As the research guru here at CurrentMarketing, it is my job to find the best information for our clients. To do so, I spend a lot of time seeking out the latest and greatest research tools in hopes that the data from the best tools will aid the development of successful campaigns for clients.
With this in mind, I often find that many people believe research, and the tools that provide market information are expensive. I would say that such a claim is only half true. I would agree that some of the best databases and software can be quite expensive. However, there is another, less expensive, side to good research. With the advent of the Internet, top-quality research has become more accessible than ever before leading to the creation of free services that offer much of the same information you would expect from a paid service. To help you take advantage of this recent boom in free research services, I have compiled a list of the best free tools for marketers based on my own experience as a research analyst.
The key to being a good researcher is the ability to learn. By learning and mastering these new tools, researchers are able to provide a wider array of services to the agency and its clients. So, go on take a look at this list below and see how these free tools might benefit you and your company.
Any market analyst knows the most popular, and often most expensive, tools are scholarly databases. These tools allow marketers to search thousands of academic journals, books, abstracts, theses, legal documents and every other type of peer-reviewed source imaginable. While most of these academic search engines can cost thousands of dollars, Google changed all that by offering Google Scholar for free. Scholar is essentially a free web search that indexes the full text of scholarly literature across a number of publishing formats and disciplines. What makes Google Scholar unique is it uses the same page rank system made popular in Google’s web search engine. This means Google Scholar ranks documents the way researchers do, weighing the full text of each document, where it was published, who it was written by, as well as how often and how recently it has been cited in other scholarly literature. With Google Scholar, you can access and download a wealth of accurate information instantly, which is the same basic function provided by subscription-based tools.
Another popular type of tool frequently used by marketers are demographic services. These tools, often in the form of SaaS websites, allow users to uncover demographic and psychographic data for any location in the U.S. and abroad. Some services even offer mapping features. If your looking for a cheaper way to access this type of data, I would suggest ePodunk. This website provides in-depth data about more than 46,000 communities around the country. Not only does ePodunk provide the fundamental data, but also market details, including information on public transportation, local festivities, parks, attractions, sports teams and media outlets. In addition, ePodunk clearly lists all of its sources, which should silence any questions about the accuracy of the data. In my opinion, ePodunk is the best free demographic tool available and is a must have for any marketer.
One of the fastest growing segments of research is information design. Clients not only expect researchers to discover trends, but to visualize them. As a result, mapping services have been popping up all over the web promising to be the most advanced and the easiest to use. Based on my experience, ArcGIS Online from ESRI is the clear leader in this category. ArcGIS offers the simplicity of a Google Map with the advanced features and layering capabilities of a paid map service. With ArcGIS, you can not only build and create custom maps from several base templates, but also search for maps made by others that you can then alter and optimize for your particular project. ArcGIS also offer free storage space for saving your map and application resources. Finally, this great tool offers communities for sharing geographic information with others and also serves as a way to share ideas with other users and get answers to your toughest mapping questions. And like all the other tools on this list, ArcGIS Online is absolutely free to use.