Back in the day; back when we still did telephone interviews, mall intercepts, and door to door product placements, i.e. before the Internet, it used to take weeks, sometimes months, to get results from marketing research projects.

To test a package, for example, we would contract with a field service that had a mall facility and recruit shoppers to compare the package designs and tell us about their preferences. Generally it would take two to three weeks to get the artwork and approvals from the client, two weeks to actually conduct the interviewing, a week to have the questionnaires coded and tabulated, then another week to prepare the final report and present it to the client.

Back in the early 90's this project would cost $10,000 to $25,000; depending on whether you used an independent consultant or a large, well known marketing research company.

I recently had the opportunity to conduct a frozen food package design study. The client approved the study Tuesday morning, emailed the final artwork on Tuesday afternoon, and the study launched (via the internet) on Tuesday evening. The interviewing was completed Wednesday evening and the coding, tabulating, and reporting were done on Thursday. At 4:30 Thursday afternoon I emailed the final report to the client. Three days start to finish! And what did it cost? About 15% of what it would have cost in 1990.

Lee Crockett has extensive experience as an entrepreneur, as a consultant, and as a mentor. As an entrepreneur he was principle/founder in several start-up ventures and managed a turn-around for a specialty food company. His Venture Advisors has created and implemented business mentoring programs for the St. Louis County Economic Council, the St. Louis Enterprise Centers, and the City of Highland, Illinois.

I bring this up because in every mentoring relationship that I do, sooner or later one of the mentors will ask the entrepreneur: "Where's the research?" Usually the response goes something like: "I have talked to many of my friends about this and they all say it's a great idea and that they will buy..." That's not good enough.

The point is that the Internet provides us with opportunities previously unavailable. The most important opportunity is the ability to get answers, insights, opinions, attitudes, and demographic information about constituents, customers, audiences, and markets. And we can get those answers quickly and inexpensively. In almost every case, an investment in market research by a start-up company will generate a significant return on that investment. It is something to keep in mind.