The process of obtaining pertinent data about a company’s operations and applying it to increase profit is known as business research. No matter how much expertise or information you have, understanding business research can help you increase the productivity of your company. Your professional trajectory may benefit from your research as well.
Business research is the process by which an organization gathers and evaluates pertinent data about its operations in order to increase organizational performance and revenues. The process is ongoing and encompasses every facet of an organization’s business environment, including the markets the company operates in, its rivals, regional and worldwide economic trends, technological advancements in the industry, novel business strategies, and any other factor that could impact the organization’s operational effectiveness.
What Are The Methods of Business Research?
There are two main methods of business research, each with several specific types:
Qualitative research methods
Qualitative research involves getting relevant data through open-ended communication. Businesses generally use this method to discover the exact motivations behind the public’s actions, with the purpose of increasing interest in the goods and services they sell. Some popular types of qualitative business research are:
- Focus groups: This type of business research involves selecting a specific group of people and assessing their behavior and feedback regarding certain products or services. Companies typically choose people who fit the characteristics of their target audience to participate in focus groups and ask them open questions to determine how they can improve customer satisfaction.
- Interviews: This kind of research generally involves a smaller number of subjects than focus groups. The subjects also receive open-ended questions regarding a company’s goods and services, with the main difference being that interviews are more conversational than focus groups.
- Case study research: This type of business research aims to assess customer satisfaction by discovering the main challenges that customers face when buying or using a specific product or service. Their purpose is to help company stakeholders gain a better understanding of the respective issues so they can provide effective solutions.
- Ethnographic research: This involves the researcher attempting to understand the target audience’s culture and behavior toward the company’s products and services by adapting to their environment. It’s typically challenging and time-consuming but can help an organization’s stakeholders understand their customers’ thought processes.
- Website visitor profiling: This type of business research is relatively new and involves using surveys to collect data from people visiting the company’s website. It can help a business understand its target audience’s interaction with its website and assess its online presence.
Quantitative research methods
Quantitative business research methods are those that rely on large amounts of data and use various statistical and mathematical techniques to draw relevant conclusions from it. They usually involve a data collection phase and a data analysis phase. Some common types of quantitative business research are:
- Surveys: This type of business research involves asking a specific set of questions to a large number of potential and existing customers. Companies conduct surveys both online and offline and use the resulting data to improve their decision-making processes.
- Causal-comparative: This kind of research involves comparing two situations to analyze how distinct variables can influence their outcome. It usually requires an independent variable and a dependent variable, with the research aiming to assess how the former influences the latter.
- Correlational: This type of business research uses mathematical analysis techniques to analyze how two separate entities influence each other. Companies generally use it to understand how some of their actions influence their business outcome.
- Experimental: This involves conducting experimental research with the purpose of proving or disproving a certain theory. Companies use it to assess various hypotheses regarding ways to improve their profits by carrying out experiments and observing their results.
- Online and literature: This type of business research involves gathering information from online and offline publications with the purpose of gaining in-depth knowledge regarding a specific subject. Companies generally use it to understand specific markets or customer behaviors.
Examples of business research
Here are two examples of companies conducting market research:
- Example 1
Consider this example of a quantitative research method:
Lakeside Time Fishing Bait Company decided to use a survey to conduct business research with the purpose of determining which types of fish their customers usually try to catch. They plan on using the information to focus bait production on the top three types of fish, narrowing down their target audience and improving organizational efficiency. They post the survey on their social media platforms and discover that their target audience mostly attempts to catch bass, catfish, and carp.
- Example 2
Consider this example of a qualitative research method:
A media production company wants to determine which of its media products are most likely to gain popularity and increase the company’s profitability. They decided to use a focus group and gather 10 subjects from different backgrounds to ask them which types of shows they prefer and what their favorite medium is. The people conducting the focus group research ask the subjects specific questions to determine whether the target audience prefers fiction or nonfiction and whether they use TVs or other types of devices to consume their favorite media.
How to Research a Company
Doing your homework about possible employers is essential to a successful job hunt. Three crucial points in a job search are when this study is useful: first, when you are choosing the type of firm you want to work for; second, when you are prepared to apply; and third, during the interview, when your familiarity with the business is tested.
1. Look for companies that share your values
Other than pay and benefits, 43% of candidates say they are attracted to a new job because of meaningful work. By researching a company’s core mission, you’re not only ensuring they have clear goals, but ones that resonate with your interests and passions.
If you value social causes, diversity initiatives or innovation, choose a company that aligns with these. Indeed Company Pages offer detailed information on companies around the world. Read reviews from past and present employees covering areas like company culture, salary, job advancement and work/life balance.
2. Research employee benefits the company provides
To attract potential employees, companies often disclose healthcare benefits and other perks, including stock options, flexible work schedules, or unique onsite facilities that may include gyms or catered cafeterias.
On an employer’s Indeed Company Page, there is a section for Q&A. You can see what others are saying about benefits there along with conversations on the hiring and interview process and company culture. You can even ask a question yourself. Also, review the Careers and About Us pages on a company’s website as well as their social media channels.
3. Learn about the company’s business operations
How does the company make money? Who buys their products or services and are they highly rated? Is the company a start-up, or if it’s been in business for a while, how has it grown over time? What industry is this company in? The answers to these questions will give you an idea of how stable this business is, what some of their immediate concerns might be, and how you could play a part in their success.
For public companies, you can get this information from the company website as well as access certain financial information, and office locations, and learn how the company is structured. Public companies typically post annual reports and other public financial documents online. You can also consult resources like Crunchbase to learn about funding, mergers and acquisitions, as well as the competitive landscape.
Look out for information that will help you answer questions about the industry and how the company you’re researching could pull ahead or maintain its lead.
4. Research the company’s leadership
When a company captures your interest, you should get to know who is leading the way. Research the employees who hold respected positions within the company by reading the “About Us” page and employee bios on the company’s website. Seek out the social media profiles of executives and department directors—What are their posts like? Are they proud to represent the brand or work in this industry? Some company leaders may have been interviewed or written books and articles that give you insight into their thinking.
5. Expand your research to news and recent events
A company’s website, blog, and social media are great ways to learn about a company, but you’ll also want to get an external perspective. Search for general news coverage and specific industry publications for recent updates about the company and its competitors. Scanning customer forums and product reviews can also help you gauge a company’s or their products’ reputation.
6. Ask your network for opinions
Seek opinions from trusted, reliable friends and associates. After you’ve done your research, discuss what you’ve learned with your network. Ask people you know for the inside scoop on their own company’s culture and if there are opportunities. If you’re a recent college graduate building your network from scratch, ask university advisors for names of alumni working at your target companies. Consider reaching out to these people for a quick coffee.
7. Scan the news headlines for red flags
It’s a good idea to scan headlines for major changes in a company’s recent past. Note any significant events, such as widespread layoffs, corporate mergers or buyouts, a new CEO, etc. Such changes can bring opportunities, but could also result in low employee morale and leave a volatile work environment in their wake. Proceed with caution.
8. Set aside the time necessary to research properly
It’s important to note that this research does take time. If it’s not possible for you to set aside several hours at one time, break it up into dedicated 20-minute blocks. Dedicate each block to researching a different part of the company.
A guide wouldn’t be much help if it didn’t have a few troubleshooting tips. If you lose your way or hit a wall, here are a few final suggestions to help bring you back to your destination.
9. Review related local news stories, forums and business journals
If you’re interested in working for a smaller private company, you may have difficulty tracking down information online. Fortunately, there are thousands of media sources—including national and local news, trade publications, business journals, forums, and blogs—that provide articles and product reviews. Also, try your local Chamber of Commerce offices or the Better Business Bureau.
10. Understand the type of company you want to work for
If you’re a new college graduate or in a career transition, you may want to start by building a list of industries that best suit your knowledge, skills, and interests. The Bureau of Labor has compiled a comprehensive list of industries to start with. You can also explore Indeed’s Best Places to Work pages. Navigate by industry and company ratings to find a variety of organizations that will fit with your new goals.
11. Be strategic in how you share your research in an interview
After learning all you can about a company, you may be tempted to showcase that new-found information during the interview. But be sure you do so strategically and to your benefit. Use the information you’ve learned to connect your skills and experience to the job description, goals for the department, and vision for the company throughout the interview.
Be aware that some of the information you’ve found may be outdated. If you’ve found sensitive information in your research, think carefully before bringing it up in the conversation. Creating an awkward situation with the hiring manager by attempting to show off your research talents may backfire.
Company research is time well spent developing knowledge of an organization, preparing for interviews (especially the favorite “So tell us why do you want to work here?”), and writing an eye-catching cover letter. It also helps you make an informed decision about whether a company is a good match for you.
Business research’s overarching goal is to support stakeholders in an organization in making wise decisions. Executives can better understand their target market and structure their company’s operations to increase customer satisfaction by collecting pertinent data in a variety of methods. Business research can have a general organizational goal or one that is particular to a certain division or product.