Do you want to know what gives you an edge over the competition?
Do you want to know whether your prices are competitive?
Are you wondering what marketing strategies you should develop to reach your target audience?
You’ll find the answers to these questions in market research.
Market research is the process of investigating the viability of the products or services you offer through direct or indirect research about your potential customers. It can help you identify or understand your target market, and you can gain access to insight and opinions that will help you design a business model, develop services, identify products, and design a marketing strategy.
Despite the growing health coaching market, there is limited information to support health and wellness coaching businesses in conducting effective market research. This introductory guide designed for small to medium health and wellness enterprises and individual professionals provides general information about what market research entails, specific tools you can use to conduct market research, and tips on areas to explore when conducting market research.
What Does Market Research Entail?
Market research involves getting to know your target audience as best you can after you’ve identified to whom you want to offer your services and products.
Conducting market research is vital before launching a new service or product. It helps to ensure your resources (time, money, energy) are being used effectively. At the same time, however, market research should be a continuous activity even after you’ve launched your business. Keeping up with trends, seeing what the competition is offering, and noticing changes in audience interaction with your business should be an important part of your business’s regular activities.
Additionally, pointed market research can be useful before making changes to your health and wellness business, like renewing the branding or offering a new product.
There are two main types of market research:
- Primary market research – information collected directly from your target audience for your use or for the use of that of the company. It is usually very specific to the company’s needs and questions.
- Secondary market research – information collected by other organizations, private or public. It is usually general, as it often includes large populations.
Below we describe different tools and resources that can help you conduct effective marketing research for the benefit of your health and wellness business.
Primary Market Research Tools for Health and Wellness Professionals and Entrepreneurs
There are few marketing resources designed for health and wellness professionals running a business of their own. This section is aimed at filling that gap. Below, you’ll find a description of the marketing tools and resources and direct links to services and websites for each of the tools. We’ve also explained how these tools might be useful for health and wellness coaches and other professionals in the field.
Surveys are a common market research tool that can be low-cost and provide significant benefit to your business strategy. If you ask the right questions and you are able to secure participation from your target market, you can gain some incredibly valuable insights.
Through surveys, you can:
- Measure brand awareness
- Gain insights on a current product or service
- Gain insight on an idea for a product or service
- Gauge how you stand against your competitors
- Identify market needs, desires, likes, and dislikes
- Learn more about your target market, including how they behave and their demographics
- Identify what communication channels your target market uses and their level of engagement with them
Based on survey results, you can segment your market further and learn about current or potential customer needs and wants. You can also refine products or current wellness and health service offerings before launching them.
Some of the most common resources for creating surveys include:
- Google Forms: A free tool where you can write a variety of questions and collect responses. Google forms will tabulate quantitative or multiple-choice responses, so you don’t have to. Keep in mind, however, that you need to have a list of contacts within your target audience for the answers to reflect the desires and behavior of your target audience.
- Google Surveys: While Google Forms is a free tool that can be very useful, it wasn’t created specifically for survey creation. Google Surveys, as the name indicates, was. If you have some budget available for market research, you can use Google Surveys to get fast, reliable opinions from people within your target audience.
- Survey Monkey: Survey Monkey is among the most popular survey tools out there. It provides useful survey templates and also has a wide variety of question formats. The free option is very limited, so to access the full suite of features, you’ll need to sign up for a monthly subscription. Some of the benefits of a subscription include gaining access to Industry Benchmark information and utilizing Survey Monkey for other business needs like forms and payments.
- Zoho Survey: An alternative to Survey Monkey, Zoho Survey has many of the features that Survey Monkey includes and more. It allows you to build surveys in multiple languages and provides email distribution and social sharing options. The free version allows for up to 100 survey responses, and the paid membership options start at prices slightly lower than Survey Monkey.
- PickFu: This tool allows you to get quick feedback on a product or service you offer. If you’ve already conducted your market research but want information on names, branding, or preferred options from people who are specific to your target audience, PickFu is a useful tool.
Focus groups allow you to gain access to multiple opinions at once, and you benefit from participant interaction. Focus groups actively involve people who have something in common (for market research, they should all be part of your target market), and the discussion helps the researchers understand why people feel a certain way.
In general, focus groups are useful when you want to gain access to in-depth, qualitative information. Potentially useful qualitative information that health and wellness coaches can access through focus groups includes:
- How they perceive their current health and wellness status and the factors that might influence them
- Negative and positive experiences with health and wellness services in the past (doctor’s appointments, coaching sessions, apps, products)
- What they feel is missing from the current health and wellness market
- Fresh ideas for products or services you can integrate into your offerings
- First impressions of your proposed product or service and suggestions
- Feedback on a product testing component
You can conduct focus groups by gathering people in a room or use collaboration tools like Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, or Meetup. With Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype, you need to do the outreach and coordination yourself, whereas Meetup allows you to access their database of individuals from different industries who can provide ideas, insights, and feedback.
Unless you invite your friends and family, it can be difficult to get people together to provide their feedback without incentives. You may want to consider paying them for their time, offering refreshments or a gift card, or providing free limited access to your services.
Product or Service Testing
If you’re looking to get feedback on your service, one of the best things you can do is let people try it out for free or at a discounted price with the sole purpose of getting their feedback.
Here are some ways you can use product and service testing for market research as a health and wellness entrepreneur:
- Free or discounted classes: Are you thinking of launching a group course or fitness program? Get the word out through advertisements or invitations to potential clients to attend a class for free or at a discounted price.
- Free or discounted coaching sessions: Recently certified coaches may have trouble building confidence if they haven’t had vast experience coaching individuals. By offering free or discounted coaching sessions, you can test out your coaching methods and get immediate feedback.
- Free samples: If you have a product, such as an e-book, guide, or supplement, select a number of individuals who can gain early access to it for free. Ask them to try it out and identify potential areas for improvement in everything from the branding to the applicability and effectiveness.
- Beta testing digital products and services: Several health and wellness companies utilize apps and software to deliver services. Beta versions of the apps and software are designed specifically for testing purposes. You can make the beta version open to download, or you can send it to a select number of individuals. If you are looking for a large-scale launch, you might want to consider outsourcing the beta testing to reach a wider audience with structured feedback and real-world engagement.
4 Tips for Effective Product and Service Testing Events:
- Carry out testing events after doing surveys or focus groups and making adjustments accordingly. Product testing is “expensive,” relatively speaking; you are giving away or discounting products or services where you are planning on generating money.
- Let them know beforehand that you are asking them to participate for the purpose of market research. This will help alleviate skepticism, and it will also nudge them to be observant.
- Tell them what sort of feedback you are looking for. While they are testing the product or service, they will be more aware of the things they should be paying attention to.
- Immediately after the event, send them a link to the survey or carry out a focus group.
- Be willing to take constructive criticism. You want participants to be completely honest, but you also have to be willing to be open to criticism as well as praise. Identifying areas you can improve your products and services are equally, if not more important than validating them.
One of the most effective ways to get ahead of the game is to find out what your competitors are doing and saying.
Navigate their website, follow them on social media, take a leisurely stroll in front of their office or studio, and try out some of their free products and services.
Pay special attention to things like:
- Client reviews
- Product and service offerings
- Who they offer their services to (individuals, groups, families, communities, and companies)
- Cross-sell and upsell opportunities
- Team composition
- Popularity (followers, performance on search engines, and more)
- What events they participate in (seminars, courses, trade shows, workshops)
- How they are creating opportunities to generate leads
- E-books, PDFs, and other free resources they are offering
- Prices, membership, and packages
The purpose of a competitor analysis isn’t to copy them. A competitor analysis will help you identify what they are doing well, where there is room for improvement, and what you can do better for your target audience.
Secondary Market Research Tools and Resources for Health and Nutrition Industry Professionals
Online Data Research Tools
You can access valuable information related to trends and interests online, and you can also utilize low-cost ad tools to test the effectiveness of marketing ideas. Here are some useful secondary research tools to gain insight into your potential reach, the relevance of trends in health and nutrition, and to test marketing strategies in real-time.
- Google Trends: Provides information on the search volume of a specific topic or keyword by geographic area. This can help you gain a better understanding of the interest in services or products your business offers (e.g., health coaching) or topics related to your target audience (e.g., benefits of yoga).
- Facebook Audience Insights: Provides general information on demographics and psychographics to help estimate your market size. You don’t have to purchase ads to access the information, so it’s useful if you want to get a general idea of the market potential for your target audience if you used Facebook as a marketing channel. If you want to test your marketing idea, you can use Facebook ads for very little money.
- Google Adwords: Even if you have a limited budget, you can use Adwords to test your idea and the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. The data provided to you by Google will help you get a better grasp of keywords that are working and what market they are part of.
- BuzzSumo: If digital content creation is a valuable tool for your company, BuzzSumo might come in handy. It provides you with information on what topics are most popular to increase your chance of engagement. It also allows you to monitor your online performance.
- SEMRush: This tool tells you which content is ranked the highest for specific keywords in search engines. It can help you identify topics that are generating traffic.
Third-Party Market Research Reports
Market research reports are conducted by dedicated market research companies with access to some exclusive population data. The full research reports aren’t cheap (around $300- $1000+), but they might provide you with information that can help you build a more effective market strategy. They provide some valuable information in the report summaries, which are free to view, and this might be enough to generate some ideas for your marketing strategy. Some market research companies include Global Wellness Institute, Precedence Research, Research and Markets, and Market Research.
AFPA also regularly publishes trend analyses on our blog. You can see one of the recent analyses here.
Government-Collected Information and Data
If you need information about demographics in a specific area, government data is a great resource. It’s freely available and generally quite updated. If you are in the US, the US Census Data and Statistics pages are a good place to start, but you may be able to find more specific demographic and behavior data as well.
After all of the work that goes into building the foundation of a health and wellness business, it can be tempting to skip doing market research and go straight to selling your products and services.
Don’t do it!
Market research takes a lot of the guessing out of the game.
It is the perfect opportunity to refine your product and services, segment your target market, and define the components of an effective marketing strategy. If you can implement your findings into your business model, they can translate into higher income for your company in a shorter amount of time.