If it’s any consolation to you, it’s a common problem. You can forecast sales for your new product like everybody else does, by estimating and making educated guesses. It may be hard to forecast, but it´s even harder to run a business without a forecast.
You don´t have to spend thousands on market research, although that´s a nice shortcut if you have the budget. Nobody knows the future, we´re all just guessing. Don´t think that you´re not qualified to forecast your sales because you don´t have the right degree or mathematical prowess or software.
I spent several years as a vice president at Creative Strategies doing new product forecasts. What I saw was that people in the industry working things day to day had a very good idea of what was realistic. Yes, there are mathematical and statistical routines that can automatically project past data forward into the future, but they are all based on the assumption that the past predicts the future.
Start your forecast by breaking it down into its component parts. Usually it´s easier to estimate the pieces and add up to the whole. Most businesses can be broken into units for a forecast, and it´s conceptually easier to project units and average price separately, then multiply units times price to calculate sales. That also makes it easier to go back to a forecast and modify either the units or the price when you find out which seems wrong. Most businesses divide into units even if they don´t realize they do. Attorneys and accountants, classic service businesses, sell time in quarter-hour units. Consultants sell days or projects or hours. Taxis sell pick-ups and rides and quarter miles. Restaurants sell meals and drinks. Breaking things down into units makes forecasting easier.
For example, I have no idea how much a new restaurant could sell. But I´ll bet if I saw it I could count the tables or possibly the seats. Then I´d estimate how many people per table and how many tables are filled at peak hours. From there I´d calculate how many peak hours per day and how many days per month. I might differentiate weekend hours from weekday hours. Then I´d estimate the average consumption per person.
When I do the math it´s simple finite math and it creates forecast. Better yet, especially when I´m guessing for a new business, it creates a rationale for that forecast. I can use that to explain the forecast as part of the plan, and when I implement the plan I can use that to catch where the forecast was off.
ometimes you can find pieces of information that can help you if you put them together like a crossword puzzle. Do a good Internet search for expert forecasts in your industry area, and with luck you´ll find an expert forecast in a trade magazine or newspaper. Sometimes you can find industry-wide information in a trade association directory or annual report of a related company. One example I remember from my market research days was checking forecasts for ATMs against available numbers for banking locations and teller windows. For my restaurant example I´d go to www.business.gov to get economic census data on average sales per restaurant in my county.