The purpose of market research is an important one: you are going to determine who will buy your product, where they hang out both on and offline, and how you can best reach them through advertising your autoresponder program. The more you can pinpoint your target market, the better success (and profits) you will see.
There are many methods of performing market research. We’ll cover the most effective ones here. All of the following examples are fast, easy, and best of all…free. For best results, use each one of them and arm yourself with as much information as possible. This way, when you launch your autoresponder campaign, your earnings will truly be automatic.
Searches: Google, e-Bay, Amazon
Internet searches are extremely effective in finding not only how popular your topic is, but how to set up your autoresponder for maximum results. A vast majority of internet users find what they’re looking for by searching, whether they use a general web search engine like Google or a site-specific engine to wade through consumer mega-sites like e-Bay and Amazon. A quick search on your topic will reveal how many people are interested, and what convinces them to check products out.
Without a doubt, Google is the most popular internet search engine—so much so, its name has become a synonym for the act of running a web search (i.e., “I couldn’t find that site that posts the winning lottery numbers, so I just Googled it.”) Many internet marketers make increasing their site ranking—the “place in line” the site appears in Google results using their keywords—one of the key components of their advertising campaigns. Obtaining a top 10 Google rank (appearing on the first page of search results) is akin to winning an Olympic gold medal in the marketing world.
The key to advertising success on Google and other sites: the right keywords
How can this help you with your market research? By studying the top search results for pages you find through keywords relating to your topic, you can find out what these sites are doing to achieve search engine success. The following steps will help you run an effective and informative Google search.
1. List keywords and keyword phrases relating to your topic. For example, if your topic is “working from home,” your list of keywords might be: work from home, working from home, work at home, telecommute, telecommuting, at home jobs.
2. Go to the Google home page and type in your first keyword or phrase, then click on “Google Search.”
NOTE: If you are not familiar with Google, clicking on “I’m Feeling Lucky” will not produce a list of web sites; it will take you directly to what Google has determined the most relevant site for your keyword. But if you’re in the mood for a laugh, you might try “I’m Feeling Lucky” just for kicks.
When you receive the search results, check out the pages that are relevant to your topic (search engines are by no means exact, and sometimes you will find results that don’t relate to your topic—or at least, not in the way you had in mind). The best way to do this is to right-click on the links you want to visit and choose “Open in new window.” This will keep the Google search results page open so you don’t have to backtrack through your browser to find it again.
3. Note the way the sites are laid out (is it appealing and easy to read, or does it make your eyes bleed?), what kind of text is on the front page (does it seem informative, or is it all hype? Are there a lot of spelling and grammar errors?), and whether there is an obvious available product. If there is a site counter, note how many visitors the site has received.
4. Repeat this process with the rest of your keywords. You will often find the same sites showing up in the top 10 for different, related searches. Pay special attention to these; they are the ones you may want to emulate when you create the web site for your autoresponder.
NOTE: If you run a Google search on your topic and find only two or three related web sites before the results turn up unrelated material, it may indicate there is a limited market for your topic. In this case you should either rewrite your keywords and try again, or consider choosing a different topic altogether.
It’s said you can buy anything on eBay, from cars and computers to clothing formerly worn by celebrities. This massive online consumer marketplace and auction house is a haven for buyers and sellers looking for great deals from the comfort of their own homes. Searching for products related to your topic on eBay can help you home in on your market. It will also help you determine how much buyers are willing to pay for products related to your subject.
Follow these steps to exploit eBay for information:
• Sign up for a free eBay account. This personalizes your experience and allows eBay to provide you with relevant information every time you visit.
• Go to the eBay home page and log in.
• Choose one of the categories on the left-hand side of the page that’s relevant to you topic and browse through the listings, or search for a specific item or topic using the search bar at the top of the page.
• Make note of the price ranges people are willing to pay for items or products related to your topic. This will give you a general idea of what to charge for yours. Also, note how many products are available related to your topic in comparison to other topics. This is not limited to books: you might find CDs, audio programs, or one of many forms your product can take.
Amazon.com, the “other” internet consumer giant, is similar to e-Bay in that you can find just about anything you want to buy. Amazon’s biggest selection is in media: books, movies and music; but they also have an enormous inventory of electronics, toys, jewelry, clothing and accessories, and much more. Where e-Bay concentrates on selling used products through auctions and classifieds-style advertising, Amazon carries new products along with a healthy dose of independent sellers touting used wares.
Your purpose in using Amazon for market research is twofold: you will identify your competition and find out how popular your topic is, and you will familiarize yourself with how Amazon works, as you will likely want to consider making your product available through Amazon. Here’s how to check it out:
• Sign up for an Amazon account, if you don’t already have one. Like eBay, Amazon will give you personalized recommendations based on your searching and buying history, and keep you updated with the latest available information on your topic.
• Once you’ve signed up, go to the Amazon home page and log in (you may be automatically logged in; Amazon really likes keeping track of its customers and often will keep you perpetually signed on, even when you leave the site…)
• Using the search bar at the top of the page, choose “Books” from the dropdown list and type in your topic or keywords. The results you get will be both print books and e-books. Since Amazon deals primarily in new product, you will be able to view the retail price of competitive products.
• Make note of prices and the number of titles available relating to your topic. Also, you might want to consider checking out the Listmania sections on the product pages you view (you can find this by scrolling down on the page, almost to the bottom). Listmania is an Amazon program that promotes customer recommendations by allowing Amazon users to compile lists of their favorite books on Amazon. Checking out Listmania picks helps you understand what type of product your target market is interested in, and how much they are willing to pay for it.
• Once you find a product, if you scroll down past Listmania you will find sections on “similar items by category” and “similar items by subject.” You can browse through the available products related to your topic in this way without going back to your search results page.
Groups and forums
The internet is a worldwide community connecting people with common interests who would otherwise never have had the opportunity to meet. There are groups and forums dedicated to just about any topic imaginable. For you, the main benefit of finding a group or forum related to your subject is a pre-assembled bunch of folks you know will be interested in what you have.
When dealing with groups and forums, the worst thing you can do is join up and immediately post a message asking people to buy your product. For internet group members, this is like having a salesperson show up uninvited at the front door of their house. At best your message will be ignored; at worst, you may find yourself banned from the group before you get started. When you find groups or forums relating to your topic, sign up and spend some time looking around, posting introductory messages and reading what the other members have to say. Reply to some posts and get to know some of them first. Then when you’re ready to start talking about your product, you’ll have a more receptive audience. During this time, do your research: notice what the group likes and dislikes, the things that interest them enough to spark long discussions. Pay attention to the general demographics of the group as well. What is an “average member” like? This will help you hone in further on your target market.
Here are some places to get started finding groups and forums:
• Yahoo! Groups: A directory of online groups and forums hosted by Yahoo, searchable by category or keyword. Yahoo! is one of the most popular providers of free group sites—you might even consider starting your own free group so you can get to know your target market better.
• Google group search: The search engine giant maintains separate engine listings for web sites, images, and groups. Just plug in your topic or keywords to find groups all over the internet related to your subject. You can also create your own free groups through Google.
• MSN Groups: Another online community of groups and forums, with a handy by-subject index and a search box. MSN has free group and chat room creation as well.
• Delphi Forums: A directory of internet forums, also searchable by keyword or topic and allowing free creation of your own forum for discussion.
• Big boards: Search the largest message boards and forums on the web.
Survey Says? Conducting marketing surveys
Marketing surveys are invaluable tools for discovering precise, targeted information about your intended audience. This method is so important, there are several companies that have made a business of providing marketing surveys to other businesses for a fee. The good news is, you can perform marketing surveys yourself without paying a dime and still get great results.
Ideally, you would institute a marketing survey after you’ve built an opt-in list (covered in a later chapter). But you can start mining your market for information even before you have your product ready. Groups and forums are good places to start; or you can set up a free mini-site just for your survey. You can even enlist friends and family to help you out by filling out surveys.
Constructing Your Survey
Have you ever received an offer for an exciting free gift provided you fill out a survey—only to discover the questions you had to answer required pages of information and would take up more of your time than you were willing to invest for whatever incentive was offered? This is a prime example of an ineffective marketing survey. You don’t want to lose consumer interest before they get to the good part: your product.
The principle of KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) should apply liberally to marketing surveys. The easier you make it for people to fill out your survey, the more likely they will be to respond. Try to keep it to 20 questions or less, including demographic information (age, gender and location—do not ask for names, as most people prefer to remain anonymous when filling out surveys). Also, make as many as you can yes/no or multiple choice answers, and remember to include space for additional comments.
One great way to get survey responses is to offer a free incentive upon completion. This can be an e-book, a mini-course, or even the full version of your product when it is released (if you choose to give away free product, be sure to state only a limited number of respondents will receive the free gift. This also creates urgency and helps to increase response). A full discussion on free incentives can be found further in this book.
Setting Up Your Survey
There are many ways to go about setting up your marketing survey. One is to compose an e-mail and ask people to hit “Reply” and fill in the answers. This method is easier for you to set up, but some people would not respond simply because they do not know how to add text to a reply. Also, because of differences in browsers and e-mail programs, some of your responses may be choppy and difficult to interpret.
Another method is to set up a web-based form that sends responses to your inbox. Most of these are simple and free to set up; when you send out your survey request, you would only have to include a link to your form in the e-mail.
Here are some places you can set up a free web-based form for your survey:
• Survey Console: A thirty-day free trial allowing you to test 400+ survey templates for your web site. NOTE: Thirty days should be plenty of time for you to conduct market research, so you won’t have to pay for the service.
• SurveyShare.com: By signing up for a free membership, you will receive free survey creation software and access to survey templates online.
• SurveyMonkey.com: Create and publish online surveys in minutes, and view results graphically and in real time. SurveyMonkey provides free online questionnaire and survey …
When e-mailing links to your survey, make sure your subject line is compelling and to-the-point, and the text is short and direct—particularly if you’re posting to a group or sending a request to people who have not asked to take your survey. Following is a sample of what your survey invitation might look like:
SUBJECT: You are a few clicks away from a free [incentive] on [TOPIC]
Have you ever wondered how to [compelling question on your TOPIC]? We are developing an exciting new [book, e-course, CD] on how to do just that—and we need your input. And just for taking a few moments to answer [number] simple questions, we will give you a free [incentive] for your time!
Click here to take the survey and claim your free gift: [link to your survey]
NOTE: Do not use ALL CAPS in the subject line or body of your e-mail. Many spam filters discard messages that use excessive capital letters, and your message will be lost before your target has the chance to think about it.
Posting surveys on your web site is a useful tool even beyond the marketing phase. The more interactive your web site is, the more likely people will return to visit again. You can find more information on getting repeat traffic for your web site in the chapter entitled “Drive Traffic to Your Web Site.”
Sample Marketing Survey
Here is an example of a marketing survey using simple questions and multiple choice answers:
SAMPLE MARKETING SURVEY
Age Range: ___Under 18 ___18-25 ___26-35 ___36-45 ___46-64 ___65+
Gender (optional):* ___M ___F *Note: Always make gender selection optional. Most people will fill in the answer anyway if you don’t ask for a name.
Location (State, or country if outside U.S.): ___________________________
How often do you purchase products online? ___Frequently ___Sometimes ___Rarely ___Never
How often do you purchase products relating to [TOPIC]? ___Frequently ___Sometimes ___Rarely ___Never
Do you currently own any products relating to [TOPIC]? ___Yes ___No
Would you be interested in [brief description of your product]? ___Yes ___No
If yes, how much would you pay for [PRODUCT]? (Set ranges around your desired price)
Would you purchase [PRODUCT] if it was on sale? ___Yes ___No
Where would you be most likely to purchase [PRODUCT] from? ___Independent web site ___Amazon ___e-Bay ___Physical location ___Other
Is there anything else you think we should know?__________________________
Would you like to join our list for announcement, product updates and helpful information? ___Yes ___No
Thank you for participating in our survey! [Reply or click here] to claim your free gift!
Market research is an important part of creating a successful online business. Follow these tips and reap the rewards