Finding a Research Audience

Finding people to respond to your surveys, or give up time to be interviewed or join focus groups can be one of the hardest and most time consuming aspects of doing your own market research. It is essential that you reach out to members of the public and potential customers, rather than falling into the trap of relying on friends and family.

While your friends will no doubt be willing to sacrifice some time to help you out, their responses will be skewed by the fact that they know you and this could impact the overall accuracy of your research. Ideally you want to speak to a sample of respondents who are as close to your target market as possible, or if you don’t know exactly who your target audience is, you should try to include people from lots of different backgrounds in your sample.

There are a number of channels you can use to get the necessary primary data for your market research:

Social Media / Email

If you have built an online survey, one way you can promote it is through social media. This will help to ensure that it is seen by a large number of people, hopefully ensuring you get a good number of responses. This is one area where you can ask your friends and family to help out, as rather than simply posting a link to the survey on your own profile, you can ask your friends to share it with their networks. This can significantly increase the visibility of the survey.

If you are not active on social media you can still take this approach by emailing your friends / family / colleagues and asking them to pass the link on. Email is also useful if you are looking to get responses from businesses.

Finding Email Addresses
  • The vast majority of businesses these days will list a contact email address on their website, and if you are willing to put in the effort to email lots of firms you can get a very good sample. You can either send them a link to an online survey, or just ask them a couple of questions directly in the email.
  • You can search for relevant companies using Google or directory sites or find lists of relevant blogs in specific categories through Alltop.com.
  • LinkedIn – If you are trying to contact people in specific departments at larger companies you can find a great deal of information on LinkedIn. Where people don’t provide an email address it is often worth having a guess at it. A lot of firms simply use the format firstname.surname@companyname.com or you could send them a message directly through LinkedIn.

It is worth following up with these people with a phone call. Smaller companies will usually list a contact number on the website and will be able to point you in the direction of the best person to speak to. Larger companies may use a switchboard so you can ask to speak directly to the person you found through LinkedIn. In either case, if your questions are simple enough you could offer to run through them on the phone very quickly rather than asking them to go away and reply to an email which they may never do!

Leveraging Other People’s Contacts

You could look to leverage the database of other businesses when conducting your research. For instance, if you find a business or blog targeting a similar niche as yourself but that you are not competing directly against, you could ask them to send out the link to the survey to their database. Obviously you will need to offer some incentive to them.

  • You could offer to include a couple of their questions in your survey and to do the analysis for them to help them understand their customers better.
  • You could offer their customers a great incentive that the company would be happy to pass on as a value-add.
  • If you are offering business to business services, you could compensate the business by providing your service to them for free.
  • You could write a couple of blog posts based on the output of the survey that they could include in their content marketing strategy.

Leveraging other peoples audience can also apply to offline business. Local stores may be happy for you to leave leaflets in their store inviting people to take part in your research. The leaflet would then provide some detail of the research and a way to contact you to take part. As with online surveys there are a number of incentives you can offer firms to help you out.

Online Forums

Another option for reaching people is through online forums. Search for forums relevant to your niche then put your questions to the audience. You should also search for posts relating to your specific area of interest and see what people are talking about.

It is important that you comment on other peoples posts and give something back to the community. This will also help to demonstrate your expertise on the topic. If you are not getting a good response to your posts you can look for people that are talking about your area of interest and send them a private message.

Talking to People in the Street

If you are looking to capture the opinions of the public you could literally take to the street with a clipboard and a questionnaire. Getting people to stop and talk to you in the street can be difficult and therefore frustrating and demoralising but if you stick at it long enough you will get the responses you need.

This has the benefit of you being able to go to a place where your particular target customers congregate, for instance if you are looking to target football fans you could stand outside a stadium on match day.

To get better traction from the public you have to create a compelling offer. Answer the “what’s in it for me” question by giving them something back for free; this could be a sample of your product or something else entirely. Remember to emphasise that you are not asking them to buy anything and you will only take up a few minutes of their time.

Some people, particularly with B2B research, will be happy to take part in exchange for a copy of the findings.

Paid Audiences

If you are looking to conduct more quantitative surveys with a large enough response to be statistically significant, there are a number of services that can connect you directly with an audience for a small fee. While this is more expensive than manually targeting participants yourself it is a good middle ground between a completely DIY approach and commissioning an agency. It is cost effective as you pay only for completed responses and it takes a great deal of effort out of connecting with your audience.

Google Consumer Surveys offers this service and charges as little as $0.10 per completed question. Survey Monkey audience offers a similar service at $1 per survey response. Both offer a very quick turnaround and you can often expect to receive results in 48 hours.