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A guest post by Jason Miller of Zoomerang.

Do you think that “do-it-yourself” market research is impossible on a shoestring budget? Well, think again. Technology is a beautiful thing, especially when it comes to gathering feedback. Online survey and poll tools make it easy and affordable for businesses and organizations to engage with their current customers and find potential new ones.

Here are some quick tips to get you started with your very own market research campaign:

  • Monitor trends. Follow influential sites. Search blog directories, such as Technorati and Blog Catalog for influencers. For example, if you are a small business, follow AT&T SmallBusiness InSite, AOL Small Business, Small Business Trends, and Small Biz Daily to stay on top of the latest SMB news and trends.

  • Create an objective. Start with a clear objective on why you are conducting the research and what types of decisions you will make as a result.

  • Write your questions. Make sure each question is answerable and has a definable objective. If you don’t think you will take action on the information you receive, ask yourself why you should include that question at all.

  • Make use of secondary data. This is data that has been collected for a different objective. Look at existing data sources you have, such as customer profiles, purchase patterns, sales data, and customer service calls.  You may find the information you are seeking in these reports.

  • Begin with current customers. Launch a short and sweet online survey to your existing customer/constituent base.  Once you’ve completed this, you can begin to create more complex and broad surveys and send to a larger group of people.

If you have a social media presence, use it like your own built-in research panel. Launching your survey or poll through Twitter and Facebook can offer exceptional insight and often reveal surprising results.

Here are a few tips to help your survey or poll go beyond your initial reach within Twitter:

  • Include a short personal message about the survey/poll within the tweet.

  • Include an incentive such as “win a gift card,” etc.

  • Use popular hashtags related to your survey/poll. Take a look at the third-party site,, to get an idea of popular hashtags used on Twitter.

  • Don’t be afraid to Tweet your survey/poll more than once. By simply updating the messaging, you can tweet it again later on that day or over the weekend. Try to send the tweet at peak Twitter times for maximum exposure.

  • Use a link-shortening service, such at, to shorten your survey/poll link and track the clicks.

  • Ask for a retweet from your followers.

  • Send a final reminder tweet, such as “survey/poll ends today, results to follow.”

So what are you waiting for? Market research is an essential component to every business strategy. If you do it well, it can help maintain a fruitful relationship with your customers and give you critical insight to make more informed decisions.

Jason Miller is a social media marketing manager at Zoomerang.

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