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A Market Research Survey on a Shoestring Budget: How I Did It

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I'm a solo-preneur and a guy, and I run a women's jewelry and accessories store. I needed data to understand women's jewelry-buying habits. So I designed a survey, ran a contest, and marketed it via lifestyle bloggers.

My effort generated 718 completed responses (639 from women) for less than $350—way more economical than survey response solutions out there that charge $3 or more per responder from their panels.

Here's how I did it.

Survey Design and Hosting

Design


To keep the survey short, I had only 11 questions, but more than one-third were open-ended questions (text-box response) that resulted in a lot of detailed responses.

Four questions were on demographics, and three check-box questions were about price points, how often respondents wore jewelry, and their style aesthetic.

The remaining four questions were open-ended, such as "What are your favorite fashion jewelry stores and why?" and "Are there certain types of jewelry that you want but can't easily find?" I sifted through the responses to those to gain insight.

The answers to open-ended questions will tell you things you hadn't even thought of asking.

Hosting

The obvious choice was to go with the most popular survey tool out there: SurveyMonkey. But it didn't have a monthly plan that had the options I wanted, so I found FluidSurveys, which gave me what I wanted for $19 per month and let me cancel after one month. I'm sure there are many other tools out there, but I had no issues in working with FluidSurveys.

Marketing the Survey and Collecting Responses

Once you've decided on the questions and the survey is up and running, the hard part is to market it, on a budget, to the right crowd.

On our blog I hosted a contest for a $100 Amazon gift certificate, to be awarded to a random winner selected from those who completed the survey. I marketed the contest via numerous lifestyle bloggers and sweepstakes listing sites.

Here are some specifics on why I chose to offer an Amazon card and how I selected bloggers to work with.

A Neutral Incentive

Offering a coupon or gift certificate to your own store biases responders to those who are interested in your brand's current offerings.

By offering a neutral incentive, such as an Amazon gift card, you are likely to get responses from a population that is more representative of the market. And the more neutral the incentive, the more appealing it is, which leads to more people completing the survey.

Bloggers to Work With

Since we wanted women in their 20s and 30s to respond to our survey, we decided to work with lifestyle bloggers who, among other things, frequently blog about their fashion finds and style inspirations:

  • Using Google Blog Search and BlogLovin', and googling for terms like "lifestyle bloggers," "style bloggers," and "fashion blogs," I short-listed a set of blogs based on how many followers/fans/readers they had and how many comments their posts were generating—an indication of how engaged their readers are.
  • From that preliminary list, I filtered for those who offered advertising options combined with a feature post or a sponsored post. A feature or sponsor post is a post where the blogger introduces your business to their readers in a blog post. Sometimes, this is a solo post about your business, and sometimes it is a group post about a bunch of their sponsors. Small to midsize bloggers charge $15-$35 for an ad with a post (that is, if they offer advertorial services).
  • I contacted the final list of bloggers and asked them whether along with the intro post they could talk about that survey and contest, and point people to our blog. Most of the bloggers agreed.
  • I worked with about 10 bloggers who wrote about our survey and asked their readers to participate. Since bloggers also do frequent shout-outs about their sponsors on Facebook and Twitter, we got multiple mentions to a highly targeted audience.
  • Once you find a few good blogs to work with, look at their blogrolls or daily reads section to find links to other bloggers they follow. Doing so is an easier way to build a blogger list, since they are already vetted by bloggers you're working with.
  • I also posted the contest on various free contest listing sites like online-sweepstakes.com (online-sweepstakes.com). These got me about 25% of my responses. Note that using just the free sweepstakes listing sites is not recommended because responders from these types of sites alone are generally a lower income population, which is not a good representation of the market. Unless of course, that's the specific population you're targeting.

Results

We received 718 completed responses in two weeks. Some 89% of responders were women—or an analyzable population of 639 respondents. That was large enough to allow us to slice the data in a few different ways to get a better read on consumer preferences.

Total cost: $19 for survey hosting + $100 Amazon gift card + $222 in blogger marketing costs = $341.


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Ash Moosa runs Outfit Additions, a jewelry and accessories store. He is based in Berkeley, California. Reach him via amoosa@outfitadditions.com.

LinkedIn: Ash Moosa

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Comments

  • by Scott Thu Mar 14, 2013 via web

    An enticing Facebook ad would have gotten similar & more highly-targeted response for a lot less effort and no more money

  • by Bill Thu Mar 14, 2013 via web

    Ash, really liked your article and the ideas you used to execute this. Your article came at a perfect time for me as I am getting ready to launch a coaching service (career and job hunting mastery), and am concerned about how to market my service and price it.

    Thanks for sharing

  • by Lynna Thu Mar 14, 2013 via web

    And as long as you realize that your sample frame is biased and your results reflect only those who have the spare time to read those 10 fashion blogs, or are so money conscious that they follow sweepstakes sites, you'll be fine. However, if you want your results to reflect your actual target market, you're screwed. I beg you, please do not base important, risky decisions on this type of "market research."

  • by Bill Thu Mar 14, 2013 via web

    Lynna, yes you are right. What I am looking for is qualitative insight. For my business launch I am looking for the "point of the spear" in message and price point to start to get some traction, and refine from there. Thanks for the comment

  • by Ash Thu Mar 14, 2013 via web

    @Scott: Great idea. Didn't think of it at the time. Will try it out when we do similar projects. The blogger approach was time consuming but it helped build relationships and led to other marketing we did via bloggers.

    @Lynna: I agree that there is some response bias. But don't all surveys? Can you suggest how you would have approached it?

  • by Marc Thu Mar 14, 2013 via web

    Ash, thanks for sharing these valuable tips!

  • by محمودسيد Thu Mar 14, 2013 via web

    هااااااااااااااااااااااااااى

  • by Rushikesh Fri Mar 15, 2013 via web

    Even SBM Works..

  • by MitchG Sun Mar 17, 2013 via web

    Ash, if writing good survey questions was as easy as you imply, there wouldn't have been dozens of books written on the subject. There is not always a straight line between the information you need and the questions you ask; many times you have to get it indirectly. And if you ask the wrong questions, donít word your questions correctly or ask questions people can't really answer accurately, you'll wind up charging ahead based on bad information.

    Having the mechanical capability to write a questionnaire and field it via tools like SurveyMonkey does not make someone a researcher. When experienced professionals write questions it often takes a real focus to assure there are no build-in biases. I strongly suggest getting the help of a professional researcher to at least write your questionnaires. It's too easy to create bad data if you don't really know what you're doing.

  • by Ash Mon Mar 18, 2013 via web

    @MitchG All valid points. I didn't intend to imply it was easy. Takes time and due diligence.

  • by James Wirth Mon May 6, 2013 via web

    Ash, thanks for posting - great to hear a DIY success story even though as you indicated it takes time and effort. Your cost-to-response ratio seemed reasonable and I'm sure other solopreneurs appreciate the detailed account.

    A lot of great info in the comments as well.

    Shameless plug: next go-around, please consider QuestionPro. We have a ton of survey samples, unlimited surveys and responses and great analytics on the free account. Premium features start at $15/month with no long-term commitment.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  • by Sonia Schimke Fri May 16, 2014 via web

    Thank you Ash for sharing!

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