Managing a small business, especially a startup, can be extremely challenging. Fortunately, technology has made at least one aspect of business management a little friendlier over the past decade: market research. Thanks to the power of the internet, many of the most powerful market research tools are available at your fingertips, often at low or no cost, and can help companies take some of the uncertainty out of decisions related to products and services. Here are five of the most innovative online tools out there your business can use to conduct cutting edge market research.
1. Survey Monkey
Survey Monkey is a great choice for companies attempting to do precise, targeted market research. The company has over 25 million users, and access to over 90 million survey responses each month. Survey Monkey allows you to develop a survey to gather research on your product or service in question; it then allows you to determine a sample size of the target market you are interested in to take your survey, and provides feedback once the survey is complete. This information can help you confirm or deny plans for a new product or service before any costly steps, such as product development, are implemented.
2. Think With Google – Marketer’s Almanac
It would be impossible in this day and age to list five or more cutting edge market research tools without Google getting into the mix somehow. Think With Google – Marketer’s Almanac is another one of the Internet giant’s services that can help businesses with their bottom line. This tool uses Google’s powerful analytics to track emerging and enduring consumer trends. Businesses can use it to determine what customers, and potential customers, are interested in, and then plan accordingly.
GutCheck is another great firm that specializes in delivering a “quick consumer read” that can help small companies make big decisions when it comes to entering a market. They can guide a small business as it defines its market research goals, then rapidly execute the research – through qualitative and quantitative analysis – and prepare an easy-to-read report to help you understand the results. This is another great resource for companies who do not have the talent on hand, or the time, to conduct this sort of in-depth marketing research themselves.
4. Facebook Audience Insights
Much like Google, it would be nearly impossible to discuss 21st Century market research without mentioning Facebook and its billion users. Facebook Audience Insights allows subscribers to track key consumer trends. It leverages Facebook’s users and geo-location to deliver real-time information to small businesses – what consumers near a company’s store are interested in, for example, and what they are purchasing. The anonymous, aggregate information is constantly updated, and provides incredible details on consumer attitudes and activities. Companies can then use this information to tailor products and services for people within their respective markets.
5. Free Databases: American Fact Finder, Business Dynamics Statistics, FedStats
Everyone likes free stuff, and some of the best marketing research data out there is absolutely free; businesses just need to get online and take advantage of it. American Fact Finder is a product of the American Census Bureau. It makes all of the data compiled from the U.S. census – demographics, economics, housing, and purchase information – easily searchable. Business Dynamics Statistics, another Census Bureau product, is an easily searchable database, compiling detailed information about American businesses. It is extremely useful for determining the type of business activity that is occurring in a particular geographic area your company is interested in. FedStats is an intuitive, easily searchable site that serves as a clearinghouse for all of the U.S Federal government’s statistical databases. It is of particular use for companies that frequently do business with the Federal Government.