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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
Inexpensive Ways to Conduct Marketing Research
As small business owners, we typically don’t have the resources to spend tons of money on marketing research tactics like corporate American uses, such as focus groups or national surveys, which cost a lot of money to conduct. However, we do have an advantage over big companies – we are closer to the customer. Which means we have more inexpensive, and relatively easy, options available to us.
Before conducting any sort of marketing research as a small business owner, you first need to make sure your client list is up to date with current addresses, telephone numbers and, most importantly, e-mail addresses.
E-mail is one of the best, quickest, and budget efficient ways to communicate with your clientele. It’s also an inexpensive way to do some marketing research, by offering current clients an incentive to take an online survey, such a coupon for 15% off their next purchase. You could also offer an additional 10% off for referring your survey to friends or family who are not current customers. That way you have a chance to get an expanding survey base.
There are online survey tools available to small businesses at a reasonable cost, most of which provide survey templates that you can tweak to fit your business specifically, without any knowledge base in research marketing. Some of these providers include Survey Monkey, which has a free basic or inexpensive upgraded options; or Constant Contact, which offers both e-mail marketing and online surveys for a low monthly rate.
Another research option is to add polling to your website. This is something you often find on news websites, that poll the reader about their thoughts on a specific situation. The premise is very similar for your website, accept that you ask a question (one question is sufficient) that provides important information to you about your customers.
For example, on my photography business website I could add a polling question that asks “When was the last time you had family pictures taken?” and give multiple choice response possibilities, such as 0-6 months ago, 6 months to a year ago, 1-5 years ago, or I can’t remember when. If this is the route you take, be sure to change your polling question often – probably about once every couple of weeks, depending on the traffic your website gets.
Another option is to offer a link to a coupon on your website. When the customer clicks on the link, set it up to direct them to a brief survey (no more than 10-15 questions) in order to redeem the coupon. Remember, with any survey or polling question, multiple choice responses are the best option.
Blogs, message boards and feedback/customer review options are always good opportunities to find out what your customer is looking for from your business and your product, and they are inexpensive additions to any website. Though they aren’t a definitive marketing research tool, most customers who post a message have something important to say that you should probably be taking into consideration.
And, of course, your sales team can provide some essential insight regarding your customers and what they are looking for. Be sure to arrange monthly meetings between your sales and marketing teams, no matter how small, so that they can provide each other with valuable information that will help both areas to be more successful. And it doesn’t cost a thing to have these two areas of your business work together.
As always, be creative. Though you may not have the financial resources that larger businesses have, you surely have just as much (if not more) brain power and pizazz.
• Entrepreneur.com: Deep Insight Without Deep Pockets
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