By Alyssa Gregory

21 Market Research Tips

By Alyssa Gregory

In my last post, I outlined a few ways small business owners and freelancers can do their own market research. While it’s entirely possible to conduct your own research and collect meaningful data, you need a plan in order to be successful.

This post provides tips for making sure the time, energy and money you’re investing in your market research is well spent.

  1. Be clear about your objectives before beginning your market research.
  2. Identify your target audience, how many respondents you require and what data you are hoping to collect before beginning.
  3. Make sure your target group is relevant to your needs and represents the market you are targeting.
  4. Watch for and incorporate unsolicited feedback you receive on social networks or review sites.
  5. Say thank you to every single person who contributes to your research.
  6. Provide a place for open-ended comments on any survey that you use.
  7. Make it common practice to ask clients for suggestions at every interaction.
  8. Understand the difference between qualitative and quantitative research and format your questions accordingly.
  9. Review your surveys and questionnaires to ensure you’re not phrasing anything offensively.
  10. Develop a chart or graph from the data collected to make it easier to visually analyze the results.
  11. Record interviews or focus groups whenever possible for review and analysis.
  12. Don’t ignore criticism because you don’t want to hear it; it can be the most valuable feedback you receive.
  13. Ensure your survey is neutral and doesn’t involve leading questions.
  14. Make it quick and easy to complete your survey or questionnaire.
  15. Aim for a large enough sample group to give you meaningful data.
  16. Create your surveys and interviews so the focus is on measurable data.
  17. Follow surveys with a phone call or other personal contact to round out the answers provided, whenever possible.
  18. Put yourself in the shoes of your potential clients when writing your survey questions.
  19. Ensure that all participants will remain confidential to encourage participation.
  20. Be impartial throughout the whole process, or use an outside person to facilitate.
  21. Keep your mind open to new opportunities and needs that you didn’t consider before conducting your research.

What tips would you add to this list?

For more information on conducting effective market research:

  • I would add couple references to tools that helps you to conduct surveys.
    I guess that everybody have heard about Survey Monkey, but if you are at limited budget the free alternative (if you have longer questionnaire, that can not be free in SurveyMonkey), an alternative is use Google Docs spreadsheet with form. I used it couple time during my study, it works pretty well.

  • Dirk

    Hi Alyssa,
    Great list!
    Especially points 1 and 14 are very important. Ask only the questions you really need to ask so that you can answer your research question. Ruthlessly delete all those “nice to have” questions!
    Maybe a couple of additional points to consider:
    – ask about only one topic in each question. Avoid double barreled questions such as “Would you visit our web site more frequently if we changed the web site’s background color and offered a weekly prize?” These are two questions, so ask them separately.
    – avoid double negatives: “Would you no longer visit our web site if we would cease offering weekly prizes?” Most people would have to read this question twice before realizing they need to say “yes” to say they don’t want you to cease offering weekly prizes.
    – beware of the “primacy” effect: people often pick one of the first options in a list of response options. So randomize the order in which the response options appear to cancel out the primacy effect on the aggregate level.
    There are many more things like these to consider when designing survey questions and questionnaires. I’ve taught classes on this subject and have shown students many examples of seemingly trivial changes that completely changed the results. Like with statistics, it’s true that you can prove anything by skillfully messing up a survey question!

  • <a href=

    Nice article, thanks for the information.

  • jbjcanfield

    This is really useful, Alyssa. Thanks for sharing. Clearly there are lots of compelling reasons to go the do-it-yourself route for market research, cost and time being one of them.

    I’d like to add to point #10 about analyzing your data. There is a new online tool (with a free version) called groketeer (at groketeer.com) that allows you to upload data from SurveyMonkey (soon to be SPSS and Excel, too) and quickly make charts and graphs in order to analyze and gain insights from the. It has an easy to use interface and you don’t have to be a statistics expert to use it. It should be helpful for do-it-yourselfers.


  • Hi Alyssa!
    Thank you for your contribution to the discipline of marketing research. Your points are valid and could meet the desired objectives of the research. I hope marketing research professionals could add value to their research projects by following these 21 points.
    Thank you.

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