• Export Essentials

Making market research pay off

Updated: May 27, 2019

It’s a lot more exciting to chase the right opportunities from the beginning than to cross your fingers and hope for results – and the key to finding them is spending the right money and effort on market research, at the right time.


One common misconception is that market research means spending a fortune before doing anything.


It’s definitely possible to run up a huge bill by hiring someone to do end-to-end research on a market, all in one go.


And it’s also true that when you’re trying to find the right export markets for your business, some of your time and effort in market research won’t pay off.


The trick is to start small and local, and split the work and cost up into stages – so you don’t spend more money or time than each market is worth and can gradually step up your investment on market research for the most promising locations.


Second things first

There are two types of market research: primary research, where you gather information about a market directly, and secondary research, where you’re looking at information others have already collected.


As confusing as it sounds, the key to successful market research is doing the secondary bit first. Primary research comes afterwards.


Secondary research involves pulling together all the information you can find locally and online, and tapping into what other people have already learnt about your target market. As the name ‘desk research’ suggests, you can do a lot of this without leaving your office. Here are a few tips for getting started.

  • Search online with keywords for the country and industry you’re interested in.

  • Look for data you can easily compare across markets, like income per capita and import statistics.

  • Compare what you find with equivalent New Zealand data so you can spot differences, challenges or opportunities more easily.

  • Check with your local library for useful databases that you can access, or book a session with a specialist librarian to get one-on-one research advice.

Let’s be frank: this isn’t as much fun as getting on a plane. But it gives you much deeper insights than just walking around in-market without knowing what you’re looking at. And it lets you make comparisons quickly and cheaply between multiple markets, so it’s easier to decide where you should focus.


Research doesn’t have to feel like homework all the time. You can also:

  • talk to people you know who are already active in the market, or ask your contacts if they know other people with experience that you can talk to

  • use networks such as BusinessNZ, or talk to NZTE, for introductions to other exporters

  • sign up for seminars and business events covering your market of interest

  • bring a student intern on board to help with research – a great way to lighten your workload, get a totally fresh perspective, and help out a future entrepreneur (or even a future employee).


Stage it out

For each market you’re investigating, split your secondary research up into four stages: entry barriers, market attractiveness, market opportunity, and paths to market.

Treat each stage as a go or no-go point. If you can’t look at the results and give the market an honest “pass”, you can stop the process there and move on to something else that’s more worthwhile.


This lets you knock the least attractive markets out of contention early, so you don’t end up throwing good money after bad.


Some time and money will go to waste at each stage. But it won’t be more than you can afford – and it can save you a lot more time, money and heartache in the long run.


After repeating this process a few times, you’ll eventually get a shortlist of the most promising markets to investigate further. Compare them to each other, rank them, and you should have a clear front-runner market that you can make your priority.


Now you can think about booking a flight and exploring the market first-hand, with a lot more confidence that it’ll be money well spent.


Get the full story and more tips, tools and advice in our Export Essentials guide to market research. Or review our full series of guides online.


Ready to take your business places? Sign up for the next Export Essentials Workshop in your area and get proven tools to grow your business faster internationally.

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