant. Customers were drawn to these options with more variability in use, leading to the client’s reduction in sales. This realization inspired the manufacturer to pay closer attention to the market in order to retain and gain customers as demand continues to evolve.
  • A coffee co-packer was threatened by more environmentally-friendly alternatives. They needed to learn more about trends and disruptions in the industry in order to decide how to best move forward. When studying trends and potential alternative uses for the product, researchers identified an opportunity in the pharmaceutical industry with powdered medicine. The company then entered the market and gained new customers for existing products.

Much like in these cases, your company’s critical strategic questions can be answered with market research. Whether you are looking to enter a new industry, increase sales or grow into a new geographic market, relevant and useful data is out there that can help guide your company in the right direction for success.

To learn more about how to use market research tools to drive your strategic planning, The Center offers a 1.5 day course that covers the four types of market research, research resources to utilize, how to apply techniques and methods for analyzing data. For more information about this class, click here.

For more on how The Center’s Research Services Team can assist your business, click here.


McCarter_R-web.jpgRebekah McCarter, Lead Supplier Scout
Having spent more than 20 years with the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, Rebekah views her fundamental responsibility as head cheerleader and advocate on behalf of Michigan’s manufacturing community. Officially, Rebekah is the Lead Supplier Scout for Michigan, part of a national program that effectively identifies domestic suppliers that meet the specifications of OEMs and other U.S. manufacturers, with a special focus on connecting Michigan companies with other Michigan companies. If you are looking to mitigate risk in your supply chain, transition to more local sourcing of raw materials or augment your minority suppliers, The Center can help. 

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Data & Trends, growth