5 must-have market research techniques

If you’re tempted to skip using market research techniques before launching a product, think again.

Better yet, think of Colgate. In the 1980s, the toothpaste maker decided to venture into the frozen foods aisle. That’s right. Colgate, a company synonymous with clean teeth and fresh breath, launched a frozen TV dinner.

Minty fresh…beef lasagna, anyone?

Shoppers had a hard time accepting the idea of savory TV dinners made by their favorite toothpaste brand.

Simply put, the company didn’t do its market validation, and the product flopped.

In our highly connected world, it’s easier than ever to conduct effective market research that could help you avoid costly or embarrassing mistakes. Here are the five must-have market research techniques for your brand.

1. Focus groups

This market research technique brings together a demographically diverse group of people in your target market for a moderated discussion about a product or concept.

Participants are encouraged to share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas about a product. They might influence each other to make certain conclusions, or they might disagree. The point is not to get a consensus, but rather to garner qualitative data.

To set up a focus group:

  • Select a discussion topic and write down questions or prompts
  • Designate a moderator and someone to take notes
  • Choose a venue that lends itself to a relaxed, open discussion (refreshments can help)
  • Determine compensation for participants
  • Enlist participants.

During the discussion, make sure each person gets ample time to share their thoughts. Analyze the insights you receive and decide how to incorporate them into your brand.

For more tips on running a focus group, check out this guide from HubSpot.

2. Surveys

One drawback of focus groups is that they can be expensive to run, depending on the venue you choose and any incentives you might offer participants.

A survey is less expensive and time-consuming and offers more flexibility than other market research techniques. You can conduct a survey online, over the phone, via email, or in person.

Surveys can take different formats: open-ended or multiple choice, a rating scale, yes/no, checkbox, or Likert scale questions (such as ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”).

An effective survey question doesn’t lead respondents down a particular path. Questions should generate honest feedback, because that’s what will help your brand succeed.

For more tips on how to write survey questions, check out our guide, How to Write Unbiased Poll Questions, along with this excellent article from Hotjar.

3. Interviews

An interview is an exchange between you and your customer that can provide unique insights into your brand.

This market research technique allows you to get to know a customer or target audience member on a deeper level. They might be more comfortable sharing their thoughts in an interview (whether in person, on the phone, or via videoconferencing) rather than as part of a focus group.

As with a focus group, you should prepare questions about your product or concept in advance, being careful to avoid leading or double-barreled questions. You may also need to provide an incentive.

One-on-one interviews require a lot of time and energy, but this market research technique, if done right, can be worth it for the insight you’ll gain.

For more tips on how to conduct market research interviews, see this article from Into the Minds.

4. Social media listening

An estimated 3.6 billion people around the world use social media. That’s nearly half the world’s population!

If Colgate had been able to use Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest to tease its frozen lasagna, it might’ve never have created the product to begin with.

Here’s the thing: consumers are brutally honest on social media. In many ways, social media is a window into a person’s mind — which is all the more reason why you should put social media listening into practice.

If your brand already has products on the market, a simple hashtag search will turn up insights from your customers.

Social media listening helps you measure your brand health based on what actual customers are posting online. It can alert you to hashtags and relevant conversations in your industry, and help you find out what people are saying about your competitors.

You can do social media listening on your own or use a software program like Brandwatch’s Consumer Research. Either way, use what you hear to improve your product.

5. Competitive analysis

If you don’t know how your target market views your competition, you lose out on insights that can benefit you.

Competitive analysis, one of the more sophisticated market research techniques, is the close study of a company’s competitors. You don’t focus solely on the things they are doing wrong or right. Instead, you analyze a brand’s strengths and weaknesses.

By noting what does and doesn’t work for them, you can fill gaps in your own business.

To conduct a competitive analysis, select a group of competitors and choose one aspect of their business to study, for example a product that compares to one you’ll be releasing. How does their pricing compare to yours? What do their reviewers say?

Or, analyze something broader — for instance, another brand’s marketing strategy, wherein you gather data on its SEO structure, social media presence and engagement, and content.

For an in-depth guide to conducting competitive analysis, check out this article from Shopify.

How to use PickFu for market research

The market research tools described above can help your brand grow and thrive. Yet, there are downsides. Focus groups are often cost-prohibitive, and surveys are only useful if you have customers to send them to.

PickFu can help fill that void. An online polling platform, PickFu is a cost-effective and quick way to gather feedback and insights from your target market.

With PickFu, you build different types of polls targeted at specific audiences culled from a panel of more than 10,000 U.S.-based respondents.

Once you post a poll, you start getting results in as little as 15 minutes — a fraction of the time it would take to research the venue, date, and cost of a focus group.

A PickFu poll doesn’t just tally votes. They include detailed comments from respondents explaining why they made their choice.

Market research techniques: bonus tips from PickFu

PickFu can help with competitive analysis. Pit your website, logo, ad, product image — anything, really — against a competitor’s to see how consumers perceive your business versus the other guy. 

You’re not limited to split testing two ideas, images, or products. You can also run open-ended polls on PickFu.

Say you’re opening a restaurant and want to know the menu options your customers might want. Ask a question like the one posed in this recent PickFu poll:

The answer was a clear yes. Among the comments from respondents:

  • “While I do not eat those products myself, I appreciate that they are on the menus to accommodate those who do eat it.”
  • “Yes, always. When I go to places that don’t have vegetarian options I get frustrated.”
  • “I love plant-based options — if a restaurant caters to every type of eater, that makes the restaurant better in my opinion. It is important that a restaurant has more options than a salad for vegetarians and vegans.”

PickFu can be a valuable market research tool for your business at any stage in your product’s life cycle.

Check out our guide to consumer market research for more insights that could ultimately save you time and money.

Learn more: Build a better business by testing your business names, ideas, logos, marketing copy, and website designs on PickFu.

Laura Ojeda Melchor

Laura Ojeda Melchor (she/her) is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Parents.com, Mom.com, Gardener’s Path, and of course, PickFu. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut middle-grade novel, Missing Okalee, was published in the fall of 2021 by Shadow Mountain Publishing.