How to Assess Your Business Idea & Do Preliminary Market Research without Spending a Dollar

by Josh Biggs in Business on 9th March 2020

Market research has traditionally been a barrier to entry for many would-be entrepreneurs. Time-consuming and often relatively expensive, getting opinions and important data to inform your potential business investment used to be difficult and a bit of a pain!

Telephone interviews, group studies would still be included in a thorough market research endeavour in 2020, however, if you are thinking of investing only a small amount of money, or just want to get a feel for the competitive environment, using online tools can be good enough for you to progress.

You can get a quick, yet insightful look at the competition and the state of your niche by using several online tools whilst you are sat in your office or bedroom, rather than spending time interviewing people.

Is Your Business Idea In Demand?

Generally speaking, business ideas or services that have high demand, tend to be businesses that have a high ‘barrier-to-entry’. 

For example, training to be a physiotherapist takes requires a professional qualification that in the UK, takes at least 3 years of training to acquire.

However, becoming a qualified personal trainer can be done in a weekend or with a distance-learning course. For this reason, physiotherapists tend to charge more per hour and tend to be more in demand than personal trainers are.

This is barrier-to-entry rules isn’t always true however, as demand for different products is services can often fluctuate or there just might not be a sufficient number of people able to fulfil a specific demand. You can check this usually a few online tools…

Find Out What People Are Searching For on Google – Keyword Research

Using the Google Search function to see what people are searching for. Use Google’s predictive search function and suggested search items that appear at the bottom of their results pages.

 As an example, let’s say you are thinking of starting a fitness-related business. You can enter the word “fitness” into the address/search bar on Google Chrome and see a number of predicted search terms:

Make a note of what other, relevant, search terms appear. 

To further expand your list, you can add the letter a to your term – for example, “Fitness a” and then see what search terms appear again, and again make a note of the relevant terms. 

Continue this by typing in “fitness b”, “fitness c”, up to “fitness z”, making a note of the relevant terms.

You can then perform searches using your list of relevant terms, scroll to the bottom of the results page and check out the list of “Searches related to fitness” that should appear.

Make a note of anything relevant. You can use these search terms to populate content on your website and to conduct further market research later on…

Google Maps

If you will be serving a local clientele, it can be worth checking on Google Maps, to check how many people offer a specific service.

For example, you might be thinking of starting your own telephone answering service. A quick search on Google Maps can show you how many providers are already established in the state.

It’s clear to see that competition is pretty stiff when it comes to providing answering services in the area.

Google Trends

A quick search on Google Trends for terms related to your industry can give you an idea as to whether or not the product or service that you are thinking of offering is experiencing a growth in demand or not.

For example, if you are thinking of opening a health food shop or eCommerce store, it might be interesting to see the huge rise in demand recently for elderberry syrup:

You can narrow down your search to state level. For example the above screenshot shows the trend of online searches in Florida.

If you have a number of relevant search terms from your keyword research earlier, add these to Google trends too.

This will help inform your offer, your selling points and the pages on your website.


Using Ubersuggest can be a good way to see how many people are searching online for your product or service.

The search volumes are approximations so take them with a pinch of proverbial salt but it can indicate if there is a huge interest or not.

For example, if you are a soccer coach in Florida, you can search for “soccer coach Florida” on the website and see how many people per month (approximately) search for that term. 

In conjunction with Google Trends, you can get a good idea of the kind of demand that’s out there. Remember to use all the keywords you found earlier with your keyword research on Google.

You can also use Ubersuggest, or Google’s Keyword Planner to check out how expensive Google Ads are on a ‘per click’ basis.

Google Ads appear at the top of the search results pages. They generally only appear on the more commercial terms, with some kind of purchase intent.

Ubersuggest and Keyword Planner will show you the “cost per click” of an advert that appears for a given keyword/search term.

For example, if you are thinking of starting your own accountancy firm in California, it could be helpful to know how much an advert on Google for the search term “accountant California” costs, each time someone clicks on it.

Knowing the cost per click, as well as Ubersuggest’s gauge of “paid difficulty” and “SEO difficulty” can help to ascertain how competitive a given sector is. With this in mind, it can be worth comparing different sectors to see how yours compare to other local services  – if that’s what you are going to offer.

For example, “accountant California” has a cost per click of approximately $9 at the time of writing. “personal trainer California” has a cost per click of $6, and “financial advisor” has a cost per click of $19. This suggests that being a financial advisor in California is more competitive and/or more lucrative than personal training in the area.

Freelancers – Check Online Job Platforms/Search Engines

Checking the local job advertisements can help you to ascertain the demand for a given freelance service. The higher the wages on offer and the more job postings for a specific service, the higher the demand.

For example, searching on for “Backend developer” in London, the jobs on offer tend to pay around 10-20k more per annum than jobs for SEO Executives – which tends to suggest that a backend developer freelancer would be in more demand, and could charge a higher rate than a freelancer SEO consultant.

These are just a few ideas of how you can use online tools to gauge the demand for a specific business idea before taking it further or investing any money. Market research itself can be quite costly, so these tools and online searches can provide a good starting point. Remember to always complete a business plan and do thorough market research before investing any money.

Categories: Business