The Poor Man’s Guide to Market Research

Here’s the thing, if you want to be a successful marketer, you need research to help you effectively reach your audience. But many of us may find ourselves lacking the money to pay for thousands of dollars worth of demographic reports or professionally moderate focus groups and in-depth interviews.

So what do you do? You get creative and look for other sources of information that will help you understand your audience. Here’s the information you need:


K, you want to know age, gender, race, ethnic origin, and geographic location. This information will tell you where to reach your audience; essentially, it determines your media plan. Their demographic information gives you insights into their media consumption. Are they more dependent on the Internet or TV for their information? Do they read the newspaper? What magazines are they into? How often are they on their cell phones? Etc.


Psychographics is all about messaging. This is where you get into the brains of your target market. You want to know them better than they know themselves. What do they do in their free-time? What movies and TV shows do they like? Are there certain personality traits that connect them all? But the most important question you need to answer is what motivates them? Once you know their motivation, you’re gold.

Now that you know what kind of information you need and we’ve already established you don’t have a pajillion dollars to throw at research, here are some research options:

Online Surveys

Survey Monkey is a free online market research service. You create your own survey to ensure you get the answers you want and the information you need. The tricky thing with this is that you have to make sure your survey questions make sense and are not leading. You definitely need to do some research before you writing an effective survey.

Mechanical Turk works the same as Survey Monkey; you write your own surveys and submit it for responses. However, you have to pay for this one. It’s nice, though, because there is no minimum fee; you pay for how many responses you want. Mechanical Turk then takes 10% commission of your hits.

Online Focus Groups

Here are some options to simulate the effect of a traditional focus group:

· Create your own forum

· Comment on relevant blogs and start a conversation

· Participate in relevant discussion boards


Just go talk to people. Usually this involves a video camera for documentation purposes, but we’re poor around here, so you can choose to do your interviews with or without a camera.

Hopefully you’ve determined what you’re audience is into, so you know where to find them. Then, you know, you can talk to them. Make sure you have specific questions you want to get answers to. If you walk to enough people, you should start to see some patterns in their responses that will allow you to start crafting your messaging.


That’s right kids, get on your creepy shoes, it’s time to do some good old-fashioned stalking. All of these tools are more effective if you have some kind of contact, enrollment, or mailing list to search from, instead of just shooting in the dark.

Spokeo – More like Spook-eo. Yeah, I made that up. K, this is one of the creepiest sites I have ever been on. You just look up a name, specify the city and state, confirm the address and then get all kinds of crazy information. There is a monthly fee, but it’s super cheap for the information you get. It gives you demographic information, interests, income, social networks, relationship status, email, bios, photos. It’s nuts. P.S. if you don’t want your information on, you can have in removed.

Facebook – Just do what you normally do on Facebook; stalk people. Except this time it won’t be a potential date or old high school friends who are super weird; it will be a potential customer. You can see all their interests, their friends, their pictures, favorite movies and books, pretty much their whole lives. Do you feel really creepy right now? Yeah, that’s a valid feeling.

MySpace – Repeat tips in the “Facebook” section. However, this will only be effective if you are marketing to 13-year-old girls or 50-year-old men who flirt with 13-year-old girls.

Blogs – Blogs can provide incredibly insight into anyone’s brain. Find blogs that fit your audience profile and see what you can learn just from reading blogs. You can also comment on relevant blogs and start conversations. Chances are if your blogger fits the profile, their readership will also have similar characteristics.

Welp, I wish you only solid findings and crazy insights that will make you tons of money and, in turn, allow you to buy real research. 🙂

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