Cost: Free basic account with paid Select, Gold, and Platinum accounts
What it is: Customer feedback is a valuable asset that every company can benefit from. Surveys are an effective way to get feedback, and Survey Monkey lets you conduct surveys for free. With a basic account you can ask up to ten questions per survey, and receive 100 responses per survey. If you want unlimited questions and responses, the paid options are pretty inexpensive. All customers, free and paid, receive free 24/7 email support.
Uses: Use Survey Monkey to get feedback on things like website user experience, customer service experience, and your checkout process. If necessary, experiment with offering incentives to customers who take your survey such as discounts and free merchandise.
What it is: This rich resource website allows registered users to look up financial, economic, and statistical data from reliable sources including state and federal government websites. You’ll find information in a number of areas including GDP, immigration, the stock market, foreign currency, and consumer markets. FreeLunch.com is a service from Moody’s Analytics, an analytics consultancy for capital markets and credit risk management professionals.
Uses: You can use FreeLunch.com to find all sorts of publicly available information, including commodity prices, demographic information, company mergers, and more.
Cost: Free basic profile, pay-per-lead for in-depth reports and lead generation
What it is: If you’re a B2B business, then Hoovers is a great resource for finding and researching prospects. A division of Dun & Bradstreet, Hoovers specializes on three fronts: access to targeted lead lists, subscription access to company data, and cloud and API tools for integrating data into your company CRM and sales programs. Hoovers also has hard to find information as well as information on privately held companies. The in-house staff at Hoovers regularly researches, writes, and reviews the information offered through this service, meaning that you’re not just getting long computer generated lists of companies. Hoovers also has access to D&B’s huge global database of information.
Uses: Use Hoovers to keep your company CRM up to date, to build prospect lists, and gain valuable insight about potential clients and also your competition.
Blogs and Forums
What they are: Online blogs and forums are a wealth of consumer information, and perhaps one of the most overlooked sources of market data. Since people regularly use the internet to share their thoughts, you can find a lot of feedback by reading up on top niche blogs and forums in your industry. Just go to Google and type in “[[your industry]] blog” or “[[your industry]] forum.” For instance, if Mary sells hamster supplies at HamstersRus.com, she might do a Google search for “hamster care forums” and find the largest hamster owners’ forum on the web. Mary spends some time reading the various threads, and notices the same complaint being repeated over and over: the hamsters keep chewing their plastic water and food bowls to pieces. Mary then gets the idea to offer stainless steel water and food bowls in her online store, therefore addressing a common pain point for hamster owners.
- Read competitor blogs to get an idea of their products and services.
- Read blog comments and forum posts to find out your customers’ pain points.
- Brainstorm ideas for blog posts, ebooks, and other articles based on user comments and conversations.
- Interact with other users (in a non-salesy way) to get answers to questions you may have about your customer base.
- Analytics software like Google Analytics and Clicky can give you a clear picture of how visitors interact with your website. Use analytics to find your most popular pages, your entry pages, exit pages, and what keywords people use to find your website.
- Keyword research tools allow you to optimize your website with keywords that your customers are searching for. You can see lists of related keywords, thus eliminating the need to guess at what terms are bringing in site visitors.
- Zoom Prospector is a free tool for companies looking to expand to a new location. Use Zoom Prospector to locate the best area for your new location or branch based on demographic information provided by individual communities.
- BizStats gives you free access to a database of business statistics and financial ratios across different industries. Just use the various filters to find what you’re looking for. You’ll also find financial calculators and other business tools.
As mentioned before, free and low cost don’t necessarily mean low quality. Market research has come a long way from the days when focus groups and pen-and-paper surveys were the only options. The interactive web has made it possible to both offer and find information that companies need to grow. The internet is an open source of valuable information just waiting to be mined. All you need is the right tools and a good idea of where to start digging.