When business owners hear the words “Market Research,” they usually have one of two responses:
- Joy, hope and optimism for the future
If you fall into the second category, you’re not alone. That’s because you’re thinking, “Oh, great. Now I have to hire a professional market research company to conduct multiple rounds of focus groups and generate a massive report, then hand over half of my life savings to pay for it.”
And not too long ago you would have been correct.
But like so many things that have been revolutionized by technology, research is no longer a daunting, expensive undertaking—at least, it doesn’t have to be. These days, you have a lot of amazing tools at your disposal and many of them are extremely affordable, if not free. They allow you to easily gather timely information on topics such as the challenges your buyers are currently facing and overall brand perception. It’s the perfect way to tap into the folks who recently made a purchase (or purposefully decided not to make one).
Here are a few ways to do your own research without breaking the bank:
- Online Reviews—Services like Google and Yelp can be tremendously insightful. Occasionally, they don’t tell you what you want to hear (no one loves a one-star review) but each and every time they lend invaluable insight into what your customers are currently thinking about your product or service. Read the comments and really consider them. This can be a goldmine of consumer understanding.
- Social Media Surveys—If you have social media accounts, you already have a captive audience of fans and followers. (And if you don’t have social media accounts, get on that, ASAP.) Leverage these accounts to tap into your people. It costs nothing to throw out casual questions and see what sort of input and suggestions come back.
- Customer Surveys—If you have regular touch-points with your customers (for instance, sales emails) take that opportunity to find out if they wouldn’t mind answering a few questions. Keep it short—no more than five. But you can get a lot of quick, topical information this way.
- Social Media Responses—Don’t just post to your Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn accounts and walk away. Respond to the comments. Engaging with customers one-on-one is a great way to retain them. It shows that you are listening and truly care.
- Paid Online Surveys—There’s that word, “Paid.” But don’t freak out. Online survey companies such as Survey Monkey are a very affordable way to poll your customers. And they cost a fraction of what a professional research company will charge for focus groups.
This is all great news, right? Yes, it is. BUT this isn’t to say you should never hire professional researchers. Definitely rely on the pros to handle large or high profile undertakings like say, starting or expanding a business or embarking on a new product launch. Third-party market research can bring an invaluable perspective. There are even firms that specialize in specific industry segments such as financial services or higher education. So, DIY on the day-to-day, week-to-week stuff. And when the time comes, the money you’ve saved will be well-spent on the big initiatives.
The bottom line: Research is still a science, it’s just no longer rocket science.