The best way to build a successful business is to offer your prospects and customers something they already want – and give them a reason to buy it from you.
That means that getting to know your customers is one of the most important steps in building your business success.
The problem for many businesses and entrepreneurs is that they make one of the following mistakes in this crucial step:
- They miss it out entirely
- They do it in a hurry thinking they already know what people want
- They treat it as a one-off exercise and never revisit the results
- They look only at some of the data (usually the numbers) and don’t dig deeply enough into factors such as the psychology
As I mention in the post on positioning yourself to attract your first choice clients, there are two key types of information you want to look for – psychographics and demographics. The second is often the most important.
Check out my article here for more tips on making the best use of market research.
Getting Inside Their Minds
In order to easily convince someone to buy what you are selling, you need to listen to the conversation already going on inside their head. They are tuned in to the radio station WIFM – what’s in it for me?
You need to get on that wavelength.
In fact, if you do that well, your sale will be so much easier as you will be offering people exactly what they want.
Make It an Ongoing Process
The key is that listening to your market is not a one-off exercise.
Certainly you should spend time doing research before you even develop a product or service.
But the information you find during research is just a snap-shot of a moment in time.
You need to make market research an ongoing part of your business activity so that you can continue improving your offer and the way you present it to the market.
Often you will pick up little nuggets that can make a big difference to the way you package or promote your product or service. Research will help you identify markets you should be targeting and even the language you should be using.
What Are You Looking For?
The biggest challenge with market research is to be clear about what you are looking for. Here are just some of the topics you could discover:
- Biggest problems, worries and frustrations
- Main competitors and what they are offering
- Keywords used and special terminology or language
- Important hangouts such as popular websites, blogs and forums
- How big the market is
- Specific sub-groups or niches of the overall market
- Likes and dislikes about current solutions
- Desires and preferences
- Major common issues and concerns
The wide range of information you are looking for means you need to keep good notes of what you find. You can use a spreadsheet for numerical data or a notebook, computer folder or ring binder for more general issues that come up. What’s important is to make the process real by taking notes that you can act on rather than simply surfing aimlessly.
Finding Out What They Are Thinking
So how and where do you start trying to find out what your prospects and customers are thinking? Here are 10 top ways you can do that.
1. Check Out Their Web Searches
One of the most powerful marketing benefits of the Internet is the ability to get up-to-date information on what people are interested in.
These days many people go straight to a search engine like Google when they want to check something out. When you know what people are searching for, you know what they are interested in.
To tap into this information, you need to identify the ‘keywords’ that people would use for searching for information about your product or service.
Knowing your top keywords and how often they are searched has many benefits, including:
- Estimating the size of your potential market
- Identifying your top competitors
- Finding out people’s specific interests and concerns
To start identifying the best keywords, think about what people would key in to a search engine when looking for information about your product or service. Be creative and don’t just go for the obvious options.
Then hop over to the free Google Keyword Tool and enter your keywords to find out how often they are searched.
The tool will also suggest other keywords relevant to your topic.
Visit this separate post for more tips on How to Use the Google Keyword Tool to Understand Your Customers
2. Listen In to Their Social Conversations
So many conversations happen online these days that it’s easy to eavesdrop or join in. The top ways of doing this are:
- Social Networks
Blogs have become a very popular place for people interested in specific topics to publish their ideas for other people to comment on.
You need to find out which are the most-widely read blogs in your market.
You can find blogs by entering your top keywords plus ‘blog’ into Google or another search engine.
Notice the posts that attract a lot of comments – these often highlight the current hot topics.
There are thousands of online forums where people with an interest in a specific subject get together to discuss topics of common interest.
They are useful for market research. Firstly the fact that forums exist indicates that people are interested in the topic. However the main benefit is that you can find out what people are talking about and what the big issues are in the market.
To find online forums, just type in your top keywords to Google or another search engine plus the word ‘forum’.
You should also try using words such as ‘community’, ‘chat’ or ‘message board’ for similar resources.
Many people are now joining groups on social networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn and these can be very useful places to follow and join in discussions.
It’s worth taking time to identify networking sites and groups relevant to your market.
With all of these approaches, remember you are in a community where overt marketing may not be welcome.
It’s fine to just hover and observe the conversation. But take time to get to know people, contribute to discussions and add value before you ask for anything from members of the group.
People will happily respond to general questions and issues but probably not to invitations to buy your product – whether real or perceived.
3. Follow the News
An easy way to keep up to date with specific topics is to set up a regular news alert which sends you regular emails or RSS updates based on your chosen keywords.
Simply go to the following page and set up the keywords you want and the frequency with which you want them.
You will then receive a regular update of news and web activity around that topic.
4. Check Out the Competition
One of the best sources of information about your market is your competitors.
You can easily ‘spy’ on them online and find out what they are doing, what is working and what can be improved.
While you may know some of your competitors, a quick Google search using your top keywords will let you discover more.
You should look for companies that come up in organic search and in the paid-for advertising alongside. Where there is advertising, this is a good sign that there is potential in the market around these keywords.
By the way, you should see competitors as a good thing. Lots of competition is usually a sign of a healthy, viable market.
If there is no evidence of competition in your chosen market, be very wary. You might have struck gold but it’s unlikely!
In looking at competitors, you want to know:
- Who are the main competitors?
- What are they selling?
- Who are their customers?
- Who are the industry leaders and why do they stand out?
- What marketing strategies are competitors using?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of competitors?
- What opportunities exist to improve on what they are doing?
So, when you do a search, get a quick overview of the competition and then click on some of the most interesting links to study them in more detail.
Several powerful online tools (which have free and paid versions) can help you learn more about your customers:
- www.SpyFu.com: Search results, keywords and advertising data for specific sites or keywords
- www.Quantcast.com: Demographic analysis of visitors to a site
- www.Compete.com: Competitor site analytics
Visit this separate post for more tips on What Your Competitors Will Teach You About Your Customers
5. Notice What They Are Reading
One of the simplest ways to find out what people are interested in is to visit the magazine section of a large bookstore. The fact that magazines exist on a topic is a good indication that there is a market around it. The magazines themselves also highlight the current topics that are hot in that field.
Magazine covers are great examples of effective copywriting. They sum up core messages in a few words and are good to study and model.
You can also get a lot of this information by visiting: www.magazines.com
6. Discover What They Think of What They Are Reading
A little-known way of finding out what people think about specific topics is to read the book reviews on www.Amazon.com.
It’s a great resource for identifying trends and finding out about topics. You can use it to find the top-selling categories and to find the best sub-categories.
Notice what issues they raise, what words they use and what they complain about in relation to books.
This is a good way of finding out what people are looking for and what gaps still exist in the market.
There are many social bookmarking sites where people save and highlight their favorite websites. Just visit these sites and enter your keywords into the search facility to check out the most popular results.
This is a good indication of what is important to them. The advantage of using these rather than search engines is that they depend on human rating not on software so they reflect what people are thinking now.
Popular sites include:
8. Find Out What They Want to Know
Many people go straight to online question and answer sites when they want questions answered, this is a good way of finding out what people want information on.
Popular sites include:
Your own website is a mine of useful information about what people are looking for.
With good software such as the free Google Analytics – and you should certainly be tracking your visitors – you can find out a great deal about the people who come to your site, what pages they visit and what keywords brought them there.
If you want even more information, services such as www.Clicktale.com can help you virtually ‘spy’ on people visiting your website.
10. Ask Them
Possibly the best way to find out what people want is simply to ask them.
Or use a survey to collect responses and data.
You can use this approach to get feedback on existing products and services or to find out what big issues people are currently thinking about.
Popular online services such as www.SurveyMonkey.com make this easy. There is a free and paid-for service.
These 10 approaches give you a powerful range of tools to get to know your customers and what they want. The key to effective market research is to make it part of your regular routine without having it take over your day.
There is no doubt that time spent carefully getting to know your market is one of the best investments you can make in your business.