It seems like everywhere you look, businesses are achieving success.
Uber completed an IPO without ever turning a profit.
Dropbox used growth hacking methods to grow a massive user base and achieve a valuation in the billions.
LinkedIn was acquired by Microsoft for $26.2 billion.
These are different businesses with different target consumers so what ties them all together?
They each have a deep understanding of who the customer is and what their customer wants.
Can you say the same?
This article looks at customer research methods you can use to get a deep understanding of your customers. With that information, you can create better products and compelling marketing campaigns.
What is customer research and why does it matter?
Customer research is the process of identifying consumer segments in your market based on their behaviors, needs, and wants. Put another way, it’s the process of finding your best customers and understanding what makes them tick.
When done properly, you’re able to create detailed customer personas, discover new opportunities, create the right products, and get better results when you implement email marketing, search engine marketing, social media, and even offline direct marketing campaigns.
Take social media platforms as an example. They’re all focused on user growth, connecting you with other people, ad revenue, etc. but each of them targets a different type of person. You could also say they target the same people but different aspects of their lives.
LinkedIn wants you to interact with its platform as a professional.
Facebook wants to make sure you stay connected with the important people in your life.
They’re both advertising platforms but the acquisitions they make, the way they position themselves, and the features they develop are directly tied to what their customers/users want. That information is only available because of in-depth customer research.
In the past, it was expensive to get insights about your customers. You’d have to reach out personally, by direct mail or conduct phone interviews. Technology has made that process much easier, faster, and cheaper – for instance using email. That’s why so many brands make it part of their ecommerce email marketing strategy. You can understand why using a targeted approach with a low-cost channel makes it very popular in competitive markets.
Let’s look at how to quickly do customer research that gives you an edge.
Take advantage of simple questionnaires
Questionnaires are one of the most effective ways to get accurate data about your current and potential customers.
If you’re in the earlier stages of your company, the questionnaires used for customer research should focus on collecting qualitative data. Qualitative data is information that can’t be measured with numbers.
For example, when someone answers the question: “what’s your biggest challenge” they won’t use numbers – they’d describe it in a way that gives more insight than just a number.
There are countless questions you can ask but here are a few to get started:
- What made you buy (product)?
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- When you were trying to solve that problem, where did you go to get information?
- How will solving that problem benefit you?
- How do you like to make purchases?
If you have a larger customer base then you can gather both qualitative and quantitative data. Quantitative data is information that can be expressed as a number or compiled for statistical analysis. For example, when someone answers the question “are you male or female?” that data can be compiled and analyzed.
Here are a few qualitative questions to get started:
- On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend (product or service) to a friend/colleague (NPS survey question)?
- How old are you?
- How many times have you purchased from us in the past?
The responses you get directly from the people who’re currently interacting with your brand are the most powerful. Consider them first when you’re developing your marketing plan and product development plan. If you can’t get answers from this group or the answers aren’t enough, move on to the next methods.
Mine reviews for customer research gold
Your market is constantly leaving feedback across the web. That feedback, whether positive or negative, is a great way to understand what’s working and what isn’t.
There are a few ideal places for getting this information. The first one is Amazon. There are books about everything from startups to fashion to dieting and motivation.
Navigate to the Amazon website and narrow your search to the books section. Type in keywords relevant to your business or a specific product you sell. Open a few books with multiple reviews and look at what happy and unhappy reviewers are saying.
You’ll learn what people loved and what they hated about it. After going through a few reviews, you’ll start seeing patterns. The reason you want to check books first is that people tend to talk about the why behind their purchase, what they expected, and if those expectations were met.
When you’re done with the books, repeat the process for products similar to the ones you sell. If your product category isn’t sold on Amazon, use niche review directories.
G2Crowd, which caters to software buyers, is a great example of a niche review directory. The benefit of these platforms is that they’re focused on delivering unbiased reviews and try to get to the heart of why a product is great (or not).
Use niche communities
Participating or following along in forums is another effective customer research method. People who meet your ideal customer profile are actively asking for solutions to their problems and finding them.
All different AARRR stages of the customer lifecycle are represented. When you use forums, it’s important to avoid selling (at first) and focus on getting a deeper understanding of the struggles your customer experiences.
How do you do that?
By listening and asking questions when appropriate.
Many conversations may lead to phone interviews where you can pick the brain of your ideal prospect. The hardest part of this method is finding the right online communities. Here are a few places to start.
Reddit has over a million subreddits dedicated to everything from entrepreneurship to cat lovers and stamp collectors. If there’s any interest in what you’re creating, it’ll likely have a subreddit.
Find out by going to the Reddit homepage. Type your main product or business keywords in the search box at the top and filter by “top communities.” It’ll bring back all the relevant communities on the platform.
Open the ones that make sense for you and browse through to see what’s important to people in the community. You’ll also discover many other organizations that are successfully targeting the same market as you.
Google search operators
You can also use Google to find other niche forums with the following search queries:
Keyword + “discussion board”
Keyword + inurl:”/forums/”
Keyword + inurl:”showtopic.php”
Repeat the same process used with Reddit to find relevant topics and insights that’ll help you learn more about your customers.
Customers are the lifeblood of your business. When you’re able to meet their needs and serve them, good things happen.
You can’t serve well when you don’t know what your customers want. This article has gone through three simple yet powerful ways to find out what those needs are so you can create solutions that address them.
After implementing the customer research methods outlined here, use the information to make better products and services. After you’ve made improvements, repeat the process and keep iterating until you have a company your customers love.