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5 Free or Cheap Market Research Techniques for Small Businesses

July 5, 2016

Larger companies have a multi-million-dollar marketing budget to spend on nationwide advertising and focus groups, so that they can reach potential customers and become aware of their requirements. Indeed, it’s hard to conceive of a business that could flourish without this. Every start-up business needs to work on marketing right from their earliest days; miss that vital step, and your business is going nowhere. But what if you don’t have the massive budget of those larger companies? All is not lost; indeed, every business had to start somewhere before it grew to its present size, and probably without the millions it has to spend on marketing today. In fact, smaller businesses are actually in a better position in one sense: they can access their customers easily and directly. That means they can make use of some simple and effective methods of marketing that won’t cost a fortune.

1. Ask Yourself Some Important Questions

Have you even sat down and done some thinking on the most important issues? You absolutely must set some goals for your business and write some projections. Ask yourself the following questions, so that you can see how realistic your plans are:

  • What are my projected earnings for my business on a monthly/annual basis?
  • What will it cost to set up my business, and what will the ongoing costs be?
  • How much will I need to make in sales if I am to achieve my desired earnings?

2. Speak to Potential Customers

If you want to know what your customers and potential customers are looking for, ask them. There’s no better way of finding out their needs and requirements, which will allow you to adapt your product or service to suit their needs. Identify who your potential customers are, where you can find them, and ask them the following questions:

  • Where else could they find a similar product/service, and what would make them opt for that one over yours?
  • What do they consider most important about your product or service, and what would make them buy it instead of another one?
  • What would they pay for your product?
  • Where would they look for a product like yours? This will help you decide where to market your product.
  • For what reasons would they buy your product?

The idea here is to identify your market and what they are looking for. Being informed will help you in the process of setting up your business and also during the early stages.

3. Online Surveys

It’s so easy to reach your potential customers these days, thanks to social media. You can use surveys to quiz them about what they want from your product or service, and it need not be expensive to set up these surveys. For example, you can use Facebook’s targeting feature to send your survey directly to relevant users. Do make sure that your survey is spotless before sending it; if any mistakes slip through, users will not be impressed and will wonder about your efficiency. You can use a company like Assignment Masters to proofread the survey.

4. Make Use of Students

Business studies and marketing students are a free tool that can be extremely useful. Contact the tutors at local colleges or universities and ask if they could assist you with your research. This is a valuable opportunity for students to gain experience in the real world of business, so they will probably be only too happy to help. And since they will be supervised throughout by their tutors, you’re guaranteed quality work.

5. Use Online Forums

You can also make very good use of the many online forums and communities related to your business. Look for blogs and forums that your potential customers may use, set up a profile for your business there, and get involved. It may take a lot of your time, but is a worthwhile investment for the access it provides to your potential market. There are almost certainly many such forums related to your business, and using them won’t cost you anything but your time.

So now you know that there are many free or low-cost marketing options open to start-ups and small companies — you don’t need to have that million-dollar budget to get started on finding out what your customers need, and where they are!

Kate Simpson is a young writer for Assignment Masters, seeking creativity and inspiration in unusual destinations. Her main hobbies are photography and 19th-century impressionism.


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