Social Media TreesEach year, many companies venture out into the business world without the most important piece of ammunition for their success:  market research.  While clouded by the dual belief that market research is needed for companies intending to earn business through cold calls or market research is too expensive for the average company, the failure to properly understand your market segmentation can lead to costly errors and loss of potential sales.  In many cases, companies proceed into deep level development of new products or services without knowing if the market will support their cost structure or pricing strategy.

Some of the best ways to conduct low-to-no cost market research to find out vital information about products and services are:

•    Online Groups and Networking—Often, professional gather in online groups and networking forums to gain contacts and exposure; however, an additional benefit to these aspects is that you can post a marketing question to the group and gain a variety of responses from people in every walk of life.  Because you pick the groups that you would most like to use as your market research group (or even create your own group for this purpose), you will be able to segment your responses.

•    VOC (Voice of the Customer)—Perhaps the most overlooked avenue for finding out about the market, most companies believe if their customers buy from them, then they must be happy with the product.  Nothing is farther from the truth.  Asking your customers about your product and services, potential benefits and pricing, or to rate satisfaction will give you valuable insight into how you can improve and what your competition is offering.

•    Contest and Surveys—Through social media marketing, email blasts, or coupons, give your customers the opportunity to rate and give feedback on important questions regarding the path of your company.  With a quick online survey, you can easily find out if feature XYZ is important to your customers when they think of paying $150 extra for your product.  If they say “no” and you realize that the addition will cost at least $150 to add to the feature list, then you have priceless information about the future development of your new product and the pricing structure as it relates to your customer perception of value.

In truth, good market research is like money in the bank, but it does not have to cost the proverbial arm and a leg!  Whether you are a new business or an established business with years of operation, market research gives you the ability to see the big picture of what your customers are seeking in product they purchase as well as predict where the market will go in the future.  Of course, there is one addition to market research…the X factor.  By research what is evolving in the market, you find out things about your products and services, competitors, and pricing that you never knew.  Cost:  Priceless!