Internet: If you don’t have a budget for custom research, see what other people have already researched. Chances are someone else had a similar question. No, you won’t get all of your questions answered and you won’t be able to choose who participates, but it is the next best thing. You may find: research from a different geographic market that you can apply to your area, research on a similar product or even research your competitor has already conducted.
Secondary research on industry: You can purchase reports on your industry that go in depth on competitors, financials, and customers. Like internet research, it won’t be customized to address your company’s needs, but it has the advantage of being custom to your industry. Here are a few websites that provide industry information:
- Ibis World Industry Reports
- Industry and Demographic Reports
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Consumer Expenditures
Census: In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau reported there were 27.9 million small businesses. That’s a lot of people trying to crack the code on their industries and customers. The Census has a lot of great information about the population for you to use in learning more about your market.
Libraries: Public and university research librarians have access to various databases that can also help you narrow your search and find relevant information. This approach is especially helpful for industry and competitive research.
Quick customer survey: Consider conducting a survey as part of your do-it-yourself market research study. An inexpensive way to get feedback from your customers is to ask them to fill out a comment card. In addition to this do-it-yourself survey you can also ask your sales or service people to talk to the customers to learn what services your customers wish you provided or things they don’t like. Set up a system (email is probably the easiest) for your associates to report what they heard.
Competitive analysis: A great way to learn more about your competition is to mystery shop them. You can go into their place of business, or if they would recognize you as a competitor, call and ask questions (as if you are a potential customer). You can also pick up their marketing materials and visit their website. Through this approach you can learn how they are positioning themselves, what services they offer, and perhaps even how they price their goods/services.
Analyze your company: Or try the opposite of a competitive analysis and mystery shop your own company. Call the service department with a complaint. Talk to billing. Walk around the stores and see what stands out to you.
Employee survey: Providing a safe place for anonymous feedback will allow employees to tell you how they really feel. You can ask satisfaction questions or questions about the customer experience. Find out what their impression of the company is and where improvements can be made. It is important to make them feel like their opinion is valued and they won’t be in trouble for sharing negative comments.
Next Steps: After reviewing the available secondary research return to your original questions. Did this do-it-yourself market research answer your questions or solve your problems? If not, you should commission a custom research study. Hiring a professional researcher to help with this is the best way to go. Call us at 206-232-9400 to see how we can help you answer your research questions.