What Is The First Step In The Market Research Process (2023)

I’ve seen people make mistakes with their research process right at the very beginning. And it’s frustrating to see them go wrong when you know they could have just done things right in the first place.

This article will walk through what is the first step in the market research process and how it will save you from making costly mistakes that may cost you your job or not getting funding for your idea. 

First Step In The Market Research Process

The first step in the marketing research process is clearly defining the problem or opportunity. 

This step involves understanding the business objectives, understanding the ideal customer profile, and researching what has been done in the past.

You might be sitting there thinking, well, no crap! But hear me out for a second.

Often, people will mistake not peeling back the surface layer. They don’t peel back the onion to reveal the core challenge or opportunity. Think of it like, what’s the question behind the question? 

If you don’t have a clear understanding of what is going on, then how can you ever hope to solve it?

Example Of The First Step In The Market Research Process

Let me give you a concrete example. Recently, a company hired me to conduct market research for a new product development project. One of the client’s core questions was, “What’s the market share of the top five competitors?”

That’s a fair question, right? But, unfortunately, many people think knowing the market share is excellent information.

But why? Once you know the market shares of your competitors, what are you going to do with that information? How is it going to change your strategy or product development?

I asked the client those questions. Here’s what they really wanted to know.

Is there enough volume, aka “clients,” left in the market for their new product to capture? Or is there enough room in the market for a new entrant? 

If yes, then they would proceed with investing in developing the product? If not, then they would not invest in developing this product.

You see, they knew the total volume in the market. But not how much of the market had already been captured by potential competitors. 

They wanted to know how much volume was left for their solution.

Just that slight change to find the core questions completely changed how we approached the market research. 

If I didn’t peel back the layers to understand the root business objectives, I might have provided them with totally different and not good research, data, and recommendations.

Key Take-Aways

So during the first step of the market research process, make sure you peel back those layers. Always ask, why is this important? 

Don’t stop at level one questions. Go deep into levels 3, 4, and 5. Get to the root of the issue or opportunity you are researching.

Once you have that understanding, you’ll need to develop in-depth research questions to help you understand the problem or opportunity better.

After that, you’ll select suitable research methodologies and collect data. 

Finally, you’ll analyze and report the results so your internal or external clients can use those findings to make informed decisions about their campaigns. 

Wrapping Up What Is the First Step In the Market Research Process

If you want more formation on the steps of the marketing research process, click the link to watch a video on the steps of the marketing research process in their correct sequence.

I hope this article helps you understand what’s the first step in the market research process. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. 

And if you want exclusive and more advanced insights on marketing, sign up for my newsletter. There’s a link in the description as well.

Stewart Swayze
Stewart Swayze
Stewart Swayze is the Founder and Chief Editor of The Weekly Consult. He's a B2B Marketing Consultant that supports large companies and private equity firms. He conducts market research, collects VOC, and creates go-to-market strategies. Stewart also conducts commercial due diligence projects for private equity firms. He's lived, traveled, and worked all over the world. In his spare time, he enjoys trail running, walking his dog, dinners with his family, and woodworking.

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