Have you ever put your heart and soul into a blog article or shed blood, sweat and tears to create the perfect offer, only to be greeted by the sound of a lonely, chirping cricket?

That deafening silence is rarely the result of good intention or even great execution. Rather, the lack of interest in what you have to offer is due to a mismatch in what the startup world calls your product-market fit. In other words, the demand for your product, service or idea just isn’t there – at least not with your current audience.

So how do you know what your clients are just chomping at the bit to get their hands on? How do you get into the minds of those people ready to hand over their hard-earned cash for that one thing that would transform their lives? 

It all starts with market research. Market research is a complex and, sometimes, overly complicated process, but today I’m going to give you five specific ways to discover what your ideal clients want (or dare I say, need).

For this article (and video), I’m going to focus primarily on how to gather qualitative data, which reveals the non-numeric, descriptive details of your clients’ beliefs, attitudes, desires, goals, etc. This kind of interactive research allows you to better understand the “why” behind the numbers and statistics you see in your analytics platforms.

1. Surveys and Questionnaires 

While surveys are often used to gather quantitative data, they can also be used to uncover some valuable insights into the mindset and desires of your current or potential clents. Surveys can be both in person and online. If you’ve ever been stopped by a person with a clipboard while shopping at the mall, then you have experienced the in-person version of survey research, otherwise known as intercept interviews.

Most surveys, however, are presented online using survey software tools like SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics. Though not as interactive as an in-person method, online surveys allow for a greater number of responses, resulting in more data across a wider variety of potential customers. 

One of the downsides of surveys is the lack of back-and-forth interaction. Most survey tools offer a skip logic feature in order to present questions based on previous answers, but this doesn’t replace a good ol’ fashion conversation. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly difficult to persuade people to answer surveys unless they are personally invited, have a very positive or very negative view of the survey subject matter, or are offered an incentive to participate.

2. Focus Groups

Focus groups are a great method for encouraging discussion and gathering qualitative information in an interactive environment. These groups utilize a moderator to ask questions and facilitate constructive conversation among the participants. The real magic here is in observing the group dynamic and allowing participants to respond to one another’s feedback.

Focus groups require an experienced facilitator as discussions can easily stray far off topic, and some participants may have a tendency to monopolize the conversation if left unchecked. One major drawback of using focus groups can be the expense involved, but having a captive audience focused on your particular research objectives may be worth the investment.

3. In-person Interviews

I’ve found that having direct, one-on-one interaction with current or potential clients offers the best opportunity to dig into some real pain points, goals and desires. The conversation is focused directly on their needs and experiences which enables me to get very specific about the information, services and products that would best suit their needs.

This method is rather time consuming, as it only offers feedback from one person at a time. So getting enough input on which to base any major decisions could take weeks or months of interviews. Additionally, as with all of the methods listed so far, you won’t be able to make any generalizations based on a such a small sample size, and this is especially true of individual interviews. However, they are a good starting point and a valuable source of data in the overall research design.

4. Social Listening

A more covert method of researching your potential clients is by using social media as a monitoring and listening tool. Signing up to Facebook or LinkedIn groups where your prospects hang out offers a great opportunity to gather information like pain points, challenges and needs. These groups are also valuable for getting ideas for blog posts. Just watch for common questions and write articles that address those inquiries.

Most groups aren’t too keen on letting their members post links to their own sites, but some will allow you to refer to a post you have written if it is related to another member’s question. At the very least, you can ask questions for further research and offer link-free advice, positioning yourself as an expert on your topic or industry.

Whether you choose to interact and engage or just lay low and listen, this research method is a great way to gather intel from a specific group.

5. Customer Reviews

Another discrete method of gaining insights about your target market is reading customer reviews of your competitors. This will allow you to analyze what your potential clients like and dislike about what is already out there so you can address unmet needs. 

You can check out review sites like Yelp and Trustpilot, or you can go to your competitors’ Facebook pages and other social platforms to see what their clients are saying. Some businesses even post their reviews directly on their website, though these are typically limited to only positive experiences.

Where to Start

The most important first step in conducting any research is setting your objectives. Define what problem you are trying to solve and what information will help you solve it. This will allow you to create a list of questions that focus specifically on that problem.

For example, if you’re creating an online course about managing finances, perhaps one objective should be discovering what your current or potential clients have already tried that hasn’t worked for them. A second objective could be uncovering their attitudes about saving and investing.

Developing Your Questions

When developing your questions, be sure to make them open ended to allow for full and complete answers. Additionally, avoid asking leading questions. These are questions that are slanted in a way that suggests a particular answer. An example is, “How much do you enjoy saving money?” Perhaps they don’t like saving at all.

Something else to consider when planning your research study is your respondent and/or participant selection process. Be sure to choose individuals who are as closely related to your ideal client as possible. Your past and current clients are the best fit, but you can also consider recruiting other individuals in the same industry or those who share similar challenges and lifestyles.

Which Method is Best?

All of these research methods offer pros and cons. I would suggest using a combination of at least two, but preferably three, to get the most accurate findings possible. Regardless of the methods you choose, any one of these offer a good starting point for developing your offers and creating content that resonates with your ideal clients.

If you’re wanting to take your business to the next level and develop a brand that resonates with your ideal clients, we are here to help you take your next step.

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