Thanks to modern technology, savvy entrepreneurs now have the ability to connect with their core audience on the sort of massive scale that used to be the sole purview of the global corporation. With a laptop and a quality internet connection even the smallest of small businesses can compete with the big boys, as long as its products are world class and its services can stand up under the heavy load. But one aspect of your business where you certainly can’t cut corners is market research. After all, how do you determine if your products and services are truly where they need to be without it? Feedback is crucial for any business, be it a startup or a recognized brand. Financing these operations is always a serious limitation, so here are five inexpensive ways to conduct market research.
First of all, see if the existing social networking tools can help your efforts. The easiest way to get immediate, in person feedback is to join meetup groups within your niche and attend events. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to directly pitch your product, you will hear reviews of other products and services and can engage the prominent, regular members in a more direct conversation during the casual networking periods.
Are you already generating an email list? Then use each signup as an opportunity to conduct market research. Once someone signs up for your service, create an automated survey that will be sent out. Promise this new customer something for free if they’d be willing to take the time to fill it out. Since this is an online, database-driven effort it won’t cost you anything after the initial design and set up. And you’ll receive immediate feedback from new customers as to what they are looking for, and how you can keep them around and generate repeat business.
These surveys are great, but you’ll still need feedback from people more familiar with your business. Sometimes it’s worth it to approach things the old fashioned way, so pull a list of your best fifty or so clients and pick up the phone. You can use the same survey you had online, or come up with something more detailed. Give them a chance to earn free stuff, and promise that their time and opinions will actually mean something. You’ll find many people more than willing to share their thoughts when given this sort of personal attention.
Next, set up a market research group. All of the major corporations do this, bringing together a variety of demographics to sit in the same room and analyze a product. This may cost you a bit more, perhaps as much as $50 per person for a couple hours of their time. But you will get a different type of input when people are in a social setting. Feedback will build and shift based on what other people say, giving you a unique and valuable perspective.
Finally, don’t forget about the vast amount of information your employees can provide. This is especially true if you have staff that regularly interacts with customers, either as sales people or customer service representatives. These are the folks who hear the good, the bad and the ugly each and every day, and will provide the people’s perspective in a way that even the best Selby business advisors won’t be able to match. Set up a company lunch and open the floor to any and all thoughts and suggestions. As long as you don’t censor things, you’ll find an incredible amount of insight this way.