If your initial research about the market supports the notion that you have a potentially successful business idea, you then need research to support the strategies and examples in your business plan.
There are two types of research that you may use to create your business plan — primary research and secondary research.
Primary research includes:
- Conducting surveys
- Handing out questionnaires
- Personally visiting your competitors and taking notes
- Asking questions of customers, potential customers, suppliers, employees, and even your own friends and family
- Conducting market research, such as focus groups
- Studying your own sales and customer records (for example, you can find sales patterns by reviewing what you sell to whom and when you make the most sales)
Primary research should be prepared and presented in a manner that is straightforward and easy to follow, yet provides you with objective data.
Secondary research involves utilizing all resources already available, including the Internet, business journals, trade associations, trade publications, business directories, local or national periodicals, and books. Local libraries and even the local Chamber of Commerce may have business records that can be helpful. Make a list of the data you need and then determine where you can find it. A few secondary research sources include:
- The Small Business Administration and their local and regional offices
- Small Business Development Centers
- The U.S. Library of Congress
- The Wall Street Journal
- United States Department of Labor
- The United States Census
- Business Stats online
- United States Department of Commerce
- Yahoo! Business
Take your time when doing research and, before you include numbers and statistics in your business plan, check to see that you are using the data that will best support your goals and arguments. Also, cite your sources.