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5 low-cost marketing research techniques for small businesses

July 1, 2016

Article courtesy of Credibly
By Kate Simpson

Big companies spend millions of dollars on TV ads, national surveys, and focus groups in order to connect with customers and better understand their needs. For successful businesses, it’s a necessary investment. Doing marketing research is one of the first actions you need to take before launching a start-up. Skipping it is like walking through a minefield blindfolded.

Unfortunately, not everyone can afford expensive marketing research. However, small business owners have a great advantage over the giants: they’re closer to their customers. That translates into more accessible ways of conducting research by taking advantage of a few easy and affordable options.

Here are five low-cost and extremely efficient marketing research techniques that will allow you to validate your product idea and attract more customers.

1.   Question Yourself First
If you haven’t done this already, you’ve neglected the most important part of the process. Before even thinking of getting your idea out there, you have to create an estimate of how your business will perform early on, and set some realistic business goals. Here are few questions you have to address yourself first:

How much money do I plan to earn each year/month off of my product/service?
What are the costs of the initial startup, and what are the costs of the maintenance?
How much do I need to sell in order to reach my financial goal?
These three preliminary questions will help you understand how much effort you need to put into your business, whether or not you’re on track, and how well defined your idea is before you go to market.

2.  Directly Interview Your Potential Customers
Direct interaction is king, and what better way of performing it other than directly contacting potential prospects and customers? Find out who they are, how you can reach them, and then just do it. Here are some good questions that you should prepare before starting that conversation:

  • What is the most valuable aspect of your product?
  • What alternatives do they have, and why would they choose it instead of your product?
  • Why would they choose your product instead of others?
  • What events or personal issues would make them instantly buy your product?
  • How much are they willing to pay?
  • Where is the place they’d go first when looking for a product such as yours?

You can add new questions, or even remove some of the above. The main target here is to discover and then analyze the people who will eventually buy from you. The more information you can get from them, the better off your new business will be.

3.  Set Up Online Surveys
An even easier way of finding out valuable answers from your potential customers is to set up surveys. There are thousands of companies online — free or paid — that will allow you to fine-tune your product idea with the help of the public.

If you don’t have a customer database yet, you can use social media when trying to reach a specific audience. Facebook for example has an amazing targeting feature that will allow you to place your surveys into the hands of the right people.

Here’s a quick tip. If you are serious about conducting a marketing research campaign, you need to invest few bucks into proofreading your surveys and content. Assignment Masters is the best solution because it’s an extremely affordable and qualitative service.

4.  Leverage Marketing Professors and Students
This strategy is extremely useful and most of the times cost-free. You basically seek marketing professors from universities in your local town and ask them for help. They will be extremely happy to let their students get practical experience while working on your business’s research.

Young and motivated students are often willing to work harder for you than a paid service/consultant would. Furthermore, the students are going to be advised by the professor throughout the process, so the marketing research will overseen by an expert and as efficient as it can be. Win-win.

5.  Join Online Communities
There are tons of blogs, live chats, and forums that everyone with an internet connection can access. Start by compiling a list of all the online destinations where your potential customers spend their time. After you have your list, begin creating a profile for yourself or your company on each of them and start engaging.

This can be a very time consuming process, but a price needs to be paid — either your money, or your time. Engaging with potential customers online is a free method, and can be used by almost any type of business.

Small companies should never underestimate the power of the free tools that are available to them. Remember, small businesses can become great companies in time, and there are hundreds of examples that prove this. Go out there and make it happen!

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