Chapter 1

How to do market research

Your business idea is clearly inspired. But it helps to check you’re not the only one who thinks so.

A person spies through binoculars while laying in the grass.

Types of market research for new businesses

As a startup, you need to figure out who’s going to buy from you (customer research), and who you have to beat to get that sale (competitor analysis).

Why do customer research

By understanding your customer, you can:

  • build better products and services
  • learn how people make purchase decisions

Why do competitor analysis

By understanding your competitors, you can:

  • copy what they do well
  • work out what you can do better

How to do market research

It’s a good idea to figure out your customers first. That is the most important relationship for your business.

  1. Create a customer profile: Describe the person or business that will buy from you. For consumers, think of things like their age, location and interests. For business customers, think of things like their industry, size and location. Stuck? Start by checking out who buys from known competitors.
  2. Hit the internet: Search for information on the group you’ve just described. There may be existing studies into those types of people or businesses which you can use as a starting point.
  3. Start asking questions: Find real-life people who fit your customer description and ask them questions like: what do they need from a business like yours? where do they get that product or service now? what’s good about that current solution? and what could be better?

Read our guide to understand more about market research.

Market research methods

So how do you get information about people and their preferences? There are a few proven market research methods to try.

  • Search the internet (desk research): Search for public studies into your customer group. And follow what those people say on social media and community groups.
  • Have one-to-one conversations: Ask open-ended questions and let respondents do the talking.
  • Host workshops or focus groups: Ask questions to a whole group of customers at once. You’ll get deeper answers because people will spark off each other.
  • Run surveys: Ask tons of people the exact same questions to generate really solid insights and statistics.
  • Start a community: If your customers are enthusiasts, bring them on your startup journey. Share updates, ask questions, and invite them to be beta testers.

Give something to get something

Free catering or swag will get people to your focus group. A random prize draw will encourage people to fill out your survey. A little sweetener goes a long way when doing market research.

How to do competitor analysis

Customers can tell you a lot about your competitors. So you’ll use many of the same market research methods to find out who you’re up against.

  1. Identify your competitors: Some competitors will be obvious from the get go. But you will find more by asking customers who they buy from now. Spare a thought for indirect competitors, which sell different things but go after the same dollar (they might sell cupcakes versus your doughnuts).
  2. Compare them to each other: Competing businesses often go after different parts of the market. One will be the premium option, while another will compete on price. Or perhaps they will target different age groups or locations. Map how they relate to each other.
  3. Find where you fit: Where on the map will you go? Measure your strengths and weaknesses against your competitors and figure out where you can give them a run for their money.

Read our guide to understand more about competitor analysis.

That’s how to do market research

You don’t need a big budget or a stats degree to go do some market research. Asking a few key questions of a few target customers and doing some competitor analysis can give you the smarts to build a winning business.


Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.

How to start a business

Thousands of new businesses open every day. If all those people can do it, why not you? Here’s what to do, and when.

  1. How to do market research

    Your business idea is clearly inspired. But it helps to check you’re not the only one who thinks so.

  2. How to write a business plan

    Writing a business plan will help nail down your idea and give you a blueprint for executing it.

  3. Budgeting and forecasting

    It’s time to run some numbers on your business idea. Budgeting and forecasting help with that.

  4. Pricing strategies and cost of goods sold

    Your prices can influence the number of sales you make and the profit you earn on each transaction.

  5. Types of business structure

    Your business structure can affect how much tax you pay, and how you're treated by the law.

  6. Small business accounting

    If you’re starting a business, then you’ll need to get familiar with some accounting basics.

  7. Registering a business and other admin tasks

    After all the excitement of deciding to start a business, you’ll have some paperwork to do.

  8. How to create a business website

    Treat your website like an online version of a storefront. It’s the first impression for many customers and prospects.

  9. Tools and guides for your business

    Now that you’re in business, you want to stay there. Xero’s got resources and solutions to help.

Download the guide to starting a business

Learn how to start a business, from ideation to launch. Fill out the form to receive this guide as a PDF.

Start using Xero for free

Access Xero features for 30 days, then decide which plan best suits your business.