Tips And Tools For Organizing Your Product And Market Research
Research is critical to determining the viability of your invention idea. As you search out information and answers make sure to stay organized, so you don’t get overwhelmed and so you can efficiently access important facts again in the future. Plan now to save time later; here are some tips and tools to support your search.
Categorize Your Research For Quick Access
How you categorize the data you collect will make or break your successfulness with implementing the suggested tools. You may not be able to completely iron out a filing system for organizing details and data at first, but as you continue to gather information categories will emerge naturally and you will more clearly see how things fit together.
Generally you will have categories that align with your future business plans. These tend to be divided by business functions:
--Marketing - competition (direct and indirect)
--Marketing - target markets and ideal customers
--Operations/Production - how you will produce your product/service, materials and vendors
--Administration/Management - tools and vendors to help you start and run a business
Ultimately you are the primary user of the data you find, however you should plan ahead and think more broadly. It is ok to be obvious when organizing, the goal is to be efficient in the long-term, save your mental capacity for digesting the information at hand, not remembering where something is. Try to strike a balance between too many folders (too much clicking back and forth), or not enough (too long searching for something). Don’t get too committed to the system you put in place, be open to revising and reorganizing at anytime to get the most out of what you’ve found.
Get feedback from others. Friends and family may not be accessing the information regularly, but they may bring some insights into how to streamline getting to it. If you are ever in a pinch and need their help (say, to send you something you forgot for an important meeting), they could do so. Also, should something more serious happen to you, this data you invested in finding can be an asset to be moved forward with - rather than a disorganized roadblock.
Tools - Many Options for Data Organization
With so much information living online, it only makes sense to store these findings in a digital format. Here are a few tools that are easy to start incorporating into your research routine:
---Browser bookmarks - Look for the star icon in the search bar of your favorite browser. When you left double-click on the icon you can create and manage a folder system.
---Digital Notebooks (Evernote, Springpad, Microsoft OneNote) - A catchall for data, these tools can capture information in a variety of formats, not just text. These are especially useful when synced with a smartphone or tablet, for on-the-go finds
---Cloud-based document storage (Google Drive, Dropbox) - Unlike a notebook, which is just accessed by one user, you, a cloud-based document is shared with others. Real-time collaboration with others is convenient as you refine and add to ideas in brainstorm lists and business plans.
---RSS Reader (Feedly, Theneeds) - For ongoing research, and to stay abreast of the latest news in an industry or by keyword create your own news dashboard with an RSS reader. Many readers have bookmark and share features to keep track of key articles for later or to incorporate into a digital notebook.
---Paper and Pen - Online is where you need to be, but sometimes it is nice to have three ring binder to grab. As you find some critical pieces of data there might be some worth while to have in your hands.
Remember to keep it simple and stay consistent with your folder structure across platforms.
Back It Up - Invest in Data Storage
Now that you have utilized some new platforms to organize the data you find, make sure you protect what you have gathered with a backup plan. Computers crash, accounts get hacked, life happens; it is important to export your findings regularly (bi-weekly, or monthly at least) and have a devoted external hardrive to duplicate it to as a backup when the worst happens. There are also many online services devoted to just this process. The cost of a backup thumbdrive, a few DVDs or subscription service is miniscule compared to having to reinvest the time to do research again. So invest the time and money to back up everything you are working on.
Gathering research is critical to determining the future steps of your invention idea. Start out with a research organization plan to save yourself time later. Take advantage of a variety of data organizing tools, categorize your findings and determine a back-up storage plan today!
Rachel Jackson - Peacock Publicity
Rachel Jackson is an Indianapolis-based publicist and integrated marketing consultant who is enthusiastic about equipping small businesses. She has been supporting entrepreneurs and startups for more than ten years by implementing bottom-line focused ideas. You can reach her at PeacockPublicity.com.