How to Survey your Market – Thinking outside the Online Survey Tools Box

mrI am always going on about how much small businesses need to do market research, even those who are just starting up.   Market Research will tell you everything you need to know about your customers, such as how they buy your products, and what needs they have that can be fulfilled by your products.

Many soloist and small businesses rush out into the market with their new product idea without first answering these questions, and then wonder why nobody buys their product.

One of the main reasons that research is skipped is due to lack of funds to hire a research agency, however there are a number of tools and resources available to help you run your own research studies right here on this site.

Another  common reason for skipping research is not knowing how to find people to interview.

I have seen potential start-ups randomly tweet their survey all around the world hoping to get numbers.  Or place them in forums that have nothing to do with their industry.   Surveying the wrong people is worse than not surveying anyone.  After all there is no point in asking people who are never going to use your product what they like about it.

Finding People to Right Interview

First, you need to do a little homework as to where your target market hangs out, and then get creative.  A lot of DIYers are reliant on the online survey software tools available, but online interviews are not always the best way to reach some markets.

After all if you have a potential pet sitting business in rural Queensland and you want to find out what would make people consider using your service, there is no point in tweeting your survey around the world.   People with an indoor cat in a Manhattan apartment will have a different attitude to pet sitting than those who live in a small town with a large property, and they will probably choose a pet sitting business in their own area.

If your business provides a service in a certain geographical area, an online survey will only work if you have email addresses of people in that area.  Otherwise you will need to choose another way of finding respondents.    In the case of the pet sitting example you may wish to consider knocking on the doors of people in the area or ring them or even post them a survey.

Other ways to Survey your Market

Here are two creative examples of how others have targeted the right people.

  1. A friend of mine wanted to find out whether a new nappy bag that looked like a stylish handbag would be appealing to mums with young children.  So she found some mothers groups and asked them to participate in the study.  She made up some samples and the mothers each took one home for a week, and kept a diary on how they used the bag, and what they liked and didn’t like about it.
  2.  A software developer I know developed a piece of software designed to help law firms manage billing hours.   We interviewed a number of decisions makers and users at several law firms about the strengths and weaknesses of their current software.  Then after letting some of them trial it for a while we interviewed them on how my friends software compared.  We gained some real insights on the strengths (i.e. selling points) and some improvements he could make to make the launch even stronger.

Those are a couple of ideas of how you could find respondents, just think about where your market hangs out and find creative ways to reach them.

sign postIf you have a little money there are a number of companies that can provide you with respondents and survey them for you (for example Research Now and Pure Profile).   These companies have a panel of respondents who have agreed to participate in surveys.   They also know a lot about these respondents’ lifestyles and habits so they can target your ideal respondent quickly.

This option will cost you a bit more, between $500 – $700 per question, and you will have to develop your own questionnaire and data analysis.  However, small market research agencies also use these companies to target respondents so you know their panels are accurate.

If you are starting up with very little capital and want to do your own market research then get creative, and think outside the online survey tool box.


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