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A Close Up On Focus Groups

If you are new to the world marketing research, you may have run across the term “focus group” when signing up for various paid surveys and research projects. The term “focus group” is one of those industry-specific phrases that, quite simply, means a group of consumers who are brought together to chat about various products and services. When you sign up to participate in a focus group, the meeting could be conducted in person at market research facility or online through a chat function – even through a Tweetdeck on Twitter!

There are certain things you can expect from focus groups that are a bit different that online surveys. First, if you participate in an in-person focus group, you will be hosted in a conference room like setting, often with snacks and drinks for your consideration. You can expect to be grouped with 6 to 12 other participants (or more or less depending on the project) and moderated by a professional hired to keep the event on task. The moderator will ask specific questions and the conversation will organically develop on its own; your answers will spur on comments from other participants and so on – lots of conversation is the goal of the day, so don’t be shy! Online focus groups follow a similar moderated format, only you are typing in your answers for others to see and respond to – and the snacks come out of your own fridge!

Often, at the conclusion of the focus group, you may be asked to take surveys about the product, service or event in general; this is part of the overall focus group experience. Because focus groups require more time and effort (and revolve around the client’s schedule, not yours), they generally pay quite well. Depending on the project and client company, you can expect to make anywhere from $25 to $200+ for participating in a focus group.


If The Shoe Fits . . . Say So!

Product testing is a great way to get to try out new footwear long before it’s made available for sale to the general population. Shoe manufacturers have been known to mail out shoes for customers to evaluate and report back their findings. As a shoe tester, you’ll typically be sent a pair of shoes under development in your size to test out hands on, errr. . . feet on! Shoe designers are trying to find out how well the shoes perform and are perceived by the future consumer; expect to wear your test shoes during your daily sports and leisure activities and complete online surveys about your experience and impressions.


 If you are into athletics or just having your feet look good, a coveted product tester spot to have is for Nike. This leader in the athletic apparel industry works with people like you to insure that their shoes perform better, wear longer and fit more comfortably that the competition.  Nike prides itself on innovation and meeting or exceeding the consumer’s expectations and this is where product testing becomes vital to their success. With insights from everyday athletes, Nike continues to make the right shoe for every sport and inspire people to “Just Do It”.


If you are interested in Nike Product Testing, check out their site and complete the online registration. Even your children can participate as there are categories for “under 13 years” in addition to “adults”. Nike does have strict rules about confidentiality and asks that you do not wear the shoes to places like fun runs, sports games and other visibly public areas. Despite this requirement, you are required to wear the shoes as much as possible during your testing period and complete a usage log (like a paid survey) that records your activity, terrain, comments and more. Upon completion, you send the shoes back in the same box for wear and tear evaluation at the Nike testing facility.  


Nike isn’t the only company that has shoe testing programs, however, other brands are usually found on a word-of-mouth basis. For example, I am a regular runner and one day walked into my local specialty running shoe store and the owner asked me if I wanted to test out a brand new pair of racing flats (to keep!) and fill out a short survey about how they worked for me. So, if you like taking surveys, testing out new products and enjoy a particular sport, you definitely have what it takes to be a shoe tester


Save For Spring Break With Online Surveys

By the end of February, university kids on campuses everywhere are starting to plan their raucous and rowdy pilgrimages to beaches and ski resorts across the country.  Unless you were born with a trust fund or have an amazingly well-paying college job, funding this boondoggle from the books may be a little bit more than your budget can handle. One easy way young adults are making a little cold, hard cash in between coursework is by participating in online surveys and online focus groups. Visit a website such as Survey Adventure to peruse the hundreds and hundreds of online survey providers that have been researched and organized for your convenience.


Once you register for the survey sites that suit your style, just start checking your email daily for new invitations to share your opinion on a vast range of topics. Most college kids think that they don’t wield a lot of power in the consumer marketplace – so NOT true! The 18 to 25 year old student demographic is a very important subset of the population that leading brands actively pursue. Not only are you a key consumers for soft drinks, entertainment and certain types of clothing, you are also the future professionals and movers-and-shakers of tomorrow with hopefully plenty of discretionary income down the road. Building brand loyalty now, means you’ll be spending money with the company for a lifetime.


Take a break from the books (you deserve the rest) and take surveys online on the topics that interest you; there are even survey sites that are targeted specifically to the younger generation.  Online surveys are fun and interesting and can be done anywhere you please, such as your laptop or even wireless handheld device. Just think; if you save just $100 per month for the entire year from online surveys, you’ll have a Spring Break travel fund that is sure to make your friends green with envy. So envious, in fact, that you’ll be able to recruit them to take surveys along with you and be rewarded with the perk of referral bonuses!


Understanding Online Survey Screeners

If you are new to taking surveys online, you may be a little confused about the process. Even more so if you have started taking what you think is a full-fledged online survey, online to be declined a few questions later with a “we’re sorry, you do not match our criteria” – or something like that!  Typically, marketing companies, corporations and even academic institutions that solicit people for answers to paid surveys are not looking for responses from the general population. Instead, they want to gather information on a specific set or “demographic” of individuals. These demographics of which I speak are quantitative data that is easily measurable and “hard” such age, educational level, residence, number of children and more.


More often than not, companies conducting online surveys will send out “screeners” to their members as a quick way to find out who meets the minimum required criteria of their study. For example, an energy drink company may be looking for men ages 18 – 34 while a wrinkle cream company may be recruiting women ages 35 plus. What a newbie to online surveys sometimes doesn’t realize is that taking the “screener” is the prelude to the actual full-blown paid survey, not the paid survey itself. The screener is like a little mini-survey; if you pass, you’ll be invited to participate in the longer paid market research project. As a token of appreciation, many survey administrators will enter people who don’t qualify (and thus won’t typically get paid) into periodic sweepstakes for cash and other prizes.


While taking “screeners” may seem like a waste of your time, it definitely isn’t. Even if you do not qualify for a particular paid survey, it does put the survey site on notice that you are an active, interested member ready to receive more online survey invitations. My biggest beef with screeners is when companies have extraordinarily lengthy screeners and then tell you “no thanks” at the end – almost like they’ve tricked you out of the information needed and now don’t have to payout.  Most well-intentioned screeners should be comprised of just a handful of questions, taking only a minute or two, and then promptly notify you of your status to take the online survey.


Social Media: A New Place For Surveys?

Social media has really made a big impact in 2009, especially for those cutting-edge companies looking to reach a younger demographic. It is expected that in 2010, more and more companies will ramp up their social marketing campaigns as a result of their research and watching the success of other companies with the approach. One company moving forward with this new style of advertising in early 2010 is mega-beverage maker, Pepsi. Instead of dumping big bucks into their annual Superbowl advertising, Pepsi announced that it will be using these funds to launch a full-blown social media strategy.


From Facebook to Twitter and even viral videos, word-of-mouth marketing, blogging and texting, this modern approach is key to reaching the 18-34 year old demographic that is vital to so many of today’s leading brands. You can have a direct influence in the development of tomorrow’s products and services by participating in online surveys, polls and word-of-mouth marketing found through social marketing. Check out the websites of your favorite brands and sign up to follow them on Facebook and Twitter. In addition to being privy to all the breaking information these companies are sharing, you’ll also have the door wide open to post comments, leave feedback and sign up for their latest offers long before people who get their information from the traditional formats such as magazines, newspapers and television.


Yes, social media is big with the younger generation, but research is showing that us slightly older folks are catching on and are excited to hear from our favorite brands in this continually emerging way. Another great thing about taking surveys and communicating through these types of media is that you can do it wherever and whenever you want – from your home or office computer or even a WiFi enabled mobile phone!


Survey Spotlight: CashCrate

There are hundreds and hundreds of paid surveys out there! In our opinion, the deeper understanding you have about a specific online survey site gives you the ability to make the best decision for you and enter the “making money from home” process with realistic expectations and with your eyes wide open. This week, we’ll shine the survey spotlight on CashCrate and share everything we know! Popular with folks who like to take surveys in their spare time, this web site has been around for a while and has a decent reputation. At CashCrate, there are basically four ways to earn money; completing offers, taking daily online surveys, shopping through a “click through” link, and referrals.

Offers: The primary way to earn money at CashCrate is to sign up for various offers; some are completely no-strings attached and some require you to sign up for a credit card or other service.  Attached to these offers are also online surveys that will pay you upon completion. In order to participate you must install a toolbar on your desktop that will track your offer, description, payout and cost.

Daily Surveys: CashCrate also allows members to complete two surveys per day and pays $0.80 per survey at the time of this writing. The surveys are fairly easy to take and I like to complete them while you are multi-tasking with my favorite television show.  Over the course of the week, if you are able to rack up the funds from your two survey per day allotment, you’ll have some good pocket change. Often though, you might be screened out of particular survey because you don’t meet the demographic criteria.

Shopping: Shopping through affiliate links listed on CashCrate is another way to earn a little extra cash. Of course, purchasing items online to get a percent back only makes sense if you actually need that item! But, if you do regularly shop online, this is a good way to take advantage of your spending habits. Payouts range from merchant to merchant; for example, anywhere from 5% from iTunes to 20% from

Referrals: Don’t overlook the referral program at CashCrate; the bucks can really start to add up exponentially. For each and every person you get to sign up, you get paid back at least 20% of their earnings and 10% of your referrals referrals! The more active referrals that you have (some members have over 500!), the larger your percent back – up to 30% for the first level commission and 20% for the second level commission along with other special incentives.


Survey Says . . . .Valentine’s Day!

Because it is Valentine’s Day, I have a secret crush to reveal; if you could only see me blushing behind the laptop screen! But, remember Richard Dawson from the original “Family Feud”, the long-running game show that aired beginning in 1976. There was something about the way this guy made surveys sexy that kept me glued to the small screen after school. The point of the program was that two families (or celebrity groups, even better) would stand off against each other, one by one, to guess the correct answers to survey questions posed to 100 respondents.
Participants were not asked questions that “they” were supposed to answer in their own opinion, instead were asked to guess how they thought other people would answer. So, occasionally contestants would be thrown a loop when they thought they answered the question in a logical manner but there were no matching results on the board! Questions were fun and easy, from “Name a famous John" to “Name something you do on vacation” and “guess the most popular ice cream flavors”.
Now, if you’ve dreamed about hitting the big time with surveys, being a guest on “Family Feud” would have been the way to go – too bad it’s off the air! However, if you’d like to earn a little extra cash by taking surveys from home, you can sign up with a online survey database such as Survey Adventure and develop your own fond affections for answering questions that inquiring minds want to know. The great thing about participating in online surveys is that it is a two-way relationship; you share the love by submitting your thoughtful answers and insights on various topics and the survey provider keeps the spark alive by rewarding you with cash compensation, fabulous prizes or other great gifts.


Submitting Surveys: Every Little Minute Counts!

Sometimes taking online surveys can get tedious. No, not the part of the online survey where you get to rate your impression of a product or offer suggestions for improvement – that is fun! The part of online surveys that I am talking about, the snoozer part, is filling out all your contact information and answering the opt-in / opt-out questions – the same stuff that you do over and over again. There are several little tricks of the trade that will help you fill in your paid survey information faster, making you much more efficient, and hopefully earn you more money in the long run.


Auto-Complete: The easiest way to save a little time is to make sure your browser has its “auto-complete” function turned on. Auto complete is a common program embedded in software that can predict a word or phrase you want to type in without actually having to type out the whole thing.  For example, you can start typing in the first couple letters of your name or address, and like magic, the rest of the word will appear.


Windows Live Toolbar: You can down load this welcomed help for survey takers for free and make filling out your forms easier, among other functions. Windows Live Toolbar will automatically recognize forms with fields such as first name, last name, and credit card number and auto-fills them based on your past saved information.


Roboform Password Manager: Roboform is another free form-filler program and more that is very useful to folks who take surveys. Not only does this program fill out all your standard forms with one click, it also securely stores online and offline passwords, automatically logs you into online accounts without having to remember and key in your passwords. I have also found that if you just want to fill out part of a page full of text form boxes, you can just highlight the desired area before clicking the Roboform “fill” button and just that section will get the Roboform treatment.


Keyboard Tricks: There are so many shortcuts and timesavers that your keyboard can offer you if you just take the time to learn and memorize them. For example, ALT and the + Key can be quite amazing in shaving seconds and minutes off your response time. On survey web pages where there is a long list of offers rows of “yes” or “no”
selection circles, you can hit ALT+ instead of manually filling out every circle in the row. Using ALT+ this will mark all of your answers as “no” and, if need be, you can go back through the list and change one to “yes”.Submitting Surveys: Every Little Minute Counts!

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Survey Spotlight: BzzAgent

Word-of-mouth marketing is all the rage these days and the online site,, has been spreading the buzz about various products and services from some of the biggest companies around since 2001. I’ve personally been a member since 2006 and have had fun testing out new products, brands and websites and sharing my experiences with everyone I know.  From testing out new Off! Mosquito products on our last trip to the lake to taking friends out to eat new menu items at Chili’s restaurant, I’ve helped to create a positive buzz about these companies in a way that they can’t get from a traditional advertising campaign.


When you sign up to become an “agent” at BuzzAgent, you create a profile that is used as the basis for targeting you with campaigns that best fit the client’s needs. You will be asked to join a campaign through an email invitation, and after accepting, you will receive a campaign kit that includes many items such as a product to be tested, coupons for free products, additional coupons to share, and a product information booklet. BuzzAgent is counting on you to use the product and share your enthusiasm for the experience with everyone you know, from family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and even total strangers! After you “buzz” people, you submit “buzzreports” that can earn you valuable points for prizes at partner, Mypoints. Additionally, you can earn more points for taking surveys,  sharing photos and videos online, posting reviews online and spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter.


In addition to testing products, taking surveys and spreading the word, you can also check out the Frogpond, a part of BzzAgent that dedicated to discovering, sharing, and bringing useful online information to your attention.  Also, BzzScapes is a user-driven section of the website that lets agents go all out and create content about their favorite brands. Uploading photos, feedback and almost anything else gives you the chance to influence the marketers and be part of a larger web-based community that loves the same brands


Get The Goods With Online Surveys

Taking online surveys and participating in the occasional focus group can provide the spare pocket change to spend on the many of the little luxuries you like indulge in. No more worries about burning through your weekly paycheck or savings when you want to stop by the movie theater and catch the latest blockbuster or buy a new pair of designer jeans. Socking away money earned through online paid surveys and other market research projects into a savings account is a good way to save up for a long-term financial goal such as saving up for a car, down payment on a house or that dream vacation. Here are some other ideas of what you can do with the cash earned simply by taking fun and easy online surveys:


Hit the Coffee Shop: Pay for your daily grande frappachino without worries, even pick one up for a friend! Many online surveys pay $3 to $5 or more for your responses on a short questionnaire, easily covering your cup of Joe.


Make a Donation: When you are bringing home supplemental income through online surveys, you have the wiggle room in your budget to make charitable contributions without worrying about going in the red. Some online surveys sites even let you take redirect your payment as a gift to those causes that are near and dear to your heart.


Save For College: Taking online surveys is a good way to expand your mind. Not only will you learn new things and improve your writing skills just by working on these projects, you can save some of your income for a future educational endeavor. Who knows, perhaps some day you’ll even be on the end of the survey, making or analyzing online surveys with a new collect degree. No goal is too big; just break it down into chunks. For example, if you put away $200 dollars per month, earning a measlely 2% percent interest, you’ll have well over $12,000 at the end of 5 years, quite a tidy sum to get you on your way to any goal.