Thinking about introducing a new product, expanding your line, checking on service quality? Ask your customers! They're already browsing your Web site, Facebook page, or Twitter posts, if they care about your brand. Loyal brand fans want to be involved and have their voices heard. Just ask, and you'll be surprised how many customers will answer.
You won't get a statistically valid sample, but you will get qualitative data to help you make up your marketing mind. Just as important, you'll get fast feedback if you use social media or online surveys--and speed is vital in today's intensively competitive marketplace, where many decisions simply can't wait.
There are a number of tools you can use, such as Survey Monkey, which the city of Salem, MA uses to poll residents about municipal priorities, service performance, and more. The Survey Monkey site has case histories of how companies have used its tools to support marketing decision-making.
Marketing research is rocket science, but if you need a quick-and-dirty indication of what the market thinks of a new product idea, ask your customers.