Online Market Research – The Top Five Methods

Survey_CheckMarkAs marketers, especially in small offices, the Internet is a blessing for us. It has never been easier to get key information about consumers, our potential customers, and how they think. Before, we needed expensive market research firms and businesses that relied on costly, time-consuming research like focus groups, surveys, etc. Online research lets us bypass much of that.

Whenever we start a marketing campaign, the first, and most basic step, is to gather relevant keywords using Google KeyWord Tool, WordTracker, and other online tools. Keywords certainly are essential but they don’t get us much hard data about our target audience other than what they’re looking for online. So supplement your keyword research with these top five other methods for market research online.

Online Surveys

Everyone likes surveys! And today, with easy online tools like SurveyMonkey and similar tools, we can easily and inexpensively create a list of questions to quickly discover valuable information from and about our audience and customers. Much less intrusive than standing in the shopping mall harassing passers-by. These tools automate almost everything for us, tallying and reporting the results in a meaningful manner. Most people enjoy online surveys so they can remain totally anonymous – but offering a reward is a better way to get wider participation, and we legitimately collect email addresses when respondents register for the reward. (Email Marketing and Online Surveys by Constant Contact make it easy to connect with your customers. Try it FREE for 60-Days.)

Blog Questions

Got a blog (which you should have)? We can easily gain valuable information from our readers just by asking. Build a blog post that ends with, “What do we think? Share a comment.” You’ll be amazed how much people actually WANT to share their opinions, and how eager they are to do so. And blogs are very versatile. Ask questions about a new product or service – we get answers. Ask questions about something unrelated… we get answers. What is important here is that we’re keeping our audience engaged, and building a more complete picture of exactly who OUR customers really are.

Our Email Lists

Got an email list? These are JUST the people you want to talk to, so, by all means, ASK! As you send out content filled emails and targeted offers, mix in questions and leave open a pathway to collect responses. We find out what OUR customers want, capture them for another possible immediate sale, and gather data for long-term marketing and future offers. The people on our lists have one absolutely critical advantage – they’re  pre-screened… our own built-in audience, already interested in our products or services. Again, Constant Contact is a great tool to maintain your email list as they have a Survey Tool built right into their product.

Forums and Q&A Sites

Talk about a “Natural!” Simply joining online forums and question-and-answer sites opens a wide information-gathering doorway. Many times, we don’t even have to ask; there may already be a discussion going about just what we need to know. Thinking about adding a new product or service to your product line? There are probably already several forums and Q&A sites already discussing it and you just need to read to get a very complete picture. Alternatively, you can start your own discussion and guide it exactly where you want it.

Data from Social Networks

Social networks may be the closest to a “real time” information source we will ever find. So many people today keep sites like Twitter and Facebook open all the time and constantly interact (impeding their own productivity, but that’s another post). More important, people interacting on social media sites tell us exactly what’s important to them… right then. This is exactly what we need to find out. Not only will they talk directly to us, but also, we can see from the content they share what they appreciate and like. And sites like Twitter and Facebook are even creating internal applications to help us research our markets.

Never Stop Offline Market Research

No matter how easy the Internet makes market research, offline research is also still valuable. Offline research often provides much more depth of insight than online research can. Focus groups, for example, give us personal interaction that we may not get online. Participants personal involvement leaves them more likely to engage on a deeper level – and tell us more. Most important, when working in person, we have the ability to follow threads generated within the discussion that online survey tools rarely allow.

The best place to find data about our markets is both online and offline – it becomes a question of budget and other available resources to see which performs and informs us best.




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