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Affordable Market Research

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Affordable Market Research
by Bobette Kyle

Until recently, limited budgets kept most types of market
research out of reach for entrepreneurs and other small- budget
businesses. Today, through the Internet, small-budget businesses
have more research options. Secondary research sources are easier
to find. More affordable primary research methods - both
qualitative and quantitative - are available online as well.

** Market Research Categories **

There are four broad types of research, categorized by where the
research originated and how the research is conducted.

* Where the market research originated - primary versus
secondary.

Primary research originates with your company. Generally, the
results are proprietary and belong to you. You may find, however,
that some research firms will conduct limited but relatively
inexpensive primary research with the requirement that they can
make the results available to other companies. An alternative to
conducting primary research is to find secondary research, or
research that originated elsewhere. You can obtain secondary
research either by purchasing the information or finding it
through free resources.

* How the market research is conducted - qualitative versus
quantitative.

Qualitative research tends to be exploratory and directional in
nature. It is designed to bring out issues associated with the
subject matter as well as clue you in to the best general
direction to proceed. Quantitative research, on the other hand,
is designed to be analytical and rigid. This type of research
produces results that are more statistically accurate than
qualitative research results. Often, companies first conduct
qualitative research when developing a concept or looking for
ideas then later complete quantitative research to fine-tune and
optimize.

* Combining the two categories.

Combining the primary/secondary and qualitative/quantitative
categories results in the four types of research. These are:
primary quantitative, primary qualitative, secondary
quantitative, and secondary qualitative research.

** Secondary Market Research **

As a small-budget business, much of your research will be limited
to secondary research. Both the good news and the bad news is
that there is a lot of it out there. By doing a targeted Internet
search you are likely to find a lot of free, useful
information.

Potentially, you can find secondary research from numerous
sources. Press releases and news articles often quote studies.
Industry leaders and suppliers publish white papers or other
studies. Annual reports are also good places to look for industry
information. Research firms’ sites are another source of
secondary research. Their main business is conducting primary
research for clients or compiling and selling detailed syndicated
reports. Often, they have top line

data available in the form of
press releases or executive summaries. The Federal government is
another increasingly useful source of secondary data. At last
count, 100 different government agencies publish freely available
data.

** Primary Qualitative Market Research **

Qualitative research is conducted with a somewhat flexible format
so the participants can give their opinions and feedback.
Inexpensive ways to conduct your own qualitative research via the
Internet are through do-it-yourself online focus groups and via
feedback forms.

* Online Focus Groups

Offline, a set of focus groups could cost about $10,000 and up.
Online focus group services are a little more economical by can
still be pricey for a small-budget business. An online focus
group is essentially a formal chat session. A trained moderator
leads a group of participants through a pre-determined discussion
over the Internet. Participants are often recruited through a
research firm’s own panel and are paid a fee for
participating.

If your budget cannot handle a professional service, you can
conduct a focus group yourself by setting up a chat room and
recruiting your own participants. Be sure to test the chat room
service first, paying attention to perceived professionalism and
any glitches your participants may encounter. Also, for best
results, you should consider hiring a trained moderator to
conduct the online focus groups.

* Feedback Forms

A simple way to conduct ongoing qualitative research is through a
feedback form. You can gain valuable insight by asking your
visitors how you are doing, asking them for suggestions, and/or
asking them their opinions. You can do this through a form
directly on your site and/or via email to those on your opt-in
list.



** Primary Quantitative Market Research **

Quantitative research is used when you are looking for hard
numbers and precision. To produce a top-quality primary
quantitative research study you must generally work through a
research agency. For a small-budget business, this type of
research is expensive. The Internet has made more inexpensive
means of data collection and analysis possible. With the help of
software or Web-based tools you can perform research through
customer surveys and collect visitor use patterns through Web
logs.

* Customer Surveys

The Internet has made conducting surveys quicker and less
expensive. Options range from do-it-yourself programs to research
services with screened panels. You can use surveys in a variety
of ways - segmenting your customers, improving/developing your
product or site, and gauging brand awareness, for example.

* Use Patterns

Another approach to quantitative research on the Web is to look
for visitor use patterns such as, routes taken through your site,
pages viewed, or ordering behavior. By studying Web logs you can
know which pages are most popular, how visitors navigate through
your site, common entry pages, and where visitors often leave the
site. You can also determine the number of different visitors to
your site as well as the percent of visitors converted to
customers. By using a traffic analysis service or software (often
available through your hosting service), you can streamline the
process.

** Market Research Resources **

Links to and summaries of research sites of all kinds mentioned
can be found on Web Site Marketing Plan's Research and Data
Analysis Resources page:
http://www.websitemarketingplan.com/SR12.htm

About the Author

Bobette Kyle is author of "How Much For Just the Spider?
Strategic Web Site Marketing." She used techniques detailed in
the book to bring her own site, WebSiteMarketingPlan.com, from a
ranking of 17 million to 59 thousand+ in less than four months.
http://www.WebSiteMarketingPlan.com/sr.htm

Copyright 2002 Bobette Kyle. All Rights Reserved.


Written by: Bobette Kyle

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