Yes! You Can Afford to Do The Research That Lets You Understand Your Customers

How to Get Started on Cheap and Powerful Customer Studies

Analyzing the DataUnless you understand your customers, you risk  painful marketing missteps.

Because we know that effective content marketing depends on a thorough understanding of your customers, regular research should be a core component of your content marketing strategy. 

Of course, it’s possible to do way too much research.  That’s when you wind up with the paralysis by analysis situation.  But, most small to midsize  companies suffer from too little research and too much gut feel. That’s when some very bad decisions get made.

The good news is that even very small companies with tiny budgets can now conduct high quality research that would have been affordable only for multimillion dollar companies just five or 10 years ago

Although it is possible to spend vast amounts of money on research conducted by high profile research organizations, it is much easier than you might think to conduct valuable research on your own.  Today, numerous online tools make it simple to create and deploy research studies–and that even provide guaranteed numbers of recipients.

How to Get Started on Your All-Important Customer Research

  1. Inexpensive e-mail is the method of choice.  Most research has moved away from snail mail or even faxed questionnaires.  Each of these alternatives was relatively time-consuming; a mailed out study could easily take four to six weeks before results could be compiled.  You can have great results in just a few days.

  2. If you need to make a decision in a hurry and are worried that research will take much too long, not to worry.  Within a week or less you can create a questionnaire, deploy the survey, and analyze the results.
  3. Early PC research tools were very difficult to use for us non-geeks.  You now have several inexpensive and easy to use online tools with surprisingly rich functionality.  You can now do a filter or a cross tab in a few seconds that would have been agonizing five to 10 years ago.
  4. It may help if you or someone in your organization has research training.  However, online tools such as Zoomerang, Constant Contact or Survey Monkey make it easy to devise a reliable questionnaire.  In addition, they provide tutorials which teach research best practices.
  5. Even if your universe of potential customers is huge–say several million–you do not need a huge sample of respondents.  Three to four hundred respondents will provide reliable and projectable data. This is why Nielsen can project television viewership for such a small sample.
  6. You probably have a sizable database of e-mail names that can be used for your research studies.  Even if you don’t, companies like Zoomerang will give you access to a huge databases with highly detailed demographic data.  Moreover, Zoomerang will actually guarantee the number of responses that you want.
  7. What you need to budget for your research?  Here are some ballpark numbers:
    • annual licensing fee for access to online research tools–$400-$600
    • use of your own e-mail list for research–free
    • use of vendors’ e-mail list with guaranteed response of 300– $1500-$3000
    • hiring of an affordable outside firm to conduct the research–$2000-$5000

Is the time, effort, and expense worth it?  Absolutely!

Whether you are starting a business, launching a product, or creating a content marketing strategy, you must understand who your best customers are and what is most important to them.  Otherwise you’re flying blind.

In 2009, conducting reliable research is almost painless.  On the other hand, failing to conduct that research may be one of the most painful business mistakes you will make.

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  1. Posted December 3, 2009 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more. Many of my clients are concerned about the time and expense of understanding their markets. They underestimate the value of knowing your customer’s needs, concerns, and preferences. And small amounts of research not only can improve products and services but ensure that marketing is more relevant and content-rich.

  2. Newt Barrett
    Posted December 15, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Jill, I think too many small business people are unaware of how easy and inexpensive basic research can be. Yet, it is so critical to success.