Editor’s Note: Too often we forget that the largest part of the global economy is made up of small to medium-sized businesses, and their research challenges (and internal resources) can be very different from larger companies with extensive insight organizations, although even those firms are feeling the need to do more with less and develop “cheaper, faster, good enough” solutions to a variety of insights needs. This trend has helped many new suppliers enter the marketplace in the last few years with many of the “DIY”-type companies becoming major companies in their own rights due to the demand for access to their solutions.
This trend is so prevalent that last year I conducted a webinar for SMBs on How to conduct market research like a pro for (almost) free where I explored some of the solutions available to budget-conscious companies to conduct great research:
In today’s post business blogger, Megan Ritter plays on a variation of this theme by exploring how SMBs, especially those in the e-commerce sector, can develop a budget for conducting market research in 2015, even if that budget is minimal. It’s a great “Business 101” post and serves as a great reminder that every company can now benefit from great market research regardless of budget size.
Market research tends to get the short end of the stick when it comes to budget planning. In fact, it is usually the first item that gets cut when there are limitations on time or finances (or both). After all, it’s not as necessary as something like web hosting or credit card processing, but then again, you do need to understand your audience, their desires, their pain points, and their general online behavior in order to make sure that your company will profit and grow.
Market Research’s Place In Your E-commerce Marketing Budget
There’s a lot to be said for the value of market research, and the positive role it can play for your e-commerce business. Which is why it should be considered an integral part of your budget, not an afterthought. And there are plenty of ways to accomplish your market research goals that are relatively cost-effective.
Working With A Market Research Firm Versus Doing It In-House
There are plenty of market research tools that range from social media monitoring software like Radian6 or Spiral16 to survey apps such as SurveyMonkey available these days – and the internet can essentially be considered a giant focus group, in a way (but then again segmenting populations, gathering information, and analyzing the resulting data can take a significant amount of time and effort.
Granted, a market research firm can perform this work for you – but if you have the time or human resources to do the job in-house, it could be worth the effort. And after all, perhaps no one knows what questions to ask better than your own team!
Use Your Existing Resources
Furthermore, your current customers, your employees or coworkers, and even your friends and family might be the best source of information if you have an existing business – or even potential customers if you have your main demographic already established. Set up interviews or send out a survey to see what they think about your business, competitors in your vertical, and any other information you wish to know.
Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to be in the same room or even the same country as your interviewees – there’s plenty of technology that will help you hold market research interviews remotely at everyone’s convenience.
Maximizing The Value Of Your Market Research Dollar
Every business owner wants to make the most out of their budget, and here’s how you can do it (at least in regard to market research). Start by determining the end goals of the process:
- What do you want to learn about your target audience?
- Where do they interact online?
- How they discover and recommend products?
- What are their pain points and how can you improve their lives?
- Do you need to discover who the prospective customers for your idea or concept are, and how they interact with brands and make purchasing decisions?
Knowing what questions you want to answer is the most important part of getting the most of your market research efforts – and potentially generating capital that help improve all aspects of your business in the future.
Syndicated Research Or A Custom Project?
Sometimes, the work has already been done for you by a market research firm or a similar company. For instance, if your demographic is fairly well established and you know what questions you’re looking to answer, you may be able to purchase white papers, reports, or other documentation – which frees up time and resources on your side. After all, you don’t necessarily have to re-invent the wheel.
On the other hand, you may have unique targets or other goals that simply require a custom project – which also doesn’t necessarily need to be incredibly expensive.
Understand What You Need To Learn
In the end, knowing what you want out of any given marketing endeavor – but perhaps it is especially important in the market research realm. Planning out the questions you want to ask – and the answers you want to uncover is the first step towards success. And remembering that you can almost always factor it into your budget is the second – market research shouldn’t be the first item to cut. It’s vital in the long run!