Market Research 101: A DIY Guide

market research 101 a do it yourself guideStop wasting time and money on marketing that you’re unsure of whether or not it’s working, or if it’s even reaching the right people.  As a small business owner, every dollar you spend counts.  Market research can help you get the most bang for your buck, attracting the right clients in the right way.  Take a look at this quick guide to help you turn your marketing around into a successful and effective strategy.

Why Perform Market Research?

This answer is really quite simple.  If you want to know how your company can save time and money while attracting new customers and creating loyal ones, then you need to know what your market looks like.  Identifying niches, responding to feedback, improving on your company’s downfalls, and including your target audience can help even a small business with a small marketing budget do great things, on par with their established competitors.

Professional market research is usually performed by a dedicated firm that will mine data, monitor your company’s online mentions, track the progress of current advertising campaigns, and analyze your social media presence.  Having this research is no doubt effective, thorough, and something of a road map to your company’s future success.  But it is costly…and some businesses just can’t afford it.  But that doesn’t mean market research is out of the question!

DIY Market Research

This isn’t a tall tale, people.  Do-It-Yourself market research is real!  With enough patience and effort, you can be creating customer profiles, correcting marketing mistakes, and developing a trustworthy brand that will eventually lead to more customers and bigger profits.  While there are hundreds of ways to perform market research on the cheap and by yourself, the following are the most effective.  Get creative with them and start finding out what works for your company.

The Internet:

Yes, of course.  The World Wide Web has almost everything you need to find out about who your customers are and what they think about your company.  First and foremost, run a Google search of your company’s name, products, and services.  Most likely, people have been leaving reviews on Yelp! and Google Places, sharing information on Twitter and Facebook, and perhaps even blogging about their experience.  More over, you’ll find out what people are saying about your competitors.  If they’re choosing “them” over you, you should find out why, adapt, and improve to meet their demands.

Secret Shopper:

Going undercover as a secret shopper might sound silly, but it’s also exciting.  Just think of yourself as a spy, collecting “intel” for the good of your company!  And if it makes you feel any better, the CEO of Staples has done it.  If your business has multiple locations, go shop in your other stores and interact with your employees and customers.  Get a feel for how their experience is going.  Do the same thing at your competitors’ stores.  Call them up, see how their customer service is, and find out what being one of their customers is like.  More often than not, you’ll get honest responses that can help you reconstruct your marketing goals in the future.

Customer Panel:

Customer panels and focus groups are excellent when you’re making any changes, introducing new products, or thinking up new services.  Essentially, a customer panel is getting feedback from the very people you’re trying to sell to.  Send out an email, post to your social media, and talk to your customers in-store to gain interest in a panel.  Invite a few participants to a private event where they can sample new products and offer feedback or help you brainstorm on your next service offering.  But don’t stick to the customers that already know and love you.  Find students from local colleges, put an ad out in the newspaper, and try to expand your demographics for a well-rounded perspective.

Getting Personal:

The easiest way to do market research is to just talk to people.  When you’re on a customer service call, ask your customer what you could’ve done to make their experience better.  Send out surveys and questionnaires, offering a discount or prize for the participants.  By including the people that already have a vested interest in your company, you’ll get responses that come from the heart.  Creating a company for the people and by the people is a winning combination for brand loyalty.

Just because you run a small business, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get a handle on your market like the big companies can.  In fact, a little creativity can go a long way towards your company’s market research, giving you the insight you need to turn your marketing campaigns into consumer-optimized, productive machines.

Don’t keep wasting your precious time and hard-earned dollars on marketing that may or may not work.  Apply market research to make every dollar you spend count and every customer you bring in a loyal one.

Pete Wise is the SEO Manager at Blue Onion whom have been on the cutting edge of ad creation for the better part of two decades.

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