Ask the experts: Research on a budget
Monday, April 18, 2011
What's the best way to conduct market research on a budget?
Drew Janes: Whether you have products or services at a local or national level, the best place to start doing market research for any business on a budget is not as hard as you think... just Google it. Typically, market research services can be hired out to a specific firm or agency or you may get lucky enough to find a freelancer with talent to do research for you. If you're in a tight spot and are needing to spare a few bucks, start with the resources that are free. For Relentless, all of the clients that we want to attract or pitch, we research. We study who they are, their character, their products or services and where they stand in the market against their competition.
All of this can be done utilizing free resources like Google, but the No. 1 ingredient to good research is having the initiative to ask. If you want to know more about your market and the people that need to buy your product or service, just ask. Talk to your customers or potential customers about their thoughts, buying patterns, interests. If studying your competition is in your scope, utilize Google to see what their customers are saying. How do these companies view customer service and support? How does your competition show growth and what are their weaknesses?
Researching your market and knowing your customers go hand in hand. Just remember to keep it simple and keep asking. Making informed business decisions from the information you gathered is the goal, but it's not something that you start doing... it has to be an everyday part of operating your business.
Dana Hukel: In some instances there are ways to employ budget-neutral tactics for your organization in marketing and advertising. However, market research is not one of those instances.
I've seen many organizations attempt to conduct the research themselves, only later to realize the information is inaccurate or not useful. Having misused time and dollars, they then decide to contract with a firm. It's better to simply budget and begin with an outside firm to conduct the research.
Being within an organization puts you in close proximity and makes it hard for you to be unbiased. A firm outside of your organization can conduct unbiased, thorough, educated research, through proven methods to determine what your consumers want, need and believe.
A professional firm will conduct a brand audit, target market assessment, focus groups and internal communications audit, among other things. They will determine what drives your audience, reaches them and calls them to action.
In the end, the money spent on market research is a great investment. If you're on a budget, I recommend contacting an outside firm and determining cost. Without accurate research you'll be spending dollars haphazardly and costing your organization even more in the long run.
Market research is one of those times it's best to turn things over to a professional outside of your organization.