Are you curious about your web presence? Do you know how you measure up to your competitors? Is you company on the front lines of what’s happening in your industry, or falling by the wayside? There’s something you can do to answer all of these questions: market research!
Conducting research on your target market (and their reaction/feelings about your company/product/service) doesn’t have to be boring or tedious. There are many tools on the web to help you get started!
Keyword searching: If someone was looking for a hair salon in their area, they’d probably type “hair salon wake forest nc” into the Google search bar (or another search engine, but for this I recommend Google). If you’re a hair salon in that area, conduct the same search! You’ll see how many other hair salons pop up when you look for those keywords – it’s a good way to size up your competition and see what keywords they’re jumping on! Here’s an example using Redwood (notice we’re the first to pop up).
Links to Competitors: Google is also an easy resource for basic link information. Type (or copy & paste) your competitor’s web address (the whole thing: www.competitor.com) into the search bar, and the results will show which other sites contain a link to your competitor’s website. That way you’ll know how big their network is.
Blog mentions: Blogs are updated far more often than websites are, so you want to see what’s going on in the “blogosphere.” What is the hot-button issue for your industry? Have you launched a new product? Start a new marketing campaign via social media? Search for it! See if people are talking about your company (or your competition). Technorati and BlogPulse are blog-specific search engines. Here’s an example using BlogPulse to see what people are blogging about graphic design.
Online surveys: There are so many ways to implement this, and your audience does the work for you! The most effective surveys fall into two categories: assessing what your potential customers are like (what kind of person they are, what work they do, where they live, what their needs are, etc.) and measuring the response of existing customers (customer satisfaction survey). Facebook Questions lets you ask a simple survey question via your Facebook page, and calculates the data for you. For something a little more polished, look at survey creation site like Vovici - you can create a targeted survey and send out a link in your next newsletter! Not everyone on your contact list will respond, but you’ll still get a good impression of what you’re doing right and what you could improve on. Remember:
- Keep the survey short and sweet (no more than 10 questions)
- DON’T ask open-ended questions – we need Yes/No kind of questions, or categories for more nuanced responses (Always/Often/Sometimes/Not Usually/Never)
- It’s OK to be persistent – if customers aren’t participating, you can send them the link again
- ALWAYS be patient – results take time, so give your survey a few weeks to marinate out there
Once you’ve conducted some research in your market, you’ll have a better idea of what your weak areas are. Do you need to expand your social media presence? Are your customers clamoring for more of a particular product/service? Is your waiting room decor turning off potential new clients? You never know what kind of feedback you might get, but you always know it’ll be useful and truthful. (Check out our Facebook wall to answer a question on our customer survey!)