For small business owners, when it comes to market research, the Internet is a blessing in disguise. There’s a tonne of information about consumers, their habits and their desires and it’s right at the tips of your fingers!
In the past, marketing firms and businesses had to rely on costly, more time consuming methods like focus groups, telephone surveys and other data-gathering methods. Some companies, even to this day, offer postal surveys with a prize draw attached to it. Do you know anyone who has never responded to a Reader’s Digest survey?
Online research offers some excellent shortcuts as well as the ability to save you time and money.
When you start any online marketing campaign, the first step is to gather relevant keywords and put them in a spreadsheet. Keywords are essential but they don’t give you much hard data about your target audience beyond what they’re searching for online. You need to do a little more, dig a little deeper.
Here are 5 ways to do your market research online.
The survey has always been a viable method of conducting quantitative market research and discovering general trends. Now that we can do surveys online, it’s much cheaper and more convenient than standing in the local shopping centre harassing passers-by.
Here are three popular survey programs -
Check out the survey site’s features; some of the programs that automate everything for you, tallying the results and creating reports so you don’t have to.
Online surveys are effective because respondents can be completely anonymous. If you’d like to know a little more about the respondents, why not try asking some Facebook Questions?
Forums and Q&A sites
Online forums and question-and-answer sites are a natural source for gathering information. You often don’t even need to ask; someone else may have started a discussion on the topic.
- LinkedIn Answers
- Yahoo Answers
If you want to know, for example, how people feel about Facebook’s latest change (and there seems to be one every week), the chances are good that people are already talking about it.
Your Email list
If you have an email list, this is a wonderful audience for your questions and your subscribers will respond. Mixed in with your valuable content and targeted offers, you can ask your subscribers questions, send them to your surveys and use this data for future offers. The great advantage with your list is that they’re pre-screened and you have a connection already. You already have a built-in audience that’s interested in your products or services.
Social networks are priceless because there are far more happening than just personal discussions. On sites like Facebook, people tell you exactly what they like or dislike. You can also look at the kind of content they share to get an idea of what they’re into. Sites like Twitter and Facebook also offer apps that help you do market research.
On your blog, you can gain valuable information from your readers by simply asking questions. Write a blog post and at the end say something like, ‘What do you think about this?’ People love to share their opinions and they’ll often happily do so.
The great thing about blog questions is that they’re versatile; you can introduce a new line and ask them directly what they think, or share a story that’s unrelated to your business and ask for their opinion to find out how they feel about life in general.
If the question is more formal, you can use your blog to promote the survey you’ve created. And of course you can combine emailing your list and sharing your post across social media sites to get more responses.
Don’t quit offline market research
The Internet makes market research easy, but it’s still a good idea to research offline as well.
The main advantage of offline research is that it’s deeper. Focus groups, for example, give you personal interaction that you don’t always get online – you get to observe body language and how the participants react to certain questions. Participants are more engaged in the sessions and they’re likely to tell you more.
The best research strategy is to blend market research with both online and off, depending on your budget and resources.
What methods of market research has worked well for you?