When we hear the word research we also think of large budgets. However, research need not cost a lot of money and yet it can potentially improve your business in many ways.
So here are a few ways in which your firm can conduct research at a low cost.
1) Ask key customers (customers you have built a rapport with), questions. e.g. how you can improve your business? What they like a about your service? etc. This does not necessarily have to be done formally – it could be done as a part of a business lunch.
2) You could get a group of customers together (in return for a small incentive) to discuss relevant questions. E.g Their experience with your business? This would probably have to be a little more formal and therefore you might like to hire a moderator (cheaper alternatives for moderators are research students).
3) You can hand out a small survey to your customers and ask them to mail them back. The main cost here would be a prepaid envelope, printing and maybe a competitive incentive.
4) Create a web survey and invite your customers to participate for a small incentive.
5) When you first meet a new client ask them how they herd about you, when tallied this information tells you which methods of promotion are most effective.
6) Some business require more intensive research on specific topics – can fund a research student for far cheaper than a researcher and yet get the same results. Industries that commonly do this are pharmaceuticals and manufacturing but other firms can do it too.
7) Secondary data or information readily available can provide the information required.
A couple of anonymous phone calls to competition can give you a profile of their services and also pricing.
A couple of notes-
1) Remember family and friends can be used just as effectively to conduct your research.
2) If using customers – you might have to implement certain processes to protect confidentiality.