How to Conduct Market Research on a Tight Budget

Dana Youngren
Dana Youngren
4 mins
DIY market research focus group at startup office

Building a successful company takes a lot of capital. You have to invest in people, facilities, technology, and more.

So, when it comes to conducting market research, many small- to mid-sized businesses feel like they simply don’t have the funds to pull it off successfully. There may not be tens of thousands of dollars available in the marketing budget for buying research reports or commissioning research projects from vendors.  

And yet understanding your target market must be a priority. Researching your target market allows you to make data-driven decisions about your product development, marketing, and the overall customer experience you provide.

Fortunately, you don’t need to have a large budget for DIY market research.

With the right strategy, your company can conduct effective market research without needlessly wasting money.

Get a basic understanding of your target market

Thanks to the internet, you can conduct tons of valuable DIY market research without spending a dime.

A simple way to start is to visit the websites of your primary competitors. Pay attention to:

  • The language they use.
  • Who their marketing is targeting.
  • The problems they’re solving and facing.
  • Which organizations they partner with.

Researching your competitors can give you insights into niche markets they are overlooking, or problems you can solve that they’re not currently addressing.

You’ll also want to check out any trade publications that are available to get a pulse on the latest industry trends affecting your target market.

Industry Dive can get you started. They have publications covering a wide range of B2B and B2C industries—restaurants, retail, biopharma, grocery, and more.

You may also want to subscribe to industry blogs or set Google Alerts for specific search terms so that you can keep up with the latest news and trends in your space.

Finally, you’ll want to scour social media, which is possibly the most important free market research tool of all.

The power of social media lies in the fact that it empowers two-way communication. You can find conversations that shed light on your target market and join in to ask questions and uncover even deeper insights.

We recommend conducting research on sites like:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Quora

You can also survey your current customers to find out what sites they spend the most time on; this can help you determine where you should focus your social listening efforts.

Uncover your target market’s biggest concerns

Another great way to conduct research on your target market is by analyzing keyword search volume.

If you create a Google Ads account, you can get access to Google’s Keyword Planner.

This tool is great for learning what your target market searches for online, as well as how your competitors position themselves. Simply enter an industry-related term in the “Find new keywords” search bar, and the tool will display similar terms, along with the search volume and competition level associated with those terms.

As you discover what terms your target market is searching for, try to think about the intent behind their search. What problems are they trying to solve?

By viewing your keyword research through this lens, you can use the insights gained to improve product development and positioning, rather than just for search engine optimization (SEO).

Get a more in-depth understanding by talking to customers

While finding information online is valuable, your DIY market research won’t be complete without gathering direct input from your target market.

This is where interviews, surveys, and focus groups come into play.

While you may not have a huge budget for surveys and interviews, providing participants with even a small incentive (such as a $10 Amazon gift card) can drastically improve your response rate. In general, we think it’s worth spending a little extra money to get more responses, as it makes your findings more statistically significant.

To get the most out of your interviews, focus groups, and surveys, you’ll want to ask a mix of behavior-focused and benefits-focused questions.

Here are a few examples of questions that a growing B2C company might ask prospective customers:

Behavior-focused questions

  • Do you ever buy [x product]?
  • Where do you usually shop for [x product]?
  • What are your main reasons for not buying [x product]?
  • How long does it typically take you to make a buying decision for this type of product?

Benefits-focused questions

  • What features are most important to you when shopping for [x product]?
  • What motivates you to purchase [x product]?
  • What do you hope [x product] will help you do?

Centralize your findings

Once you’ve completed the research tactics listed above, you’ll want to put the results you’ve gathered in a central location so you and your employees can easily find them.

Many companies skip this step, and that’s a huge mistake.

It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on market research: if you don’t get information in the hands of people who can make a difference, the entire effort is wasted.

And when employees can’t easily find research results, they may believe your organization never conducted the research in the first place—leading them to duplicate the effort.

Now, you’ve wasted twice as much time and money, with nothing more to show for it.

To avoid this problem, consider investing in technology that gives you one searchable place for all your research. The right knowledge sharing platform will provide a central location for members of your company to store, organize, and search for key insights.

Then, it’ll be easier than ever for your team to get the most out of your market research investment.

April 10, 2019

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