Marketing research is almost mandatory for any firm to move forward because of the changing dynamics of the business environment. In fact, many firms are carrying out market research unconsciously, while collecting and analysing market information through their references. However, a conscious market research report can reveal a lot more about the market then a report done in a haphazard manner. Small and SME companies might not have the necessary budget to purchase or conduct market research studies. Thus, a low cost market research plan is the best idea for such companies.
Small businesses as well as growing organizations will need low cost market research ideas. This is because, with the advent of the internet, and with continuously changing buying patterns, it makes sense NOT to spend too much on market research. The alternative is to invest the minimum amount and yet get the best results possible. This is where low cost market research ideas step in. This article lists 8 steps which can be observed to get low cost market research done for your organization. The steps are as follows.
1) Have a crisp objective/questionnaire ready
When your objective / questionnaire is improper, or the answers received do not complete the objective, the cost of market research goes up, not only in terms of money, but also in terms of time spent on the research. Defining the objective can actually help you save cost by conducting a lean market research. The research objectives, which are formed at the start of the market research, will help you in making the correct market research questionnaire. Thus, the first step is to make a conscise market research questionnaire.
2) Online marketing survey
Possibly the best method for low cost market research is to conduct online polls. These polls can be taken across blogs, large websites, forums and others. Besides polls, there is already a lot of information available on the internet in the form of keywords and trends. A google sheet can be created where readers can answer your questions. Or there are dedicated polling websites like surveymonkey, easypolls etc. Further to this, if you are doing competitive analysis, then pratically everything, including competition’s products, their pricing and availability can be obtained online through e-commerce portals or other such portals. If the competition is poor in service, the same can be observed through consumer forums. Thus, there are many ways an online market research can be done and this is the best idea for low cost market research.
3) Use your CRM
You would already have a lot of market research information close to home, if you have a CRM system. This market research information is with your existing customers. If you have a customer relationship management system, then this system can be your best friend to carry out low cost market research. Running a survey with your customers, of the things they like in your company vs the features that they think should be included, will give you a fair idea of what your customers want. Similarly, asking your existing customers to think of brands which can replace you, can give you hints on the different companies which are your closest competitors. These companies can then be studied to know their strengths and weaknesses. Thus, your existing customer base is your best bet for low cost yet effective market research.
4) Distribution Channel
In case your product is an FMCG or a consumer durable product, or any product which is distributed through channel marketing, then your channel dealers can become an excellent source of almost free information. These dealers and distributors are the most knowledgeable for their respective industries. They will be able to give you an insight for the complete market, the top brands, the top features demanded by the customers, where do poor brands fail in, and what is the one feature which can take the market by storm. Thus instead of spending thousands or lakhs on market research agencies, just doing a questionnaire or a joint forum with your channel dealers can help you conduct an excellent low cost market research.
5) Analysing the competition –
As mentioned above, online research can help you get more information about the competition. Similarly, channel dealers can also give the information necessary. But market research does not include only the collection of the information. It is also used to analyse the information and then take decisions. Thus, by conducting an online research, using CRM, or surveying the channel, you get a hawk eye view of what the competition is doing. However, one step ahead is to forecast the future steps that can be taken by the competition. This can happen only when you study the competition closely. The top management, the background of the top management, the type of companies the top management were in, are crucial indicators of the furture decision which can be taken by the company. Thus by studying and analysing the competition, you can get knowledge of features or strategies that you can implement in your own organization. These features and strategies, which were obtained by conducting close research of the competitive abilities can become your own offensive strategy. Thus, analysing the competition is another low cost market research strategy which can come in use.
6) Data reports
Data reports are costly, and ideally i would not have included them in the list of low cost market research ideas. However, this point is listed here, because data reports are anytime cheaper than conducting a customized market research for the organization. Thus, if your work is getting done by using a data report ready made by a market research agency, then prefer using the data report and making your own inference about actions to be taken. This will save you lot of valuable money in the long term. Only when your product is unique, or you ar trying a unique strategy, go for a customised market research agency.
7) News / Trade journals
The best way to gather information and know others opinion is to go through news and trade journals. Whenever a company takes a step or implements a strategy, the news can be obtained through news and trade journals. Not only do you get to know your closest competitor, but you also get an idea what different companies in the same sector are doing. You never know when this information might turn out useful to you. This concept of reading is not only useful when you are doing market research. In fact, it can be useful throughout your life, anytime you want to implement a marketing strategy. As this journals sometimes cost low, they are a fantastic source of low cost market research information.
8) Hire interns
We did this in my company when we wanted to do a research on mineral water market. By hiring an intern, your investment in the research is lowest and you get the goodwill of starting young graduates on their way to a better life. By hiring interns, you take the responsibility of generating the marketing research questionnaire yourself. No one else will do it for you. Thus, you need to be extra careful about generating the questionnaire so that mistakes are not made and time is not wasted. However, once the questionnaire is ready, the intern can get the answers for you in the best way possible – field research.
I remember the time when my intern brought me a whopping 475 questionnaires answered, whereas we had expected somewhere around 250. Thats almost 100% more questionnaires answered, more knowledge gained and more market penetrated. All by the grace of an intern who was dedicated to his work. We later on recommended that intern for a full time job in my company. Thus hiring an intern, and conducting your own field research through him, is another excellent idea of low cost market research.
All the above ideas are excellent if you do not want to invest much and want to carry a lean, yet revealing low cost market research.