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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.

Observations

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

Sarah Arrow started blogging to save a business and it worked! She created her first blogging challenge back in 2007. She's been internationally recognised as a top content marketer, Forbes and MSN list her websites as top ones, and she's the author of many quick start marketing guides. You can find her books on Amazon.

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