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If there were a single most important rule of marketing, it would be that you absolutely must know your audience inside and out. This is the reason why many businesses spend a lot of time and money on market research and why, no matter how big or small your business, you should learn as much as you can about your customers before you start marketing to them.

When you have an in depth understanding of your target market, your marketing will be so much more effective and you will really be able to tailor your strategy so it’s relevant to your customers and their interests. Trying to create a marketing campaign or strategy without a clear understanding of who you’re targeting is a hit and miss approach that’s likely to lead to a lot of wasted time and money.

So what’s the best way to get to know your customers? Traditionally businesses have relied on time heavy strategies like face-to-face surveys and customer focus groups but thanks to the power of technology, these days it’s much easier to get an insight into your target audience and how they think. Best of all it doesn’t have to cost you a cent.

In this four part series I’m going to look at my favourite free or at least very low cost Google tools for learning more about your target audience. Using these tools will save you time and money and give you the insight you need to create marketing strategies that really hit the mark.

Tool #1: Google Consumer Surveys

Market research is typically expensive and time consuming, and often it can yield inaccurate results. There are plenty of great online market research tools that let you create surveys and find out what your customers really think without costing you an arm and a leg.

Google Consumer Surveys is a favourite of mine as it’s fast and easy to use. With Google Consumer Surveys you can create surveys for customers at every stage of their journey with your brand and gather feedback on your marketing campaigns.

One fantastic feature of Google Consumer Surveys is that you can see your results depending on your customers’ age, income, location, gender and more so you get a real breakdown of your target audience and learn what appeals to each segment.

Whereas traditional market research involves surveying people individually, one at a time, online surveys let you get feedback from multiple people at any one time, giving you more results within a shorter timeframe. It’s also much cheaper than paying someone to physically survey people or conduct focus groups and with Google Consumer Surveys you can get great results for as little as 10 cents per response.