When it comes to market research, sometimes all you have to do is ask. That's smart business.
Why spend tons of money on a market research firm when you can do it yourself? You can practice frugal market research techniques on your own using social mediums such as blogs, forums and community websites. Be involved in the communities your customers belong to. Read posts and ask questions. If you're a graphic designer targeting web-savvy business owners, congregate at their online watering holes. Don't be afraid to be specific: I recently asked members of a popular webmaster forum to rank in order of importance for four attributes when hiring freelance graphic designers. Within a couple of days, I had a ton of replies and some very valuable information I could use in my client's marketing strategy (by the way, price came in last; behind quality of past work, references and friendliness in that order). MySpace and Facebook offer excellent opportunities to post polls, while blogs and forums allow you to reach a highly targeted audience. You have to ask the right questions to the right audience — for example, don't ask other graphic designers what is most important to business owners, ask the business owners themselves. Sure, the data isn't scientific, and it isn't guaranteed to be honest. Still, chances are, if you get plenty of responses you will see some trends you can take advantage of. Post in more than one place, too, so you have a broad view of what your customers' expectations are. Members of one community or forum might answer questions very differently from another; and this can also help you define where your target audience hangs out online. You might find out very quickly that members of one forum expect to pay, on average, $150 for a logo when you charge $500. You know that $500 for a logo is not overcharging (undercharging, in my opinion), but you'll also know that your target audience does not visit that forum so you can concentrate your marketing efforts elsewhere. Conversely, if you find a forum whose members expect to pay $1,000 or more for logo development, you've found a market you could move in to. People are not afraid to tell you what they want. All you have to do is ask. That's smart market research, and it doesn't cost a dime. What are some frugal market research techniques you employ?