No doubt the recession has changed most people’s consumption attitudes, creating an alteration of worldwide consumerism as we previously knew it. Today’s consumers have adopted the mantra, “it’s nifty to be thrifty,” looking for cost-effective product and service options and opting to try out different brands and product categories.

Subsequently, there is a rising uncertainty among business leaders and marketers. Smart marketers realize that, despite the pressure of strapped budgets, the same research that provides insight about customer and market trends pays dividends in the long-term.

Here are five ways your building products brand can conduct cost-effective marketing research.

Utilize digital tools

Online research is a great, inexpensive way to tap into your marketplace. There are resources that enable you to create tailored surveys in minutes that can produce both quantitative and qualitative research. Just remember it’s not what you ask, but how you ask it. Social media marketing tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs are other low-cost ways to gauge your customer base. Barry Judge, CMO of Best Buy, provides an excellent example of how the popular retailer is engaging and interacting with its core customer audiences via his blog.

Focus on core customers

National studies consistently prove that it costs more to get a new customer than to keep an existing one. In a recession, it’s imperative to have a clear understanding of your current customers. In good economic times, you have the ability to spend research money on secondary customers and prospects. Start with your core and branch out from there.

Collaborate with a valued research/agency partner

Another way to trim costs is to collaborate with trusted research suppliers where you can maximize your resources and obtain more insight and data. If partnering with a marketing agency, consider one that conducts its own market and consumer research and that may have long-established relationships with specialized research firms.

Avoid slashing all research budgets

It’s now more important than ever to use market research to ensure your brand and marketing messages resonate with your core customers. You’re spending money to reach your customers, so testing messages will prove more profitable then wasting money on ineffective messaging. Just as important as knowing where you may be able to shed some research costs (i.e., potential customers), it’s important to know where not to cut.

Look to the future

Consumer trends aren’t stationary, so it’s important to allocate some money to predicting future consumer and market trends. What will the future of new product development and services look like, and how can your brand adequately adapt to changes in the marketplace?

If research is conducted in a cost-effective and sound way now, when the recession passes, your building products brand will be finely positioned for the upturn.