How to conduct research on a limited budget

Research is often a foundational element of work across many industries. We must first research audience demographics, trends, historical data and more to determine next steps – whether that’s launching a product, opening a new location or implementing a new social media campaign. In communication fields, such as public relations, research is conducted in some fashion every day. It guides our objectives. Research, at times, can be difficult depending on the information you are seeking, and more often, smaller sized businesses and organizations don’t have research budgets. So how do you find what you are looking for on a limited budget or with no budget at all? Read more about how the Obsidian team dives into research before embarking on a new PR plan or tactic for our clients: 

The internet is your best friend, of course!

This probably goes without saying, but the vast majority of us are going to pull up Google before we do anything else! It’s just so easy, isn’t it? But where do you go when you can’t find quality info or what you are looking for after scrolling the first page of results? Begin by surfing specific websites you know to be important to your industry. Visit professional associations sites and read scholarly articles by professionals in the industry you are researching. You may also find great information on nonprofits’ and advocacy groups’ websites, or research firms like Gallup, for example. Journalists include data, study results and research conducted by third-parties quite often. If you keep up with news in your industry, it will likely lead you to actionable data and the organization that gathered it!

Poll your audience.

There are so many ways to reach people these days. When you have a captive audience, like patients, students, association members or customers, for example, you have a built-in group of people to survey. There are many free or extremely affordable ways to ask questions and build research. Social media comes to our teams’ minds regularly. Posting questions on LinkedIn, Facebook or through various Instagram features tends to engage audiences more effectively. You can also utilize your email marketing platform to either give your contacts the opportunity to answer questions and provide feedback based on an experience, or send targeted emails to certain groups to gather very specific information. Think about how many times you’ve received an email asking how the company did overall while serving you. Or, maybe you’ve noticed an email from your college asking you to participate in an alumni survey. Incentivizing these ‘asks’ with a giveaway or a discount is never a bad idea.  

Also, look for opportunities throughout your everyday business operations to integrate questions. Point-of-sale feedback is a popular method, but you can also include questions when someone signs in for an appointment ‒ whether that be on paper or digitally. Simply leaving a comment card for customers to fill out before leaving your establishment garners more information than most people realize. For research purposes, though, be sure to ask only a few very specific questions rather than a general open-ended question when utilizing these opportunities.  

Engage a professional

It is actually possible to enlist the help of a professional on a limited budget,especially when time is not on your side. While there are large firms that conduct research on a global scale, there are independent, local professionals who can do smaller-scale research through a variety of methods suited to your budget. Most can work with your budget to determine the best course – whether that be building a survey for you to share online or launching a phone survey to gather data from a certain demographic and market. Finally, while it is a do-it-yourself option, paying a small fee for SurveyMonkey can help guide those new to conducting research and gathering data. The platform offers expert tips, step-by-step instructions, question analysis and much more.