As a small business owner, you’re continually looking for ways to grow your business. What better way to do so than to launch new products and services? But how do you know if those products and services are needed in the marketplace? Or if your current product is meeting the needs of your customers?

The answer is to do your homework through market research.

Yes, we know that you’re not a millionaire (wouldn’t that be nice, though?), and don’t have a lot to spend, if anything, on your market research, which can cost up to $30K to $60K for some companies. So, how can you gather the information you need when you have a smaller budget? 

Here are 4 tips for tapping into your audience and find out where to improve, where to innovate and where to discontinue your product and service offering through market research:

Tap into Your CRM

Your current small business CRM is hopefully filled with prospects and customers you can connect to for market research. With solid data, you can segment your contacts by their contact status, title or position, and interests to get the feedback you need about your products and services. With a well-organized CRM, it’s easy to pull relevant lists of contacts and email them for feedback, such as a survey or interview request.

Leverage Your Contacts NPS

Here’s a tip for helping you slice and dice the feedback you receive from your customers:  leverage their Net Promoter Score (NPS). The NPS helps companies gauge the loyalty of their customers on a scale from 1 to 10 by asking one simple question:

How likely are you to recommend us?

  • Customers who give you a 9 or 10 are your promoters. They are raving fans of your business, and you can leverage them for referrals, driving growth.
  • 7s & 8s are your passives.  They are satisfied with you, but aren’t going to go out of their way to promote your business, and are susceptible to competitors.
  • Detractors give you a 0 -6. These customers are less than happy with your service.  These are the grumblers who actually detract from your business because they have negative things to say.

net promoter score

Who would you rather please? The detractors who may never be happy with your products and services because they aren’t a good fit to begin with?  Or your promoters – your most loyal customers who are responsible for generating more new business?

When gathering data from your customers, it helps to take NPS into account, so you can ensure you’re listening to feedback from your promoters, helping you to attract more raving fans who are just like them.

Conduct a Survey

Use a survey tool like, SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo, to collect insight from your audience. With these tools, you can ask specific questions about your audience’s challenges and solutions. You can also ask qualifying questions upfront to help segment responses and make sure you are getting valid insights. Even better, you can use skip logic, or branch logic, to guide survey takers down a specific path.  For instance, you can ask “Are you a current customer?” to separate your actual customers from prospects in your audience.  Then, you can ask your customers “How likely are you to recommend us?” to get their NPS, while skipping that question for those who aren’t customers.

When it comes to surveys, the more responses you receive from your audience, the more statistically valid the responses are.  So how many people do you need to survey to get solid feedback?  SurveyMonkey has a great chart to help you gauge how big of a group you should survey.

So, what if you need 300 survey responses to be statistically valid, but only have 100 contacts who have completed your survey?  SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo also offer the ability to purchase survey responses from an audience similar to the one you’re trying to target. It’s affordable for small businesses – and completely worth it in the quest to get your product-market fit right on the money.

Host a Webinar

If you want to really find out if there’s a market for your new product or service, create a webinar about it. You can do at least two or three iterations of the invite for this webinar — changing up the product name, description, and features — in order to see what will resonate best with the target audience. Then, once that webinar and the invites have been created, promote the heck out of it to your target audience through email promotions to your database and through social media posts and see what level of interest is generated. 

Webinars are a great platform to share your ideas.  At the same time, they can also be valuable to getting feedback from your audience.  Use a Q&A session after you’ve presented to gauge how successful your new ideas might be.  If only a handful of people show up, but they are promoters who have lots of positive feedback, you might have a great product for your niche.

Ask and Listen on Social Media

Just as you’ve promoted the above webinar through social media, you can also post polls and straight out ask your audience what they like best about your company and what areas they’d like to see change. This will also give you insight into exactly what people who buy products like yours are interested in. On the flip side, use social listening to make sure you’re hearing what your audience has to say about your business and your industry.

On the flip side, you can use social listening to make sure you’re hearing what your audience has to say about your business and your industry. Hootsuite is a great social listening tool for small business.  You can set up feeds to search mentions of your business as well as relevant keywords.  That way, you can stay in the know about the pain points in your company, product and service offering, and in the industry as a whole.

Offer an Incentive

While doing market research is a big benefit to you, your participants will probably be asking, “what’s in it for me?” You can absolutely offer a reward to people that fill out your survey, register for your webinar, or answer your questions on social media. You don’t have to give away anything extravagant.  Even a $5 Starbucks gift card is enough to say “Thanks for your feedback, have a coffee on us.” A little incentive can help broaden your reach and deepen your insights into your market and target audience.