Getting an early read on the market value for your product or services is an essential component of a successful launch. The earlier in the development process you can conduct market research, the better it will be to make critical design adjustments in your message, your target market or your product. Plus, finding effective ways to conduct market testing can provide valuable evidence of market proof to data-driven retailers or investors.

What Makes Market Research Effective?

According to Aaron Keller, founding partner of Capsule, a Minneapolis-based brand development and research firm, "good market research gives you an indication of value by demonstrating an emotional connection between a human and a product." This does not always come in the form of what price is willing to be paid. It might be making physical contact by picking it up and checking it out, sharing or talking about it with others, or even going to lengths to sign up for a beta test group.

Effective market research requires asking good (non-leading) questions of the right target market, especially when you don't have sales yet. Imagine the compelling power of telling a potential investor or retail buyer that 89% of women 35-45 years old selected your product over a competitor and of that group 71% said they would tell their friends.

So, how can you create opportunities to build market proof with your target market? Here are 5 innovative ideas that won't blow your budget:

1) Market Research Mobile Apps

App-based market research is popular as a cost-effective and quick data-gathering solution for companies of all sizes. Apps like Mobile Market Research and Field Agent are easy to use and have a broad database of consumers that can be leveraged to find your ideal demographic. For clients, I have used Field Agent to test the appeal of new colors for a gaming accessory. If you don't have any actual product yet, you can use photos or renderings.

2) Make Some. Sell Some.

Manufacturing methods, like 3D Printing make it very cost-effective to build a small test run of your product for market research purposes. You can sell a limited edition or a beta run on Etsy, eBay or Amazon. Partner with another shop and sell your product under their brand to eliminate the costs and learning curve of setting up your own. Sales pace and reviews can be valuable market proof, so can testing the impact of your marketing message and methods.

3) Consignment Testing

Find a local business with the right demographic and ask them to put your product on their shelf. Giving a shop a significant share of sales and selling it on consignment is a great way to get sales proof, feedback and a testimonial.

4) Freelance Market Researchers

Independent market researchers can be hired to conduct all or part of your market test. To cut costs down as low as possible, craft your own questions and have a professional frame the questions for unbiased results. Using a trained freelance moderator to test your product is also a good way to insure the best results.

5) DIY Market Research with a Charity

While not the preferred method for objective market research, do-it-yourself market research is better than no research. A quick and inexpensive way to find a group with similar backgrounds to your target demographic is a local non-profit or meet-up group. If your target market is moms with preschoolers, find a local MOPS meeting. Offer to make a donation or bring coffee and snacks for the group in exchange for 15 minutes of review time.

Make sure to document your market research efforts for future marketing needs. Video, audio and photographs of your methodology can help reinforce the validity of your results.

Published on: Jan 8, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.