ADVERTISEMENT

What’s better than getting free stuff? Getting paid to use it.

That’s what consumers across Western New York are finding out as they take part in focus groups and research panels.

Companies pay market research firms big bucks to figure out how consumers will respond to their products before they waste time and money launching them into the market at large. Market research firms choose smaller sample audiences who try those products out, evaluate them and share their valuable feedback.

Product testers usually get to keep those products at the very least, and they are often compensated for their time either with gift cards or more free products.

So how do you get in on the action? Consider signing up with one or more of these reputable companies.

The local players

ARG Survey Service is a local market research firm that has been around since 1957. Register with the company and if a study comes up that you might qualify for, they will give you a call.

Many of Survey Service’s studies involve product tests. A recent project asked women ages 21 to 55 to share their experience using a disposable toilet bowl cleaning wand for 12 weeks. They got $250 for their trouble. Other Survey Service studies have paid participants $50 to taste alcohol (plus $25 for their designated driver), $75 to test an online banking service for one hour and $100 to participate in a two-hour focus group about pet food.

To join, call 876-6450 or visit www.surveyservice.com and click the orange “Join the Survey Service Opinion Panel” button in the lower right portion of the page. Their offices are located at 1911 Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda. You can also watch for new study opportunities on the company’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/surveyservice.

Kids can even get in on the act. Fisher-Price is on the lookout for children under the age of 5 to test toys, said Juliette Reashor, a spokeswoman for the East Aurora toy maker. If your child is selected, Fisher-Price will offer some compensation.

To sign up, parents should mail, fax or email the child’s name and birth date, along with the parent’s name, address, phone number and email address to Fisher-Price Play Lab, 636 Girard Ave., East Aurora, NY 14052. You also can fax it to 687-3701 or email the information to playlab1@fisher-price.com.

Baby products

Kids II is the company behind baby products from Bright Starts, Baby Einstein, Disney Baby and Taggies. Once you enroll in Generation Mom (www.kidsii.com/t-genmom.aspx), you’ll be contacted up to twice a month with surveys asking about your experiences and opinions as a mom.

From that pool of respondents, researchers will choose at-home product testers that meet certain demographic criteria.

You can be chosen for other special tasks, too, which have their own rewards. One local mom recently received a $59 activity table for pinning her thoughts about the brand to her Pinterest board.

Others to try are Summer Infant’s Voice of Mom Panel (www.summerinfant.com/aboutus/voiceofmompanel) and Evenflo’s Mom Research Group (www.evenflo.com/corporate.aspx?id=480).

Magazine reader panels

Several magazines have reader panels – groups of readers who give feedback about the magazine and the products featured inside. Sometimes readers will be asked to preview articles, be interviewed as sources or try full-sized samples of different products. Some panels send products as thank you’s for completing other tasks; some send products for you to test.

Readers on Glamour magazine’s Glamspotters panel (Glamspotters.com) have received full-sized Yves Saint Laurent mascara (which retails for $30), Clinique makeup and Lancome perfume. You may be eligible for further rewards and sweepstakes entries once the product test is completed.

Try InStyle’s Trendsetters (www.instyletrendsetters.com), All You’s Reality Checkers (AllYou.com), Cooking Light’s Table Talk (www.cookinglighttabletalk.com), Lucky’s Style Spotter (http://stylespotter.luckymag.com) and O the Oprah Magazine’s DevOtees (www.omag online.com/things-we-love.php).

Music

Clear Channel Communications, which owns and operates more than 1,200 radio stations across the country, uses a website called HitPredictor.com to help record companies test songs before releasing them to radio.

When RCA records wanted to release an uptempo song as Christina Aguilera’s second single from the album “Stripped,” it decided instead to go with the ballad “Beautiful” because it tested so well on Hit Predictor, according to Billboard magazine. “Beautiful” became an international smash hit and was nominated for two Grammy awards.

The fun of being part of this focus group is the access you get to new, unreleased music. Other rewards are slight: For every five songs you rate, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a $50 Target gift card. You can get a $5 Target gift card for answering emailed questions from the company, but only if you’re one of the first 50 to respond.

You can also accumulate points (three points per song) to be cashed in for prizes such as CDs (1,500 points for Justin Bieber “Acoustic”), DVDs (2,300 points for Tyler Perry’s “Temptation” on Blu-Ray) and other things (1,200 points for Sephora bronzing lotion).

Other Web-based opportunities

Several companies that offer traditional online surveys use their pool of respondents to choose product testers. One of them is ResolutionResearch.com, which currently has one North Tonawanda mom testing a ($99, not-yet-sold-in-stores) HoMedics gadget that prepares baby formula. She posts to an online bulletin board about it once a week and uploads pictures of herself using the product. She’s being paid $250 for a 12-week commitment.

Others to try are 20/20 Research (2020Panel.com) and True Panel (TruePanel.com).

email: schristmann@buffnews.com