For your market research to be effective, says leading business advisor and author of The Startup Coach, Carl Reader, it’s vital that you apply a few key principles to ensure that you get the most benefit from your efforts:

Making research objective – one of the biggest problems with researching competitors is that personal bias can slip into your views, particularly when you consider how there is no way to measure qualitative data. I tend to see this with many business owners, who probably don’t even realise that they have some inbuilt bias against certain competitors.

A great example would be a local burger bar, which could be biased against McDonald’s because they perceive that there is a difference in the quality of beef used. However, most people looking at McDonald’s without bias would agree that it is a fantastic business model, which provides a fit-for-purpose product for its customers, in a cost-efficient and rapid manner.

Compare like with like – there is little point researching your competitors if you are not prepared, and do not have a consistent set of data that you would like to achieve from the reviews.

For every business that you research, you should ensure that you have a template research sheet, which would comprise questions based on the data that you have already identified as being required

Use free of charge (or low-cost) resources – it is possible to pay agencies significant sums to perform your market research for you; however, I’m a firm believer that this should be a low-cost activity, as much of the information can be obtained by you with some effort and time.

Make use of resources that are available to you, including Companies House data, data from corporate credit appraisers, pricing information from potential suppliers, and of course the internet. Finally, be sure to use your own eyes and ears – usually the best way to see what is happening in the world of your competitors.