Market research is the key to learning what your target customers want, how to deliver the best solutions, and stay ahead of competitors. Regardless of the size of your business, however, research activities — such as gathering focus groups or performing a census — can be costly, time-consuming and hard to justify, especially if you’re simply looking for a quick and simple answer.
Thankfully, in this digital age, we marketers have access to plenty of tools that allow us to circumvent traditional research methods to gather the information we need to be successful. Many of our most pressing business questions are often times a quick Google search and few clicks away — if we know what to look for and where to search.
As part of our mission to help marketers do more with less, today we’re going to share a few tricks you can use to conduct market research with limited resources. The following methods and tools will help you gather important customer insights without breaking the bank.
Determine Your Market Size and Characteristics
Knowing your market size and characteristics is critical to the success of any business plan and should be the first thing you determine before you move on to other research endeavors. This information is important because it helps you measure the potential for business growth and, therefore, determines how you approach most of your business efforts.
Going from door to door to figure out who your target customers are is an impossible task for almost any business. Luckily, the US Census Bureau has performed much of that work for us and offers some of the information they’ve gathered for free through their website. Here, you can find several tools to help you determine size, demographics, and other important audience characteristics. An advantage of this method is you can run customized reports to gather specific information that is important to your business goals, instead of rummaging through stats you don’t need.
Ask Your Customers What They Want
If you already have knowledge of your customer base and size, the next step in your market research journey is to get to know your customers on a deeper level. The best and most effective way of determining what your customers want and need is to simply ask them.
Surveys are an easy and effective way to collect answers from your customers and are now easier to distribute than ever before. Tools like Google Forms allow you to create your own questionnaire and collect data in a centralized location. You can directly email the survey to your customers or distribute it on your social channels to cast a wider net.
If you’re working with a marketing automation tool like Act-On, you can forgo a traditional survey and create landing pages with targeted offers to help you collect key information over time. This method can be even more effective than surveys because it provides customers an incentive — such as a key resource or content piece — for providing you with their information. Another benefit of using forms to collect information is that it automatically integrates with your CRM, so you can store these insights to give to your sales team when the time comes to close a deal.
Take Advantage of Google Analytics
If you think Google Analytics is only intended to help you measure and track performance, you’re not leveraging this platform to its fullest. Certain features within this tool can also improve your understanding of how your customers think and what they want.
To start, looking at search pages allows you to analyze which content is attracting and resonating with your customers. In addition, examining search terms gives you a better sense of how your audience is looking for information on your website — providing you the insights you need to speak their language.
Why is this piece of research important to your market research efforts? While you may already offer a product or service your customers want, there might be room to improve your messaging and keywords so your customers can find these materials more easily.
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Monitor Social Media for Hashtags
According to Statista, we can expect to see 2.77 billion social media users in 2019 (1). Although not all of these individuals are your customers, this numbers tells us you can expect a large percentage of your customer base to be active on various social networking channels.
In addition to providing a channel where you can easily connect with customers, social media platforms also house useful information that can enhance your market research efforts. Most social media platforms provide you with key demographic information so you can know who your target audience is on each. Furthermore, the widespread use of hashtags makes it easy to analyze what is trending with your target customers. Platforms such as Instagram even allow you to gain insight into how often certain hashtags are used so you can track your potential reach.
Check Out What’s Trending on the Internet
Google is the central hub most consumers use to search for information before making a final decision. Much to our advantage, Google is generous to share some of the insights collected through their search engine via tools such as Google Trends. In addition to enabling you to identify what is trending, this useful tool lets you compare search terms and even see how they perform by subregion. This feature is particularly handy if you’re trying to pick an option that will best suit your audience based on their location.
Determining Next Steps
Now that you’ve gathered your market insights, it’s time to put them to use. Implement what you’ve learned to update your goal metrics, customer personas, and business plan. The main benefit of these tools being free is that they enable you to make performing market research a consistent effort, ensuring that you always stay on top of new trends in your industry so you can revise your overall business efforts accordingly.