From the September 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

Q: How can I use market research to make decisions on new and current products, promotions and product positioning?

A: It makes sense to check in with your market to see how you can better meet people's needs. But how do you do that, short of hiring a pricey market research firm?

Technology provides cost-effective ways to survey prospects and clients, helping us make smarter decisions about how to invest marketing dollars and direct development initiatives. An online survey will give you a sense of your market's needs, wants and preferences by letting you measure interest in your product, whether you're on target with price, the benefits people hope to derive from your product or service, and their motivations for purchasing.

For $50 a month, MarketTools offers Zoomerang zPro, an easy-to-use online survey program that lets you ask questions of your prospects and customers that will yield useful information. Here are tips for using online surveys:

  • Draw from your existing list of clients and prospects to reach the right market.
  • Ask no more than 20 questions, though 10 is preferable.
  • Ask multiple-choice questions, but throw in some fill-in queries. People are busy and less likely to respond to essay questions, but a combination of multiple-choice and fill-in questions will net you more robust feedback
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is president of ImpressionImpact.com, a marketing consulting company.