One of the first steps of building a new technology company is to do some market research for your target audience. This can save you months of wasted effort by learning what your customers are actually looking for.
Unfortunately, this tends to be harder than you might expect. Sure, you can join social groups, post on Reddit, and grind it out to find some responders but most people decide this isn’t worth their time. I ran into just this problem early on in my journey and found a way to get a good number of applicable responses without spending all of your treasured cash.
Though the lean startup methodology might suggest that you try to find a clever free way to do this, I ultimately decided that it was too much effort in this case. The alternative is to approach paid services like SurveyMonkey which allows you to choose certain demographics and then have those people respond to your survey at a per-answer rate.
The issue: current services are too pricey
In my case, where Topmarq is a company geared towards helping sellers make more money, the demographic selection of automotive made it extremely expensive. The per-answer rate increases with each level of targeting you choose.
For example, it may be $2.00 / answer to target only women, but then $3.00 to target women over 30. In my specific situation, it was going to be about $8.50 per response to get useful responses and even then their targeting wasn’t quite what I wanted.
I was brand new and wanted 50–60 survey responses but did not have $500 to spare for them (plus the flat $60 fee they charge). Anyone trying to bootstrap their company should be very wary of spending that much on something this early. Oftentimes you’ll find you need several iterations of your idea to get started and those costs add up.
What are the alternatives?
I took to brainstorming to find another option to the issue and eventually decided to try out Facebook. I approached car groups, pages, and anything I could find but the anti-spam viewpoints make it very difficult to post anything even if it is relevant. I had even posted an article about car wrap prices in a conversation specifically about those and still gotten flack. The current customer views are very spam-focused and so it’s important to be aware of that. The last thing you want to do is irritate the exact people you are trying to sell to in the future.
A similar but better option – Facebook Ads
After the repeated failure in Facebook groups, I shifted to using the FB ads platform to promote a post about my survey. I thought the ease of creating ads might allow for an effective way of getting cheap responses. They don’t directly do anything to handle surveys, but their targeting options are well built and make it easy to get to your target audience.
I used the Facebook ads platform to target my ideal customers in the automotive industry. It allowed me to focus on an audience in a much more robust manner than the service at SurveyMonkey. As you might imagine with FB relying solely on ads for their revenue, they’ve built out this feature pretty well. You can even try to find people more likely to click on the link — aka do the survey — than just like it.
After setting the audience, I just promoted the post and quickly started generating responses. The huge plus was that I was seeing results for only 1/10th of what SurveyMonkey had quoted me. This gave me a lot of headroom to change questions and get more responses with the same budget.
An additional benefit was that I also included my company name and logo and it was sent out to thousands of people in my audience. Even if they didn’t click to complete the survey, it was some initial brand awareness that would help later on.
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Invite customers to be the part of the conversation
The great thing about performing your own research is that you can adjust the frills. If you want feedback from a customer, you don’t really have to turn things overly formal. There are several agencies that are giving invitations to their clients to innovative strategy meetings so they can have a conversation. There is no particular formal agenda behind it or any strategy, which clears the platform for fresh ideas and permits clients to guide the whole discussion. Also, a zoom meeting with your client can offer far more variable valuable insights than a costly focus group run by a third-party vendor. When you listen to clients’ voices, just pay a little attention to what they say to define your products or service. Do they follow any pattern while speaking or how can you mimic their words in your advertisement? The more you can display customers’ words, the more people will resonate with you.
Reimagine your buyer personas
In the past, you may have made buyer personas to assist guide your marketing efforts, however when was the last time you updated the well? So, refresh your personas and dig a bit more into current market data, then you can learn well more about what your target audience wishes to see in your marketing campaigns. Moreover, a big commitment to often collect, evaluate, and implement data like this can enhance your entire profitability by up to 9 percentage points.
The main goal is to find out new psychographic and demographic data, but also put focus on customer’s purchase journey’s. Begin with base-level questions like “What do you like or hate about our products?” and then go further into details like “How did you get to know about our products?” By learning out the whole story, you can find out hidden potential disconnections and some opportunities for further improvement.
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The Research Results
I was only looking for some basic validation of a few questions so I didn’t have to launch a major campaign. In the end I was able to get about 72 responses in a few days and paid less than $1.00 per response. These were highly targeted. I had an intro question to vet whether they fit in the category and 100% of them said yes. Nearly everyone who started it finished the full survey.
Additionally, I had great age, location, interests data provided after the fact by FB’s ad platform free.
While I hope this helps others trying to get cheap survey responses, the main takeaway here is that bootstrapping a startup requires some innovation and thoughtful approaches. At the time I did this, $500 would have been significantly more money than I had spent on everything else combined and likely not that helpful. I eventually ended up shifting course anyway so the results weren’t overly helpful for me.
These are the days of B2B SaaS and companies everywhere are looking to charge you enterprise rates to solve some minor problems for you. Be sure to think about how you spend your money, as many times there are easy workarounds and you’ll likely need more time than you think to take off.
Companies that, ideally, believe customer satisfaction should not only be measured but deciphered and understood. So, we hope that now you will be able to target survey results without breaking the bank. Keep coming to Codersera for more informative content.