If a business in Canada wishes to expand, grow and succeed, a piece of frequent advices it will certainly get is captured in two words: market research. Essentially, know your customers and know your niche. Business planning experts will tell you never to underestimate the importance of market research. They will tell you that market research is the direct function that links the business to its customers through information – information that will identify marketing opportunities, define market problems, monitor business performance and direct where the business should move forward.
Although some large firms in Ghana perform it, market research is often something small businesses overlook. A month ago, I partnered with a local input firm (KAKs Agro-Input Dealer) and conducted a survey of 75 farmers from five communities in Ajumako District, Central Region, Ghana. The purpose of the survey was to perform market research for Charles, the input firm owner, by assessing farmers’ access to inputs and information. The survey questions were tailored to study what challenges farmers currently face in obtaining agricultural inputs and information, and how best to address these.
Here is a sample of the information that was generated from the survey.
What does the data tell us? It confirms what we likely already guessed, that most farmers are small-scale farmers that work on (through rent or ownership) land smaller than 10 poles (6.25 acres).
What does this mean for an input business? For many farmers, one of their biggest constrains is the inability to acquire more land. The input firm can thus tailor to farmer needs by providing information on how the farmers can increase productivity on their small scale farms without having to increase land size.
What does the data tell us? Different communities focus on different crops and therefore will want access to different information, products and services.
What does this mean for an input business? At the start of each crop’s growing season, the input firm can look at the graph, assess which communities are heavy growers of this crop, and bring to those communities inputs specific to that crop. By knowing what crops each community focuses on, the input firm will able to target farmers’ needs and make the most of market opportunities.
What does the data tell us? 23% of farmers do not have adequate knowledge on the chemicals being sold, 50% do not see the need for chemicals and 22% say they do not have money to purchase chemicals.
What does this mean for an input business? For the farmers who say they have no knowledge, this is a great opportunity for input dealers to provide that knowledge. For the farmers who say they have no need, it is time for input dealers to visit those farms and verify. For the farmers who say they have no money, input dealers can inform them of pre-credit and post-credit financial management methods.
The next step for the input firm is to use the information and ideas generated from this data to pilot innovative approaches to improve and increase their relationships with rural Ghanaian farmers, and thus help farmers increase their performance market access and ultimately and lead better lives.