Once you've read up on your market, start to focus on your customers. Again, is there research out there which will tell you about your customers - such as Mintel? Or is information from the Local Authority or from Government useful - the Leeds Statistics site has plenty of useful info, and the Neighbourhood Statistics site has census data and other useful information on it.
The Up My Street site can give useful neighbourhood based information too - including ACORN neigbhourhood profiles.
You may well have to do some primary research yourself. In essence, it's quite simple - think about what you want to find out - and then start asking questions! It probably won't feel that simple in practice, but remember not to over-complicate things. If you want to do field research - including questionnaires - have a look at some useful tips on the Business Link website. This tutorial from statpac is also pretty useful.
And to help you to design and analyse online questionnaires, you may want to use the excellent, free-to-use Survey Monkey.
Once you've found out about your customers, you may want split them into groups, based on any common characteristics. This is called a market segmentation - and there's more information about it on the Business Link website.
In a lot of cases, you can get ideas on how to segment your customers from market research reports. For example, when we helped someone write a plan for a gardening service, we based our segmentation on the one in Mintel's report on the gardening market:
The idea is that you can alter your marketing mix for each of these groups - we'll talk about marketing mix later.
Now, you need to find out more about your competitors.