Read Your Customers’ Minds and Fill Your Bank Account with Market Research

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Market Research – Understanding What Your Customer Wants

Your awesome business idea is worthless unless you take the time to ensure your ideal customer actually wants what you’re trying to sell to them. But how can you know whether your customer is interested if you haven’t officially opened your business? The answer is simple: market research.

Market research is a process of gathering information about your ideal customer so that you can better understand their needs, their existing options, and whether your product or service is a worthwhile solution.

People buy things to provide relief for any number of “pain points” they are feeling in their lives.

The idea that pain is the motivator behind the purchase of makeup, CDs, or pad thai may sound strange, but in marketing terms, a customer’s pain is another way of saying a problem that they would like to be solved.

Let’s return to the example given a moment ago and explore how these problems are resolved by popular products.

Problem: Ines has a bad breakout on her face and she is sitting for a family portrait session in a week.
Solution: Ines buys concealer and foundation to even out her skin tone.

Problem: Anja loves flamenco, but she lives in Finland.
Solution: Anja buys a Carmen Linares CD and dances to the music.

Problem: Keeshia has a craving for the Thai food she enjoyed during her trip to Chiang Mai.
Solution: Keeshia orders pad thai from an authentic Thai restaurant in her city.

Now, think about your business idea. Can you name the solution(s) represented by your product or service? Better yet, can you picture exactly who would love to throw their money at you to get your product or service?

Let’s take a closer look at your ideal customer.

“People buy things to provide relief for any number of pain points they are feeling in their lives.”

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Ideal Customer Avatar

Your solution may work for all types of people, but in order to provide yourself with a framework for research in every aspect of your business, you’ve got to develop a clear picture of your ideal customer.

Creating a profile of your ideal customer is called an Ideal Customer Avatar or a Buyer Persona. This profile is essential to your business because it will determine how you approach marketing, communications, product creation, and more.

Using this avatar or representation of your ideal customer will help you to zero in on your customer’s needs, the messaging your customer responds to, and the solutions that your customer will find most appealing.

There is no single way to create an Ideal Customer Avatar, but there are some key pieces of information that you should include:

  • Demographic Information: Think deeply about your Avatar’s age, sex, gender, career, religion, marital status, location, level of education, income, and other identifiers. You can even give you Ideal Customer Avatar a name!
  • Values, Goals, and Beliefs: Write a few sentences about the values, goals, and beliefs your avatar has. Think in general terms and in terms of the solution you’re selling.
  • Influences and Watering Holes: Consider what sort of media, individuals, organizations, and groups have a major impact on your Ideal Customer Avatar’s life. Figure out how your customer learns and socializes. Write down a list of books, blogs, meetup groups, social media pages, and social clubs your Avatar is likely to engage with.
  • Challenges and Concerns: Make a list of the challenges and concerns your Ideal Customer Avatar faces. Think in general terms and in ways that are directly related to the offer you are selling.

As you get into the swing of this exercise, you may find there are other categories of information you would like to include in this profile. The more detail you have, the easier it will be to focus your business efforts in a way that will increase the likelihood of the sale!

It is important to know that you can and should have more than one Ideal Customer Avatar as your business grows. But when you’re just beginning, focus on just one Avatar so you can stay within your niche and maintain a laser focus as you’re getting things off the ground.

Two Types of Market Research

After you’ve created the profile of your ideal customer, the next step is to collect data about your audience. Your audience is the group of people represented by your Ideal Customer Avatar.

There are two ways to perform market research: firsthand and secondhand.

Firsthand

Firsthand market research is when you have direct contact with people who are a part of your audience. Some ways to collect data firsthand include quizzes and questionnaires, surveys, interviews, and networking events.

Secondhand

Secondhand market research is when you draw from written data collected by someone else. Secondhand data collection includes reviewing industry reports, using a tool such as Google Trends, consulting peer-reviewed journals, or gathering data from social media.

It is wise to do as much firsthand market research as you can, but you may find it difficult in the beginning. If so, don’t worry. There is plenty of secondhand data available to help you get your business going in the right direction.

One of my favorite ways to gather information on my customers second hand is to do keyword research. I use tools such as KW Finder, Google Trends, and even Pinterest to gauge the interest in certain topics for my blog posts.

Another method I have success with is using social media. Once you have discovered where your Ideal Customer Avatar likes to “hang out” online, show up to those places.

Look beyond the big social media platforms and investigate niche forums, fan sites, and places where people like to leave reviews.

Make a note of the things your Avatar is saying- their questions, concerns, hopes, and their choice of words. Keep this data in a spreadsheet like the one in this resource library for easy future reference.

This information will serve you well in the future when it’s time to craft your marketing messages, create new products, and more.

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Competitors

One final thing to consider is your competitors. You can learn a lot from those who’ve gone before you, so make it a point to become familiar with the big names in your space.

Here are a few points to keep in mind when you are doing Market Research on your competitors.

  • Who will you be going up against in the space you’re trying to enter?
  • What makes your competitors successful?
  • What have your competitors failed at, in your opinion?
  • What are your competitors doing that you could improve upon?
  • How do your competitors stand out from the crowd?
  • What sort of advertising do they do?

For more ideas of questions to ask yourself as you do competitor research, check out this post by Hubspot.

Keep this data organized by doing a simple SWOT analysis. Refer to it periodically and update as needed. You can use this data to help establish goals for your own business as you grow.

The Final Word

I don’t have an MBA and you likely don’t, either. I’m a mom, like you, and I’ve made it my business to get smart about business.

You can learn so much about running a business successfully if you take the time, in the beginning, to research who your ideal customer is, what they need, and what their current options are. Depending on your business model, the amount of market research you need to do will vary.

Still, don’t let this be a place where you get stuck before you give yourself the chance to succeed.

Cap this research to a short period of time, maybe just a couple of weeks if you can.

Market research is an ongoing activity, so do just enough to get started and keep it up as you move on to the next step.

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