Using Dirt Cheap Online Market
Research To Grow Your Business

 

Article by: Marty Foley

It pays to be well informed about what is 'hot' with your prospects and customers, and what is not. Since people usually buy a product or service for the benefits they expect to gain from it, what's hot with your prospects and customers are things such as:

*the goals they want to achieve;

*the problems they want to solve.

Market research is - in a nutshell - the process of finding out what's hot with your prospects and customers (so you can help them achieve gain or eliminate pain through your existing or future products or services) and what's not (so you can avoid spending your energies in unprofitable directions).

Market research is not difficult to conduct, and yields valuable insight. Such crucial information can show you, among other things:

*which ideas for potential new products or services have the greatest likelihood of success;

*how to improve your current products or services so as to offer better value and encourage satisfied customers to buy from you again;

*how to appeal to your typical prospect in your marketing communications;

*the concerns and questions your prospects and customers are most likely to have, so you can address them - even before they arise;

*what your customers may dislike about your products/services, so that you can try to remedy the situation.

Yes, market research can give you all this stategic business information - and more. As you may know, I'm the author of a growing list of several 'how-to' information products, all related to business success, covering topics such as Internet marketing, Free publicity, Self-publishing, Mail order/Direct marketing, Catalog marketing, Time management, etc., which I market primarily online.

In relation to my marketing efforts, questions have come up, such as:

1) Which of my several products are most appealing to my online prospects?

2) Which headlines generate the greatest response? I've gotten answers to these questions - and built my prospect and subscriber lists at the same time - through online market research.

These tests are very much like tests a direct marketer might use in direct mailings or print publications with mail order ads. In traditional direct marketing, many print publications will, for a fee, allow you to use what is called split-run advertising. This is where half the circulation of the same issue is printed with one ad (A), and the other half of the issue is printed with another ad (B). Each ad is keyed in
some way (given a unique identifier, such as different department number in the address) so it can be determined which ad generated the response.

Response is calculated for each ad, and the results are compared to determine which yielded the best response. The winning ad is then used in future marketing efforts, at least until another test reveals an even better ad.

Such split-run advertising in print publications can be very helpful for testing ad copy, prices, offers, etc., but it's expensive, and can take weeks or months for ads to run. I especially like conducting market research online, because it's fast and cheap. (I currently use my own email newsletter for most of my ad testing.)

Let me share just one example of how I've conducted online market research.

I selected Usenet newsgroups whose readers were likely interested in the benefits of my information products in which to run the tests.

Two different postings were used for each test. The message of each posting was identical. I offered to send a text copy of any one of several reports free by e-mail if the reader simply sent an e-mail message indicating which one they wanted. (To make such an offer online and fill the requests by e-mail only costs me some time.)

The only difference between each posting of the test was that two different headlines (subject lines) were used, whose pulling power I wanted to compare with the other.

For the most accurate results, conditions should be as identical as possible for each half of the test. An effort was therefore made to run each different headline several times each, running one headline one day, and the other the next, an equal number of times.

Each newsgroup posting had a two-fold purpose:

1) To test the pulling power of each headline. The headline that generated the greatest response could then be used to improve future marketing communications. (Such a test can also be useful in selecting a title for an information product, since a product title is, in effect, a headline.)

2) To compare the popularity of each report in relation to the others. The results would reveal which products should be given more prominence in my marketing efforts, and indicate likely areas for profitable expansion (spin-off or related products and/or services to add to my line).

This is only one example to show you how market research can be conducted. Since I wrote the first version of this article, I used another way to conduct market research; one that virtually operates by itself once it is set up.

On my web site I have a Guestbook form that allows visitors to get their choice of any one of several Special Reports just for filling out a brief survey. All they have to do is input some information into various fields and click the "Submit" button. It's an excellent way to get feedback from my site visitors, which reveals not only the things that
interest them, but also how to improve my web site and other online marketing operations.

Some other ways of conducting market research are:

*by analyzing sales records to see which of your existing products/services are most popular;

*by examining other successful businesses in your field to see what has worked for them;

*by scrutinizing the questions and concerns that prospects frequently ask.

There are many different possible directions you can take in your business. But if they are not 'hot' with your prospects or customers, in that they don't help them achieve gain (reach a goal) or relieve pain (solve a problem), they probably aren't worth your time and effort. Market research can reveal such useful information to you.

Now I've now given you some ideas for helping you grow your business by conducting your own online market research - dirt cheap!

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Article by Marty Foley, author of Internet Marketing Goldmine:

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