Researching Your Market on a Budget

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Market research may seem like a luxury reserved for established firms, but it’s critically important for startups too. Here are a few ways to get started without spending a fortune.

The best way to get to know your market is to talk to your customers, and that’s something anyone can do. Surveys and focus groups are two very good places to start.

For surveys, send a questionnaire to existing customers or sample those who meet your target demographic (if you’re not capturing detailed information about your customers, get started). A survey isn’t the easiest thing in the world to create, so consider hiring a marketing consultant, or at least get feedback from people whose opinions you value.

A focus group will typically have six to 10 participants and last 90 minutes tops. Because your sample is small, you’re aiming for more in-depth feedback. Good issues for a focus group include price points, advertising campaigns and product and service features.

If you have a college or university nearby that offers an MBA program, your marketing project could make for a real-world learning opportunity for a student – and save you money in the process. Contact marketing professors to see if students can help perform market research for you.

Study your competition. Visit their store, count their customers and track their social media efforts. Visit their website and see how they position their products and services. Is your competitor successful? Is there room for the both of you in the market? Are they doing something wrong or leaving an opening for you to exploit?

As you gather your information, keep an open mind so you can spot new opportunities. And listen to any feedback that’s critical of your own business; it could be just what you need to hear.

Adapted from 3 Market Research Tips for Small Business by Maryalene LaPonsie at Small Business Computing.