By Julia Mann
Market research can be vital when pitching ideas, proposals and building strategic plans. Research is needed not only to convince managers, boards and investors, but should also be used to justify your own beliefs. Below I have outlined 10 simple and creative ways to undertake meaningful (and free!) market research to drive business growth and decision making.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel
Before you start your project, step 1 is to always see if someone else has been kind enough to undertake your research first and share it online. You can search general research through google, but I also like to investigate Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com.au/ as it can provide in depth research and statistics on many topics; saving time (and money!).
- But remember: Google is your frenemy
Desktop research is one of the simplest ways to gather data rapidly. However, you need to be careful of real data. Each day we live, there is literally more data than has ever been before in history! When undertaking desktop research, ensure you review the sources of where information has come from. I read A LOT of articles and the ‘good’ ones will have sources linked into the document, so you can check the sources. I will also always keep a reference list of places I gather quotes and facts from to check later and give to clients when needed.
- Free data for everyone!
For demographic research, Australia has some brilliant sources. The Australian Bureau Statistics website is great but can pretty hard to navigate. I recommend: https://economy.id.com.au/ as it gives you loads of information in a user-friendly format and it’s free! Economy ID also gives you the options to download excel files so you can cross analyse with other information if needed.
- Make an infographic for impact
I’m not ashamed to admit it: I love an infographic. To get your point across, one infographic can explain pages of research. There are numerous free and cheap programs to create infographics. Online programs (which offer free services) include: https://piktochart.com/ and https://www.canva.com . Personally, I prefer to use PowerPoint and download templates so I can create colour schemes and insert my own data. A great source for templates is: https://graphicriver.net which gives thousands of options (free and paid).
- Get social
It is amazing the amount of information people are willing to give online through review sites and social media. This is a simple method for building competitor profiles and understand consumer attitudes. When collecting comments, I find the best way to record them is to create your own scale for each comment. For example, if you are looking through Trip Advisor for a venue, you may want to rank ‘experience’ ‘food & beverage’ and ‘car parking’. I would write these out and give each a score to build a general trend. See a template here. Facebook reviews are also available available for most companies and consumers are NOT afraid to speak their minds! Other great sources include Houzz, Yelp and Zomato.
- Make research fun
So, I understand the current breach of Facebook data through a Quiz… HOWEVER, providing consumers are consenting, it is a great way to collect data. There are numerous platforms offering free and paid plans including; Typeform, Online Quiz Creator and Quiz Bean. These sites are great as you can often host the quiz on your own website. I have made a note below about privacy, so please read this before creating quizzes.
- Competition time
An oldy but a goody! Competitions are a great way to collect data and understand your audience. I would recommend NOT running just a facebook ‘like this page’ competition if you are looking for insight. I would use a program like Wufoo or Survey Monkey to ask specific questions to gain research insights. Facebook competitions can skew data and you can’t segment your users. Having a fill in form will give you higher quality data.
- The customer is always right
Feedback forms from customers are an excellent way to collect data and drive improvements. When collecting feedback for market research (either hard copy or online) I have two big pieces of advice:
- Make your feedback options relevant to what you want to research. For example, if you are wanting to implement new service offerings, I would provide a list of the new offerings and then ask customers to tick the services they have used in the last 6 months. Then you can see if there is a market for these options. If you are collecting for JUST marketing (i.e. how was your experience…) then you can be less strategic!
- Look at data trends, NOT just one opinion. It is very tempting to implement change based on loud voices of a few. Make sure you collect a range of opinions before you implement change and rate all appropriately. A rating template can be found here.
- Power of Events
I find networking events as an amazing way to get information! Not only do you get food and drinks, but people are very happy to tell you exactly what they think. It is a great way to collect qualitative data and gain people’s thoughts on particular topics. I will sometimes use events also to gain opinions before I go and build research methodologies to understand the current state.
- Don’t forget your employees
We often forget about employees as one of our ‘markets’, but as Richard Branson says; “clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.” Employee focus groups are an excellent way to undertake research to gain insight into your business and customers. Often, employees are the ones dealing with customers and they will have more insight than you realise! It’s also an excellent tactic to increase employee engagement and bring your most important assets into the planning process.
There are many great ways to gather data for research. If you have any other methods, please let us know so we can share!
IMPORTANT: Before you undertake any research yourself it’s important to understand both your end objective and also, your legal requirements. You must ALWAYS tell your participants if you are wanting to keep their data and give them the option to opt out. There are various laws regarding this and you should consult your industry and country guidelines on this. Luckily, most online programs make this very easy as they are also required to abide by laws. If you are unsure, please read more about Privacy Information for Australia here: https://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy-law/