Inexpensive Market Research Methods to Use in Product Development

IdeaPros, San Diego Based Super Venture Partner, Shares 6 Inexpensive Market Research Methods to Use in Product Development

Every entrepreneur has experienced the crushing disappointment of a much-anticipated launch falling spectacularly flat. After all the blood, sweat, and tears of product development, it’s hard when it seems that customers aren’t interested in what you have to offer.

Sometimes, this is the result of an uninspiring product or a listless marketing campaign. More often, it’s merely a case of poor market research: either there’s not enough demand for your particular product, or you’re approaching consumers from entirely the wrong angle. With over 6 million new businesses popping up every year in the United States alone, it’s harder than ever to grab the attention of potential consumers and investors. How can you avoid this situation without diverting too many development resources into customer research?

Below, IdeaPros, a firm that specializes in working with entrepreneurs to navigate this competitive field by crafting custom, low-risk opportunities that position businesses for success, details 6 inexpensive market research methods to use in product development:

  1. Mine Competitor Reviews for Information

In this age of social media, it’s seldom difficult to find people expressing opinions online about any topic. Use this to your advantage by reading reviews of your competitors’ products and services. What do customers like about them? Which problems seem to crop up regularly? Are there any obvious gaps in the market? If you can take the best from your competition while filling in the missing pieces, you’ll put yourself in a strategic position within your niche.

  1. Use Keyword Research Tools

Keyword research using tools such as Wordstream or Google Keyword Planner is an essential part of marketing, helping you to tailor your content and SEO to the actual language consumers are using. However, the same tools can be used to inform product development. Which unexpected terms are appearing within your niche, and how could your product be tweaked to address those searches? Are there any significant desires that seem to go unaddressed? How does overall search volume compare to markets with which you’re already familiar?

  1. Consult Your Customers

A database of existing customers is invaluable for direct marketing, but can also be leveraged to improve your future products and services. Michael Corradini is the CEO & Co-Founder of IdeaPros. He recommends asking your most loyal (or lucrative) customers for their opinions on your plans, possibly offering an incentive such as a discount on their next order. “You don’t need to conduct a vast information-gathering exercise, but getting some genuine customer opinions can shed plenty of light on your current development ideas,” stated Corradini.

  1. Online Surveys

Surveys are a tried-and-tested way of gathering consumer opinion, but you don’t need to spend a fortune with a market research agency to benefit from the technique. Online services such as SurveyMonkey and Google Consumer Surveys make it easy to present a questionnaire to a highly targeted group of consumers, at the cost of a few cents per completion. Although the expense can mount up for a large sample size, it’s a low price to pay compared to investing much more substantial sums in a misguided development process.

  1. Check Out Influencers

Every industry has figures who regularly comment on a niche’s state of play, and also predict future trends. Paying careful attention to media coverage of these pundits can reveal plenty, but you can even go one step further. Many of these commentators are only too happy to share their thoughts in return for a little exposure. If you’re in a position to conduct an interview and publish the results, you also have the opportunity to pick their brains about which new features they’d like to see, and which future directions they expect the market to take. Of course, any gems you unearth needn’t make the final publication.

  1. Validate with Paid Ads

Lastly, even the most careful research can become obsolete when it meets the real world. Before committing resources to a full-scale launch, test the market with a low-budget advertising campaign. Even if your conversion aim is only a sign-up for a launch announcement, you’ll have a much better idea about the scale of interest in your planned offering.

It takes more than an excellent product to achieve business success. If you don’t know how to identify your market efficiently (or even if a sufficient market exists), then all the product development resources you can muster can quickly come to nothing.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.