Market research is key in a business plan. If you’re starting a business, develop a marketing strategy that shows you researched the industry, analyzed the competition and described your target audience.

“Marketing research is like detective work,” said Jerry Jinnett, Marketing Business Advisor for the Napa-Sonoma SBDC.

“There is a customer out there who needs what we have to offer. We need to determine how to most effectively reach them. This takes research,” he said.

Marketing is a form of communication between you and your customers with the goal of selling your product or service. Highlight the features and benefits your customer receives from purchasing your product or service. Build a strong brand and convey value that differentiates you from the competition.

Features are factual statements about your product or service. They can communicate the capability of your product or service.

Features matter because they indicate to your customers how well your product or service will deliver the needed results. However, they’re only valuable if customers see those features as valuable to them. What entices your customer to purchase your product or service is their perception of results or benefits.

Benefits answer “What’s in it for me?”

Your customers purchase your products or services because they deliver solutions and satisfy needs. It’s an emotional response; people buy based on emotions. So the “benefits” need to be beneficial to your target audience!

Here are two steps to reach your customer:

1. Know your customer

Your research includes gathering demographic data (age, sex, household income, family size, number of credit cards, media preferences, etc.) and psychographic data (value system, behavior, response mechanisms, fears, passions and etc.) to understand your target market’s needs and how to reach them.

If you are already in business, you can learn a lot about your customers by observing their behavior, appearance, spending patterns, etc.

2. Think results

Your demographic and psychographic information allows you to examine certain patterns that exist among your customers. From this information you can put yourself in their shoes as the buyer.

You can ask yourself, “What benefits will this product or service bring me?” and “Why would I want to consider switching from the product or service I buy now?”

“A challenging economy, an upcoming election year, world unrest, the California drought, energy issues … all have contributed to what the American Marketing Association has labeled the cautious consumer,” said Jinnett.

Consumers need to hear about a business eight to 10 times before doing business with us,” he said. “They want to ‘know’ us … to feel that a business is well-established and can be trusted.”

When you can connect to your client’s wants and needs, your business will grow. You just have to do it!

Need help? The Napa-Sonoma SBDC at Napa Valley College has the expertise you need for researching your industry, competition and target market. To meet with a certified, professional business adviser, go to or call 707-256-7250.

Mary Cervantes is the business services director for Napa Valley College Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center. Reach her at 256-7253 or


Load comments