3 Inexpensive Types of Market Research for Budget-Conscious Startups

As a startup, when you’re trying to determine the best market segment or niche to pursue, market research can be invaluable. Unfortunately, on a limited marketing budget, primary market data and research can be expensive to purchase, and even more expensive to undertake. Secondary research, which stems from available data, is also very useful and can be less expensive and more accessible. However, I have found that sometimes it’s worth it to just go out there and collect the data myself, especially if I need a very specific piece of information about a very specific demographic or behavioral segment, and third-party bids are prohibitively expensive. Here, then, are three types of inexpensive market research that you can conduct on a limited budget.


Depending on how they are done, surveys can be inexpensive. You can use a free online survey service, such as Google or Office 365 forms, and use qualifying questions to filter out unfit respondents. If you haven’t collected your own customer contact data, the majority of your expenses may result from using clean, third-party or verifiable data to target your survey to the correct audience. Always include an incentive, but to be more cost effective, offer one large incentive via a drawing rather than a small incentive to everyone who participates. The downside to surveys is that the responses can be very subjective, since you’re often asking the respondent for their opinions or recollections of their behaviors, which can be biased. But you will still end up with more information than you had before.

Product/Service Testing or “Anchor Contracts”

Another option is to select a smaller target audience than a survey but conduct much more in-depth research. By offering your product or service to a select client or audience for free or at a discount, you can track customer demographics and behaviors against market conditions — and your own metrics — over an entire customer life cycle. This will provide real-time data which you can then apply when marketing to other potential customers.

Advertising Testing via Local Offers

Admittedly, while online advertising can start out as inexpensive, costs can quickly escalate, since it is often auction-based and costs-per-click skyrocket as soon as advertisers begin to see return on their investment. However, valuable awareness research can be done with a small testing budget on the appropriate platform. For example, ad testing on LinkedIn has been historically pricey, but you may be able to afford light testing of offers on Facebook or your local business paper. For this kind of research and testing to be inexpensive, it’s important to find an advertising platform that’s the right mix of effective targeting, available metrics for experiment design and cost.

Whatever primary research methods you choose, stick with them if you believe they will return long-term gains to your business. Research does get easier as you become more experienced, and we are always available to help. To continue the conversation, contact us for more information.