How To Do Your Own Marketing Research On A Shoestring Budget

Let’s be honest: marketing research isn’t super glamorous. It can require a lot of time, and even if you’re doing it yourself, the price tag can get pretty high especially if you rely on expensive marketing analytics software. 

If you’re willing to cut corners and do a little elbow-grease work, though, you can gather a wealth of valuable data for very little money. That data will help you craft better campaigns and allocate your budget more efficiently. 

In fact, many of the tools I’ll talk about here are completely free! So grab your notebook and something to sharpen your pencils with it’s time to dive in!

EXACTLY how I do market research for new products – YouTube
1. Prioritize research goals to focus efforts effectively.
2. Leverage free or low-cost online tools for data collection.
3. Consider DIY research methods to save on expenses.
4. Utilize social media and online surveys for insights.
5. Optimize existing resources for more efficient research.

Define Your Goal And Objectives

Before you begin, understand the problem before starting on a solution. Define the problem to be solved and what information you need to solve it. If you haven’t done so already, create a timeline for your research. 

Ensure that it has enough time allocated for all aspects of the project including planning, conducting interviews or surveys and analyzing data from those sources.

Know what kind of research will be most effective in answering your questions: primary vs secondary vs tertiary research. Primary sources are original documents or data generated by firsthand experience (for example surveys and focus groups). 

Secondary sources include published works that have been read by many people (for example trade journals). Tertiary sources are summaries made from other secondary sources (for example books about market trends).

Gathering accurate data is essential for enhancing your blog’s performance. Our guide on obtaining the necessary facts for blog improvement offers insights into efficient data collection strategies.

Understand The Difference Between A Survey And An Interview

It’s important to understand the difference between a survey and an interview, as they are very different in execution.

A survey is a set of questions that you ask someone. It’s structured, so you know exactly what to ask and how to ask it. 

You can even use a questionnaire template from Google Forms or SurveyMonkey (or any number of other services) that asks people to answer questions about their preferences for various products or brands in exchange for money or prizes.

An interview is like having a conversation with someone about their preferences for various products or brands instead of asking them directly.

You listen carefully and take notes as they tell you what they think about certain things so that if there are any discrepancies between your perception of something and theirs, then you have evidence on which side is right!

Know Where Your Target Customers Are

The first step to doing your marketing research is knowing your target customer. Start by conducting a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. 

The idea is that you can make better decisions if you know what makes your organization strong and what challenges it faces in the marketplace.

Next step: look at the needs of potential customers for your product or service. Then ask yourself if those needs are being met by existing products on the market. 

If not, then see if there’s any way to fill in gaps or create something new that addresses these unmet needs better than anything else out there right now (or ever).

When it comes time to figure out who these ideal customers are exactly their demographics (age range), behavior (what they do now), location (where they live), and preferences (what kinds of technology they use).

You’ll need more data than just some eyeball research into what people like about their current customer base as well as some guesses based on trends across different age groups/demographics over time.

Conducting effective marketing research doesn’t always have to be time-consuming. Check out our list of 28 quick and practical marketing research tips to expedite your insights-gathering process

Have A Reason For Each Question In The Survey

Before you even start writing the survey, make sure that you have a reason for each question. You should be able to explain why you’re asking it, what the answer will tell you about your business, and how that information is useful. 

If anyone asks why they should take your survey, being able to give them an answer will help convince them to participate. For example:

“How many people did NOT visit my website in the last month?” This question tells me how many people I’m missing out on reaching through my website and what might be stopping them from visiting my site (are there any broken links? Is our advertising not working?).

“What was the most important thing about our service?” This question helps me understand which parts of our services are most valued by our customers so that I can focus on improving those aspects in future iterations of our product or service offerings.

Choose The Right Methodology

Choosing the right methodology is critical to your success. Here are some of the most common:

Online Surveys

These can be conducted using SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo, or another online survey tool. 

They’re relatively inexpensive and easy to set up, but also have some limitations, for example, it might be hard for respondents to think about their behavior outside of their daily routine (a problem called “contextual incongruity”).

Mail Surveys

These are ideal if you want a wide sample size or need responses from people who aren’t Internet-savvy or don’t have time for online surveys (e.g., busy professionals). 

You’ll also find that mail surveys tend to have lower response rates than online ones do.

So you might need more people in your sample pool to compensate for them losing interest after seeing an unwanted piece of mail arrive at their home address multiple times per week for weeks on end! 

Be sure not only that you’ve written clear instructions but also included incentives like free samples or coupons this will help encourage completion rates and keep participants engaged!


In-person/on phone/via Skype etceteras… there’s no shortage here either and remember: everyone counts!

Learning from the experiences of others can save you valuable time and resources. Discover insights from our article on lessons learned from running initial marketing research projects to avoid common pitfalls.

Decide On Your Sample Size

The first step in the process is to decide on your sample size. The larger the sample size, the more accurate your results will be and the more confident you can be in your findings. 

As marketers, this means we can have more confidence in our marketing strategy if it’s based on accurate research.

The secret here is that if you want to increase accuracy, then it’s going to cost money (more people = more time). So what do you get for higher costs? Higher accuracy!

But wait…how much higher is high enough? Here’s how I think about it: if my survey shows me something very different from what other research has shown before me (a different statistic or finding).

Then I know that my survey needs further validation because no one else was able to replicate their results either.

Write Simple, Straightforward Questions

Once you’ve written your questions, it’s time to go back and make sure they’re as clear and straightforward as possible. 

This is especially important because you’ll be asking people who don’t know you or your business if they may not understand the jargon or industry terms used in your survey.

The best way to test if something is clear is by reading it out loud and imagining someone else saying it in response to one of your questions. If any parts sound confusing, rewrite them until they’re more easily understood.

Another thing to keep in mind when writing questions is having only one question per page it makes answering less overwhelming for participants, which means more responses! 

You can also include an option on each page where people can say “no” or “skip this question” if they want (and then move on).

Make It Easy To Take Your Survey Or Conduct Interviews

You’ll want to make sure your survey or interview can be easily taken. If you’re setting up a website, make sure it has an easy-to-use interface and a mobile version. 

If you’re sending out paper surveys, include a phone number on each page so people can either call in or text their answers back.

If you’re doing interviews by phone, be sure to let participants know how long the call will take and give them an option of using Skype for video chat if they prefer not to talk on the phone. 

It may also help to offer some kind of incentives like a gift card or coupon code off their next purchase at the store where they buy their groceries each week that way they’ll feel more motivated to participate!

Building an effective research panel starts with selecting the right participants. Explore our guide on identifying the ideal candidates for your marketing research panel to ensure meaningful insights.

Recruit Participants Through Social Meditations

You can do some of your research on a shoestring budget. You need to find your target market and what their needs are. To do this, you will want to use social media for research. Social media is free and it’s easy to set up an account on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.

To recruit participants for your survey or usability study, use a call to action such as: “Share this post with friends who like traveling!” 

This will encourage people who are interested in traveling (your target audience) to take the survey by creating curiosity about what they might learn from answering the questions posed by the post itself. 

Provide links within each social media platform so that readers can access the full version of whatever content you’re sharing online.

In this case, it would be your survey link which includes instructions on how they should answer all questions honestly without providing any personal information beyond their age range and gender preference if applicable (more on this later).

Ask For Referrals From Participants At The Beginning Of The Survey

You can ask for referrals in a variety of ways, but we recommend asking them straight out at the very beginning of your survey:

“If you were to refer someone who is thinking about using this product or service, who would they be?” Once you have those names and contact information, reach out to them directly!

This tip applies especially well if you’re running an online survey. Many people are more willing to share information with friends on social media than they are with strangers over email. 

This tactic helps build rapport with potential leads while also getting initial customer feedback on your product or service all before any money has been spent on advertising!

Use SurveyMonkey’s Free

If you’re looking for a free survey tool, SurveyMonkey is your best bet. It’s easy to use and creates beautiful, professional surveys that can be shared with friends and customers. 

You can also use it to do market research, customer feedback, product feedback you name it! The best part is that there are no limits on who or how many people can take your survey.

You could also try Google Forms ( This tool might be better suited for smaller-scale projects because you’ll have more limited control over how many people respond and what they say in their answers; 

However, it’s still great if all you need is some basic information from a few people on an internal project or as part of an informal study group.

Conducting comprehensive marketing research doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Dive into our step-by-step guide on making marketing research easy and effective to streamline your research process.


The key to successful marketing is gathering relevant data and making smart decisions based on your findings. Your business can’t make those smart decisions if you don’t have a solid understanding of what your customers want. 

Luckily, there are tons of options freely available online that will help you gather valuable insights into how to improve your products and services. 

The tools listed in this blog post are just the tip of the iceberg, but they should be enough to get you started on the right path towards researching your target audience.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources for conducting market research on a shoestring budget:

Marketing Week – Special Report: How to Do Market Research on a Small BudgetDiscover strategies and insights for effective market research even with limited resources.

LinkedIn – How Do You Conduct Effective Market Research on a Limited Budget?Learn tips and techniques for conducting impactful market research while working within budget constraints.

Verblio Blog – How to Perform Market Research on a BudgetExplore practical steps and ideas for performing market research without breaking the bank.


How can I conduct market research with a limited budget?

Effective market research on a budget requires careful planning and resource allocation. Consider leveraging online resources and tools, conducting surveys or interviews, and prioritizing specific research objectives.

What are some cost-effective methods for gathering consumer insights?

Opt for online surveys, social media listening, and analyzing publicly available data. These methods provide valuable insights without incurring significant costs.

How do I ensure the quality of data collected on a small budget?

Focus on well-defined research goals, target a specific audience, and use validated survey instruments. This approach enhances data quality and ensures meaningful results.

Are there free or low-cost tools for market research?

Yes, there are various tools like Google Trends, SurveyMonkey, and Google Forms that offer free or affordable plans for conducting market research activities.

How can I make the most of a limited budget for market research?

Prioritize research objectives, leverage existing data sources, explore partnerships for data sharing, and consider DIY research approaches to maximize your budget’s impact.

How Do I Know If My Business Is Ready For Marketing Research?

If you’re still in the early stages of your business, it’s probably best to wait until you’ve been operating for a while and have some data to analyze. If you don’t have any data, then there’s no way for us to help you with your research.

What Kind Of Information Do I Need To Give Our Team?

We’ll need a little bit about your company and its history so we can get started. You can also include any specific questions or concerns that you’d like us to address in our report as well as any time constraints that might apply (such as when you need the report completed).