Blogging and offline market research

offline market research

photo credit: sladner2

Often on this blog you’ll often see posts about targeting audiences and ideal customers. I’ve shared a post  about using your blog as a research tool here but market research doesn’t have to take place online.

Sure, using the internet and online tools can be one of the fastest ways to find out about your marketplace, but to use only that data would be limiting to your business.

As a blogger selling services, it’s easy to think every customer you will have will be connected to you through your blog via search or social media sharing. Many of my subscribers and readers come from offline recommendation and word of mouth.

There is no substitute for talking face to face with potential customers; face to face you can intuitively get to the root of their problems and talk about specific solutions, something you cannot always do with your blog. And more shocking than talking to potential clients face to face, is the fact that there are still segments of the population that don’t spend a great deal of time online, and you can connect with them and convert them to subscribers.

As subscribers these are the kind that are loyal and conversational – the best kind in my book. The only way to reach them is to go offline and find them and connect with them, and that’s where the market research aspect is.

Offline market research methods are tried and tested, mainly because they are more expensive to implement than online market research methods. Getting it right is important here, time is money after all :) Here are a few of the best methods for gathering data about your market offline.

In-Person Surveys

Ever been stopped in the street and asked your opinion on something? Surveys are the most effective when done in person. In-person surveys are often completed in railway stations, supermarkets and busy high streets – any location where there is a lot of footfall. Some businesses prefer shopping centres and supermarkets since people are there to look at products and already have spending on their mind. Others target railway stations at commuter times, where working people are their target audience. In-person surveys have a high response rate that can be as much as 90%. If you have a physical product that you can share with the people you are surveying, you have a head start. People respond better to something they can see, smell and touch. And if they can eat it, you are almost completing the sensory experience :) In-person surveys take manpower. But the cost in staff is often offset by the quality of results and when compared to mail surveys, or online surveys the data is more complete.

Focus Groups

I once worked for a company that ran daily focus groups. It felt like the focus groups ran the company and not the managers. The only thing there wasn’t a focus group for was on how much the staff should be paid…

A focus group can be anything from 5 to 20 people. A moderator will lead the discussion with scripted questions and subjects relation to your business and products. The group tends to look at and discuss their feelings around products and services. A typical meeting lasts around 60 minutes, and often there are follow up meetings.

The data you get from focus groups is more in-depth, very personal, but it’s also more subjective. You’ll come away with words, images, feelings and impressions, not hard statistical data. This can be useful if you are bringing in a new product and wish to see how it will fit with your current branding and services.


Sometimes it’s best to observe people in their natural habitat. There’s an episode of Mad Men where they give the women in the office some lipstick and observe how they put it on and how they use cosmetics. It was fascinating to watch, like most episodes of Mad Men are. When you conduct surveys or focus groups, you put people on the spot. Of course, there is always a risk that they will tell you what they think you want to hear when you conduct any kind of research. Observation shows you their real behaviour and what they really think. Some researchers observe the participants and then attempt to conduct follow-up interviews

. There are some research companies who even use hidden cameras to record shoppers and gather information about numbers and patterns of behavior. I’m not quite sure how legal that is if you don’t inform the participants you are recording them, but it still happens.

Live events and seminars

Live events and seminars mix entertainment and market research. The objective is to get the participants as engaged in the event as possible. This can be known as engagement marketing.

Engagement marketing mixes several elements to to help customers feel involved with a product or brand.

A mixture of face to face contact, product or service sampling and other activities help the researchers gain product loyalty and interest before a product is even launched. It’s also a powerful way to generate buzz around a brand. Engagement marketing is going to become more and more popular in the future and is something that all bloggers should be prepared to do at some point, if they wish the services they sell to get traction.

Offline and Online Market Research

Both online and offline market research methods have their advantages so the best strategy is to combine them both. Combined, they’ll reveal different data about your target market and potential customers. When speed is of the essence, then online research is something that can be done quickly and cheaply.

Offline market research gives you more detailed information as well as direct access to primary sources. For the best market research, combine both methods whenever you can. Your services and blog will benefit from it.

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Sarah Arrow

Blogging an issue for you? Social media not quite working how it should be?That's okay I understand. I started blogging back in 2006 and grew into a kick-ass blog coach as well as creator of Birds on the Blog (listed 3 times by Forbes as a top 100 website for women), I'm frequently listed as both a top content marketing expert and as an influential marketer.
You want your blog to make a difference, so subscribe hereand stay in touch, my updates will help you achieve content marketing success.


  1. Marketing is one of those things that seems to be going on all the time in our world. These days it seems like I cannot go anywhere online or offline without being asked to participate in a survey. Could be because of the upcoming elections, but more an more I see requests to participate in online surveys popping up in my email everyday.

    I think I like best, though, the idea of observation in as authentic an environment as possible. I suspect that the best information comes from research done this way as opposed to almost any other way.

    • I love observation personally, it can tell you so much – but you have to be careful not to add in your own bias when you observe.
      I love how you’ve linked the elections to surveys, that’s exactly what I’ve been seeing and I wondered if they were related.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing Michael, it’s appreciated.

  2. Sarah I have just started marketing offline again. Something I haven’t down in a couple of years. My goal is to have some live events so your information has helped me set up a better plan than I had. Thanks

  3. Thank you for a refreshing take on offline market research. Taking the time to attend conventions, meetings, or presentations where my target audience will be, and then making mental notes of their wants and needs: it’s a perspective I’ll take with me in my future offline activities.

    • Thank you Steve, a conference is a gold mine of information that can be used to make your business stronger :)

  4. Hey Sarah – this looks like the complete guide to Offline market research methods.

    Not something I know much about so it’s all new to me.

  5. Interesting, Sarah. I have just about abandoned offline marketing (after years of failing at it) in favor of online marketing. Your article gave me some great ideas on how I can combine them.

    I particularly like the idea of a survey. I have used those online in the past, but had not really considered using them offline.

    Thanks for the tips!

  6. Sarah, Couldn\’t agree with you more about seeing someone face-to-face. The Internet has fooled us into thinking that we can do it all online and never have to \”press the flesh\” of our customer. Looking someone in the eye is priceless and you can\’t do it from behind a computer. Your list of suggests is superb. I like the idea of a survey. People love to help out, it\’s simple, quick and can lead to an extended conversation. Thanks for a wonderful and thought provoking article. RICK

  7. Great advice Sarah … though I personally find I have little choice but to rely heavily on online resources. The reason? Well I live on a little Island in the middle of the Pacific and until you’ve lived in a place where every square inch is considered fair game for the tourists, it’s hard to understand how business outside of things related to this industry manage to survive. No complaints though – I’m lucky to live here, and very greatful for all of the opportunities the worldwide web brings to us no matter where in the world we might be :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences with us Marty, and I know from reading your blog that you do a terrific job with the resources you have.


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