Seven Effective DIY Market Research TacticsBy Francois Bondiguel

Market research can be pretty expensive.

It can even take years to conduct.

But, in today’s digital age, it can also be accessible to organizations of all sizes.

While your peers are spending thousands of dollars on a professional services firm, you can take the lead with these seven quick and dirty DIY methods.

DIY Market Research: Use Mystery Shoppers

If you want to research how your company is doing, one of the best ways to accomplish this is through mystery shopping.

Mystery shopping is when a person (preferably from outside your company) shops at your store and tests things out as a customer would experience them.

Some mystery shoppers use a long-form cycle, meaning that they’ll go in one day, purchase something, and then wait a few days and return it. This helps them get an idea of what the sales department is like and what the return process feels like.

More importantly, the shopper goes into your store on two different days to make sure the good (or bad) service they received wasn’t just a fluke.

Mystery shoppers can be used on multiple days, or spread out across several months to help you get an objective reporting of what’s going on in your company. You can (and probably should) hire “good customers” as well as “problem customers” just to see how your staff handles difficult situations.

Most guides (but not all) on how to start a retail business don’t cover this crucial market research step and, when they do, they don’t give it the time and detail it deserves.

But, it’s important, and it’s relatively simple to implement.

Talk to Staff

Talk to your staff about their experiences with customers. You can even compare notes between staff and mystery shoppers to ferret out who the really good salespeople are.

There’s more to sales than just numbers—you want a salesperson who is personable and is selling the right product to the right customer.

But, good salespeople are doers, not necessarily writers. By talking to your staff, and taking notes, you’ll be getting all of the information out of their heads and onto paper (or into a computer), which will help you better understand your market.

Use Your Government

The government maintains a census office and website to access the latest jobs and market data.

It can tell you a surprising number of things about your customers, on average, demographically speaking: How much people make in your area, how many kids they have, how many people are living in your local area, and so on.

This is basic market research, but it’s important.

Why? Because, for example, you want to know whether there are enough teenagers in your area to sell to if you have a product targeted to them.

Likewise, if you’re selling scooters built for seniors, you want to know you have an abundance of seniors who might buy.

Use Topsy

Topsy is an interesting website. It provides a history of every tweet ever sent.

What would you do with all of this information? Search through it and find patterns, of course.

The cool thing about this free service is that you can quickly discover who is talking about what.

So, if you’re thinking about opening up a donut shop in a big city, you can instantly see what people are saying about donuts.

The types of people who tweet about donuts must really, really love them, or they may be hungry for a kind of donut other bakeries in the area either don’t sell or don’t do well.

Market research at its finest!

Research Trade Journals

Trade journals can be an excellent place to find both gaps in the market and in customer demand.

If you sell to a particular niche, say dentists, subscribe to the dentist trade journals and read up on what’s concerning them these days.

After a while, you’ll spot a gap in the marketplace where no company is filling a need.

Alternatively, you can look to your own industry’s trade journals to see what’s working well, what’s working just okay, and what’s not working at all.

It could save you a lot of time and frustration.

Take to the Streets

Want to know what people think of your products or services? Take to the streets and ask them.

This type of market research works particularly well with restaurants. Set up a small stand outside of your restaurant and offer free samples of something off your menu in exchange for their opinion.

Try to book people for dinner right then and there, perhaps with a small discount if they make a reservation.

If they give you an unfavorable review, don’t be offended.

Instead, probe further and try to determine what they don’t like with your current offering.

This is about your business, not your ego.

Use Forums

Every industry has a forum dedicated to it. All you have to do is find it. is the tool you need to find the forum right for you.

Once found, hang out there and they will tell you exactly what they want from people in your industry.

No money? No problem!

By leveraging these seven simple, yet strategic DIY market research techniques, you can see exactly how your marketing efforts are working for your brand, as well as get important information on where to target your future marketing campaigns.

With just a little time and effort, you can take your marketing methods to the next level, keeping your competition scratching their heads in confusion as they—and you—watch your profits soar.

Francois Bondiguel

Francois Bondiguel is the online marketing manager at Vend, a point-of-sale, inventory, and customer loyalty software that helps more than 12,000 retailers manage and grow their businesses.

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