The survey is a powerful marketing research tool to discover opinions and attitudes about your company and your competition from large numbers of people. Surveys cost a fraction of what they used to, placing them within reach of any small business. Regardless of the size of your business, you can grow and prosper by using affordable surveys to develop strategies that get new customers and keep the ones you have.
Marketing researchers commonly use qualitative research methods such as focus groups and quantitative methods such as surveys to obtain insights about target audiences. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were often too costly for many small businesses. Focus groups remain costly. The typical “average-shopper” focus group ranges in price from $6,000 to $7,500 for eight to 10 participants, as of the date of publication. You need to conduct a minimum of two to three focus groups just to make sense of the data collected. The cost of conducting information-rich surveys, however, has dramatically decreased because you no longer need to “field” an expensive team of researchers. You can reach most target audiences online. Eighty percent of all U.S. adults were online and 92 percent of online adults used email as of May 2011, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project .
Many online survey service providers offer a free version of their software to create a basic survey solution that you can post on your blog, website, Facebook and Twitter. If you need more sophisticated solutions, you can step-up to a low-cost subscription for about $25 per month. A subscription will allow you to send out monthly surveys to target audiences obtained from the service provider’s database, using customized templates and the service provider’s server. The cost savings from conducting online surveys without diminishing the quality of results relative to “field” surveys has resulted in a shift away from field surveys to online surveys, even for major corporations.
No longer must you rely solely on your instincts when making important strategic decisions. Use online surveys to obtain customer evaluations of their purchase experiences and product or service evaluations. Many small business owners use online surveys to find new customers by using online service providers’ audience databases to generate leads. Use online surveys to acquire demographic information when building customer profiles. Many resourceful business owners use online surveys to “crowdsource” new product and service ideas, and feedback during the new product and service development process. PC Magazine defines crowdsourcing as using your website or blog as vehicles to get opinions, comments and suggestions from the general public, usually for free. You will find a number of applications that produce nearly real-time and actionable information from online surveys to advance your business.
Think about the big picture before your start your survey project. What precisely do you hope to achieve with a survey? What do you need to know that can be resolved through a survey? Write your goal and the reasons why down as your point of departure. Then, develop a concise description of the target audience that’s best qualified to provide the answers to your questions. If marketing research is a totally new experience for you, consider talking to one of the marketing professors from your local college or university for guidance during the preliminary planning stage. Marketing professors frequently take on marketing issues of local businesses as classroom assignments for their students and often do this at minimal or no cost.
George Boykin started writing in 2009 after retiring from a career in marketing management spanning 35 years, including several years as CMO for two consumer products national advertisers and as VP for an AAAA consumer products advertising agency. Boykin mainly writes about advertising and marketing for SMBs.
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