Low Cost Marketing Research Ideas: How to Use Zoomerang and Survey Monkey
Marketing Research Doesn't Need to be Expensive to Get Results
Marketing research is an essential decision making tool in today’s business world. In fact, large corporations spend millions of dollars a year trying to minimize risk and maximize profit by using sophisticated marketing research techniques. The traditional marketing research agencies are expensive - even a simple, small-scale study can cost $20,000 - $30,000. If you’re a small business owner, work for a smaller company, or are an aspiring entrepreneur, it might seem that the cost of marketing research puts it out of your reach. In reality, there is plenty you can do for zero or minimal cost to reap the same advantages as large companies.
First, this article assumes that you know the steps in conducting a marketing research study, from objective setting to analysis to report writing. If you don’t, please consult a good book on the subject such as "State of the Art Marketing Research,” by Blankenship, Breen, and Dutka, or "Marketing Research Kit For Dummies."
In general, there
are two basic types of marketing research, qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative research is a technique used to
gather in-depth understanding of behavior and the reasons for that
behavior. This type of research is
perfect for generating ideas or hypotheses about a particular issue. For a more thorough understanding of
qualitative research, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qualitative_research. Quantitative research is used to validate
those ideas and hypotheses. Think of a
large-scale research study conducted on the Internet. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantitative_research
for a more thorough understanding of quantitative research. Both of these techniques can be conducted at low cost while maintaining quality results.
Let’s start with a low cost way to conduct qualitative research. Typical qualitative techniques include focus groups, one-on-one in-depth interviews, or ethnographic research. These techniques range in cost from $20,000 for a couple of focus groups to over $100,000 for in-home ethnographic research. The key cost drivers are facility rental, moderator time, and recruiting costs to find and motivate (e.g. pay) your target consumer to participate.
One way to get around these costs is to use your own facility, do the recruiting yourself, and recruit people who are in your network such as family, friends, and friends of friends. Many marketing researchers shy away from talking to people they know because they think that their sample will be biased or not representative of the typical consumer. I would argue that this doesn’t have to be the case. As long as you take care to find and talk to those who represent your “target consumer,” you’ll get relevant insights that can help you generate hypotheses and learn the reasons for specific behaviors.
Ask around among your extended network of family and friends to find 15-20 people who use or would consider using your product or service. These are your target consumers. For example, if your product is a snack food, it should be relatively easy to find friends and family who snack and would be considered a target consumer. Write a short discussion guide and set up some time to talk to them. If necessary for your project, you could also try to set up time to observe them at home, at school, or while shopping to gain ethnographic insights. You can give them a small gift for their time but most people are more than willing to help out at no cost.
For More on Qualitative Research
Now that you’ve generated ideas and hypotheses via qualitative research, it’s time to validate them with a quantitative study. The typical quantitative research study is conducted by a research agency via the Internet, on the phone, or via in-person interviews. These studies can range in price from about $15,000 to well over $200,000, depending on the scope. But there’s a second low cost research tool to get the same high quality data at a price that won’t break your budget.
Try using an Online survey tool such as Zoomerang (www.zoomerang.com) or Survey Monkey (www.surveymonkey.com) for quantitative research. Zoomerang offers Online survey software ranging in price from free for a low feature version to $599 per year for the most functional version. Survey Monkey’s prices range from free to $779 per year. Once you subscribe, you can conduct as many surveys as you like over the year. This is truly a bargain!
One way to use these tools effectively is to purchase your sample rather than sending the survey to people you know. This way, you’ll get a large, representative sample that’s unbiased. Zoomerang has a panel available that consists of 2 million people who have been profiled across more than 500 demographic, lifestyle, occupational, and geographic attributes. This is helpful if you need to find a specific, low incident consumer group. The cost is very reasonable as well. They’ll provide you with a quote on their website. Other options include purchasing your sample from an independent sample house such as www.usamp.com, or sending surveys to your employees or customers if you have a reliable list of email addresses. Finally, you can place a link to your survey on Twitter, Facebook or even on your website.
If you need help writing your survey, both Zoomerang and Survey Monkey offer extensive resources on their websites. See http://www.zoomerang.com/Resource-Center/ for lot’s of how-to resources on conducting marketing research and using their tool.
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