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A Comprehensive Guide to Market Research: 5 Proven Methods

Capturing market research is a must for businesses of any size or format. It’s through these practices that you validate your offerings, collect customer insights, and make data-driven decisions. Using a combination of primary and secondary market research can help you avoid costly mistakes and position your brand effectively.

Don’t know where to start? Read this comprehensive guide on five proven methods of market research.

Guide to Market Research

Online Surveys

Online surveys are one of the most accessible forms of market research to execute at all levels of the sales funnel. You can use online surveys to learn more about your target audience’s behaviors and motivations or use them to refine an existing offering.

Airbnb is a prime example of a brand using simple online surveys throughout the customer journey to capture relevant data. Customers who book accommodations or experiences receive quick surveys to provide feedback on the check-in process, initial impressions, and overall impressions. Airbnb recently refreshed its entire website interface based on an in-depth customer feedback survey.

Many brands overlook the power of online surveys for mid-funnel leads who have yet to make a purchasing decision. Asking why these target customers haven’t purchased can be incredibly insightful for a business.

There are two essential things to keep in mind when creating market research surveys: convenience and motivation. When you ask someone to provide feedback for your business, you’re asking for their time. Offering a reward or chance to win can motivate your audience to complete a longer survey. Conversely, indicating that the survey will only take X minutes can also be helpful. And you can use free online survey maker software to create fun and interactive surveys.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are an excellent way to capture both quantitative and qualitative data. This approach also allows researchers to capture information from several participants in one sitting. Skilled market researchers can sit in on focus groups and capture non-verbal reactions and cues from participants that they themselves might not notice or convey.

There are a few challenges to consider when putting together a focus group. These can be costly to coordinate and execute and could be subject to moderator bias— when the moderator subconsciously injects their ideas or opinions.

The key to creating a successful focus group is ensuring the right participants and moderator are in place, creating clear objectives, and developing structured questions that aren’t leading. Creating a friendly environment that encourages open communication is also essential.

Social Media Monitoring

Social media monitoring or listening is a relatively new form of market research compared to other methods listed here. Social monitoring is a passive form of market research in which you set alerts or use keywords to determine what people are saying about your brand. You can also use social media channels to poll your audience and collect feedback, similar to an online survey.

One of the main pitfalls of this market research strategy is that customers are more likely to share negative feedback on social media than positive. Social listening and monitoring only provide a small piece of the marketing picture.

Social Media Monitoring

Customer Interviews

Customer interviews are similar to a focus group but on a smaller, targeted scale. These are a great way to collect follow-up information from participants after a focus group or online survey is complete. Many brands might reach out to someone who shared negative feedback on social media to collect more information about their opinions.

Customer interviews collect qualitative data using open-ended questions and follow-up questions. While this process collects in-depth information and extends beyond the limitations of a survey or structured questionnaire, it’s costly to execute the interviews and interpret the data.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis combines a competitive analysis with an internal audit to identify challenges and opportunities compared to the competition. During a SWOT, market researchers evaluate the internal strengths and weaknesses of the brand. Then, they review the opportunities and threats left by the competition.

For example, if the competition has a huge, engaged social media following and significant marketing budget, those would be threats. If the competition is failing to provide a solution for a specific subset of customers, that would be an opportunity.

SWOTs are relatively straightforward to execute and can be completed for brands of any size. However, they require in-depth primary and secondary market research and an objective view.

Capturing market research is essential for long-term success. Use these five proven strategies to clarify your brand’s opportunities, understand customer motivations, and stand out from the competition.

Wendy Dessler is a super-connector who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition.

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