So you are considering introducing a new product, and you want to do some research to learn about the market and the possible receptiveness to your idea. The problem is, you have no money allocated in the budget for any type of market research. To get information that will be helpful, what can you do without incurring any costs?
The following are seven key actions you can take that will generate useful information about your market and the reaction of your buyers to your product . . . all at no cost to you.
1. Take advantage of the services of a good business library
With the rise of the Internet, many of us forgot the important role a public library can play in providing us with extremely useful information. For example, some of the larger business libraries, such as the Science, Industry & Business Library (SIBL) in New York City, have very knowledgeable reference librarians who can help you research your product category extensively. SIBL also retains copies of business plans for hundreds of different product categories, so you can see what your peers have written.
2. Take full advantage of the Internet
One obvious way to do this is to utilize Google to learn as much as possible about your product or service. The wealth of information you can get is extensive if you are willing to dig into the data that comes up from your searches. In addition, on the Internet, you can research the websites of your potential competitors to see what they are doing and how they are promoting their product or service.
3. Utilize the resources available from industry trade organizations
Most product and service categories have some type of trade association and/or trade magazine. Often, these resources can be very useful if approached correctly, as they like to promote their industry and are very interested in new members. Furthermore, it is very common for trade magazines to run helpful articles or conduct surveys that might be very useful. Also, many industries have trade shows you might be able to attend to gather still more information.
4. Talk to people in your planned product or service area in non-competitive markets
Most small businesses expect to remain relatively local, so if you contact a similar business in another area of the country, they will often give you lots of good information. For example, if you are going to open a consulting business for New York City clients, talking to a similar consultant in San Francisco would not be competitive, and you could get some very helpful tips.
5. Go into your local market and learn what you can from existing similar businesses
For example, if you are planning to open a pizza parlor and need information about how much space you require, what type of ovens you need, or how many employees it would take to help operate it, you could learn much of this simply by observing how other places work.\
6. Utilize free survey tools to gather information
There is a research tool called Survey Monkey, which can help you gather some basic market research information at no cost. It is a very useful free tool for obtaining quantitative data from the marketplace.
7. Utilize man-on-the-street interview approach to obtain inputs about your product or service
Occasionally, you can gain some insights about a product or idea by simply asking others in the community, who do not know you (and thus are more likely to give you an honest answer), about their reactions to the idea. This is not a most reliable source of insight, but it may sometimes garner some useful information.
In conclusion, there are many things the small business person can do to conduct research about their product or service. This blog post provides an overview of only a few of them. The totality of tools available to conduct market research on a shoestring budget is limited only by the imagination of the entrepreneur.