by John Eberhard

I recently wrote an article about how important it is for businesses to conduct market research surveys of their target public now, because the so-called “recession,” whether you believe in it or not, has changed people’s attitudes about buying things.

So if you are promoting to your public the same way you have been for the last 3-5 years, you are most likely going to be missing the mark, because the public’s attitudes have changed. So your advertising message might be geared to the way their attitudes were a year or two or three ago.

Most business owners know that conducting surveys can tend to be expensive. But over the last few years I have been conducting surveys in a much more affordable fashion. Here’s how:

  1. Find an email list of the right target public. By the right target public, I mean the type of person who tends to buy your products or services. If you’re a veterinarian, the target public is pet owners who live near your practice. If you are a business consultant, your target public might be small business owners. And so on. The trick is to find an email list of that public that you can buy or rent. If you are lucky you might already have a usable list. Figure that the list needs to be at least 10 to 20 times as large as the number of surveys you want to get done.
  1. Write a survey that will find out things like what benefits your public think they will get from your product or service, or what problems they experience that your product or service solves. I recommend getting help in the writing of the survey from someone with a lot of experience in this area. Make sure you include questions related to their attitudes about buying your product or service in this economic climate.
  1. Work out some item that you can offer to the people you will be emailing, as an incentive to get them to fill out the survey. Maybe 5-10 years ago you could just ask people to fill out the survey and you’d get lots of people doing it. But from my experience, today, you need to give the person some kind of incentive to do it. If you have some kind of desirable information product such as a report or white paper, that could work. Over the past few years I have offered a nice pen (with the logo and phone number of the company doing the survey), and I have also offered a $5 Starbucks card. Both have worked very well and I got plenty of surveys done. You can state that only the first 30 or 50 people who fill out the survey get the incentive. When you look at the fact that most phone surveys today cost $10-15 each or more, a $5 Starbucks card is a bargain.
  1. Put the survey up on a web page form. Make sure you include fields for the person’s physical street address if you are offering some physical item such as a pen or Starbucks card as an incentive.
  1. Create your email that you’ll be sending out to the email list. Make this an HTML email (that looks like a web page) so you can include a picture of whatever spiff you’re offering as an incentive.
  1. Send out the email. Collect and tabulate your surveys. Analyze the results and find what the public’s attitudes are now. Find a way to modify your message to address their current attitudes and concerns.

Good hunting.