Market research is one of those things that many small businesses push to the side due to the misconception that it has to be a difficult, laborious process. Fortunately, there is a multitude of resources that make effective market research easier than it has ever been.

There are basically two levels of market research: top view and on the ground.

Top view market research looks at the size and figures of your market, the macro trends, and regulatory information. While important, this can easily be purchased from a professional market research firm.

On the ground market research is about hearing directly from people, and is something you want a continuous stream of. Two effective time-tested ways of conducting on the ground marketing are through online surveys and good old fashioned networking.

For surveys, I recommend the following:

  • Google Forms – the gold standard. It’s free, easy to use, and a familiar site to many.
  • Typeform – like Google Forms but a bit more aesthetically pleasing.
  • Survey Anyplace – this company is all about creating entertaining surveys. They even offer little incentives like prizes and coupons, which considering how fun and easy it is to complete a survey is well worth it for the end users.

For networking, you can’t go wrong with these:

  • Meetup – used by many to create connections, here you will find a range of semi-casual events to attend that are usually free.
  • Eventbrite – from workshops and seminars to concerts and raves, Eventbrite will almost certainly have events that will help you network.
  • Quora – yes, Quora. While you are not face-to-face, you are nonetheless having useful questions answered and forming connections through the process. It is online, but there is a back and forth just like in-person conversations.

Even if you only attend one networking event a month and have some surveys incorporated into your customer experience, you will have a better idea of what is happening in your market and therefore be in a better position to steer your business based on current trends.