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For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

What types of market research should I use?

Are you confused or sceptical about what market research can offer? Julia Whitehead, director of Ask Joe Public, reveals how to use market research successfully

Broadly there are two types of market research - quantitative and qualitative - and the relevance of either will depend on what sort of information you want to obtain.

Quantitative research is driven by statistical data. So, for example, if you want to find out what proportion of the market claim they would buy your product, then quantitative research is what you need to do.

There are many different types of quantitative research, although broadly this approach is questionnaire-based and consists of closed-ended questions generally with a five-point scale on whether you agree or disagree with the statement.

The other type of research is qualitative research, which is often conducted with smaller samples of people and uses questioning techniques that are open-ended and interviews that are longer in duration. Qualitative research doesn't provide you with figures, but will enable you to get under the skin of what people feel and why.

Qualitative research is more often done face-to-face, although internet-based research is becoming more popular. The most popular form of qualitative research is focus groups or group discussions. These are groups of between six and eight people and they are used to explore their opinions about products, brands and services.

How do I know which type of market research to use?

Qualitative research can be used on its own, when you do not require statistics, but can also be used in advance of a quantitative research to help decide what questions need to be asked in the survey. Finally, qualitative and quantitative can be used alongside each other with qualitative providing an extra depth of understanding to the quantitative data.

What should I consider before undertaking any market research?

Before you begin a market research project it's important that you write a research brief. A research brief will include:

  • Background into your product or brand. This can include when you were established, turnover and where you are at now, as well as what you want the market research to deliver. There may also be specific theories or ideas that you have developed about your brand and wish to test.
  • Objectives, or what you want the information to tell you.
  • A description of your target market - the people that you want to gather opinions from. The sample is an important part of the process for both types of research. For instance, if you're manufacturing a new brand of breakfast cereal, it is important that your sample are regular breakfast cereal-eaters and/or purchasers and their age and demographics relate to your target audience. It sounds obvious, but it's no good interviewing pensioners about a children's breakfast cereal.
  • The type of information you require - for example, qualitative or quantitative.
  • Samples of products and packaging that may be shown to respondents in the course of the market research.
  • Budget - how much money do you have available to spend on this project?
  • Timings - when realistically you would like your feedback by? A common mistake of many companies is that they don't plan research far enough in advance.

How do I find the right market research agency or consultant to help me?

If you're employing a research agency or consultant, give potential suppliers your research brief and invite them to respond with a proposal outlining the type of research and methodology they would recommend. Ask around for recommendations and consult industry bodies to find the right agencies to approach. The more background information that you can provide them with, the better equipped they are to provide you with a constructive and appropriate response. Your shortlist for pitching should not be more than about three agencies or consultants.

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