Conducting low-cost market research

Market research may seem like a tool only available to those with large budgets, but anyone can conduct market research at little to no expense-it all depends on how you approach it.

Keeping your ears and eyes open does not cost a thing and the best companies observe, listen and ask questions of their customers on a routine basis.

Knowing when you need market research

Knowing when you need market research is the first step to conducting low-cost market research effectively. For instance, if you’re considering launching a new product, expanding the market share for an existing product or looking for a new market for a product that has declined in market share.

Take advantage of existing market information

Remember that a lot of market information already exists. It’s just a matter of finding it.

Go online and look for any research you haven’t done already. Look into association web sites that are aligned with your industry. Check government websites, especially if you’re in the consumer industry. The government hosts a great deal of information about consumers and their spending habits and trends. While this research was not done for your business specifically and the answers may not be totally applicable to you, the information can give you a general idea.

Conduct a questionnaire

For more specific information, consider an informal research method: put together a questionnaire and have your team ask customers, prospects, vendors and suppliers for their input.

When talking to customers, don’t just assume all is well. Ask them whether they’re pleased with your product or service, what they feel you do right and where they feel you can improve. Ask the same of your vendors and suppliers.

Pay attention to what your competition is doing

If you attend trade shows, listen to people’s conversations and ask questions. It allows you to see what the competitors are doing. Use industry meetings and exhibitions to get a sense of what’s going on.

At these meetings, look for businesses in a comparable industry or market that would be willing to partner with you and share the expense of a more specific study. For example, if you provide landscape architecture services, you may want to partner with a nursery or a garden supplier who is not in direct competition with you. Then sit down and decide what kind of information you both want and hire somebody to do a study.