Whether you’re trying to assess market demand before releasing a new product or service, choosing the best location in which to sell, or simply looking to gain a deeper understanding of your target audience, market research is an indispensable path to truly understanding your customers’ needs and expectations. These days, there are many options to engage in this critical component of any business strategy. Here are five cost-effective techniques you can consider.
1. Start with Secondary Research
Pure desk-based research can tell you a lot about a market you’re looking to enter, or are perhaps already established in. Things to look for could range from the size of your market, historical trends, the traditional “path to purchase”, and how market share is currently distributed between competitors. If you are on a tight budget, getting this kind of feel for your market can help you avoid dangerous pitfalls. Some great places to look are economic development groups, industry associations, or census data.
2. Pick up the Phone
The best way to find out what your customers or prospects want? Ask them! You can’t beat the nuances and insights you will get from speaking directly to your target audience. Start with your employees, then take the opportunity to ask your customers for their feedback too. Use your personal and professional connections to identify prospects and gather opinions, both about the market and your product. Make sure you select your sample carefully to get unbiased opinions. A previous post from Tenato has some actionable tips on how to maximize those conversations.
3. Get Social (Media)
Using Social Media tools can be a great alternative or complement to more traditional market research techniques. Social Media can serve as a readily-available, real-time market research shop. You can track keyword mentions around your products or services, uncover industry influences, and participate in and follow relevant hashtags and twitter chats. Some platforms allow you to create surveys or polls.
You can also start a discussion in a LinkedIn group or join a forum to uncover what questions your customers are asking about products or services in your industry. Be aware, if you are joining groups like this, you are there to HELP, not to SELL. Lastly, you can explore tools within social media platforms like Facebook Ads that allow you to A/B Test your advertisements to optimize your results with traditional media.
With the right social media tools, you can gain meaningful, real-time insights far more cost-effectively than ever before.
4. Observe and Record
It is critical to pay close attention to your target market and how they choose and interact with your brand. It’s also essential to continue to stay in tune with their needs as they change. By merely observing customers, you can gain a lot of insight into how they make purchasing decisions. This technique is more geared toward consumer products, but potentially there are business-to-business products that also could be sold through a brick and mortar wholesaler or distributor.
Ask your retailer or wholesale partner if you can merely observe the aisles in which your product is sold. You can also set up site tours to watch how your products are used once purchased, obviously more challenging for consumer products. Useful insight can be gained not just by observing the end users but by watching and listening to how your competitors sell.
5. Online Surveys
Survey Monkey and Zoho Survey are online survey tools that allow you to connect and gain data from customers or prospects. Once you’ve designed your survey, you can send out an email (CASL compliant) encouraging customers, suppliers, and employees to take part. Typically, an incentive to complete the survey is helpful – a voucher, discount or the chance to win a prize. The challenge with designing an online survey is that if you don’t ask the right questions, you won’t get the right answers.
One final thought as you undertake your market research: begin this initiative with an open mind. It is very easy to see only what you wish to see. However, your research will be most impactful if you can embrace findings that surprise you, enlighten you, or perhaps make you a bit uncomfortable. The best way to capitalize on the insights uncovered by your research is to implement your business plan based on those findings.