Market Research Reimagined: 7 Creative (and free!) ways to learn about your ideal clients
[I’m currently hooked on #2!]
Not your typical market research
Market research can get a bad rap. Maybe you think it’s nerdy, boring, unnecessary, difficult, or intimidating.
That said, if you want to really serve your ideal client well, there’s no better way to figure out how to do that than with some good ole’ market research. Not convinced? Read 5 Reasons Market Research Should be on your Priority To-Do List.
Market research doesn’t have to be done with focus groups and expensive surveys though. There are so many other types of market research - so many better ways for businesses (especially small businesses) to do market research. By being more agile, up with the times, and closer with your customers, you can actually have some fun with it!
I’m going to share some of my favorite unconventional and creative ways to do market research so that you can best serve your ideal clients by learning what they need and want. Your future customers, and your business results, will thank you.
Creative Market Research Methods
#1 Text Message
One time I was mentoring a couple of college students in an entrepreneurial class where they have to develop and pitch a plan for a business. They pivoted last minute and wanted to pursue an idea to make it easier for students on campus meal plans to eat healthy. They had to quickly turn something in for a class deadline but had no idea if their new idea was actually solving a problem for a lot of students. They personally struggled with it, but didn’t know if anyone else felt the same way.
We came up with an idea to text all of their college friends. They simply texted:
Quick question for you!
Are you on a campus meal plan?
Is there anything you don’t like about it?
Within minutes we got dozens of responses back expressing similar frustrations that they had - hypothesis validated! Their idea was solving an existing need! Better yet, they learned actual pain points and language from their ideal user (college students on campus meal plans trying to eat healthy) to make their idea and messaging even better and more compelling.
#2 P.S. in emails
This year I started to see online entrepreneurs using the P.S. a lot more in their emails. Then I heard a great podcast about it from Amy Porterfield’s podcast #229: The Power of the P.S. Strategy. Lately I’ve been experimenting with using it not only as a way to better engage with my email list, but to also learn about the people on it. Remember that market research is just a fancy way of saying you’re learning from your ideal customer!
Here’s how I use this method:
I’ll introduce a call-to-action at the bottom of these weekly strategy articles. When I send it out to my list I remind them of the call-to-action by also putting it in the P.S. at the end of the email. Here are a few examples I’ve used lately:
P.S. Did you see my note about hitting reply and letting me know what challenges you have with pricing? Seriously, I'd love to know! It helps me to know what to write in the future to help you solve more problems you're having. I read every response!
P.S. Did you see my note about hitting reply and sharing something you struggle with? Seriously, let's be vulnerable together, for the sake of personal growth and running after our ideal lives!
P.S. Did you see my note about responding to this email with any questions or challenges you have around market research? Really, do this! I would love to hear from you and help however I can.
I genuinely want to hear from the people on my list and I read and reply to each and every response personally. This helps me build relationships with my followers and also learn more about them and how to better serve them - like what to write about in future articles!
#3 Experiments & Beta Programs
Before opening my coworking space, Platform 53, I did a series of coworking experiments. I partnered with event spaces to offer one-day Coworking Experiments. I told attendees that it was both an opportunity for them to experiment with coworking to see if it was right for them and also an opportunity for Platform 53 to experiment with the best way to do coworking.
We tried different things, observed and listened to the participants, did live polls, chatted with people before they left, and sent out online surveys afterwards. I learned a ton that helped formulate the strategy for Platform 53. As an added bonus, a dozen of the people who came to the Coworking Experiments also signed up to join our coworking space before we even opened.
I also did a beta test before launching this business. I wanted to learn more about how my expertise could best serve my ideal client (since I had been working with a different type of client most often in the past). I decided to test out different offerings and ways to package and price them alongside what I was offering for Platform 53.
The program was month-to-month and each month I got feedback on what I was doing and used that feedback to improve the program and my services for the following month. After a few months I had learned what I needed to learn and decided to launch my services as a standalone business.
#4 Online comments & Reviews
Have you seen Brené Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability? It has nearly 9 million views and over 2,300 comments. One of the comments says this:
Up until 24 hours ago, before I watched this video I made fun of people who loved so recklessly and willingly gave into the vulnerability in order to experience something beautiful. And I know now that that judgement came from a place of shame. It came from a place that had been hurt and rejected and not chosen multiple times by multiple people. It came from a voice that told itself to harden and be strong and don't let people in anymore, be you're own happiness, your own love, don't be weak or vulnerable to men because that'll get you hurt…
Talk about amazing and raw learning! If you wanted to serve women like this (for example if you’re a therapist or life coach), you now have insight into how they feel, how people who need your help may be projecting, and how to speak their language (though I wouldn’t base everything off of this one comment - find others and identify patterns and commonalities).
Great sources for candid information like this on what questions people have, what solutions benefited their life, what made them dissatisfied, and what unmet needs they still have include:
Amazon or Goodreads reviews of books in your industry
Google, Yelp, or Facebook reviews of other businesses in your industry
#5 Social Media Listening
In a Private Facebook Group I’m a part of, someone posed this question:
I'd love your input on something…I rarely accept requests from people I have no clue where they know me from. So today I did a little experiment. I accepted 2 women late afternoon. Around 7pm I got a message from the first one. She said hi and I said Hi back. Then I asked her why she sent me a FR (I did this in a very friendly way because I was genuinely curious). She said she goes around educating women about investing in XYZ. Then she asked if she could talk to me and for me to just hear her out before making a decision.
Well that was disappointing I thought to myself. Why can't people FR others to get to KNOW them?
What's your take on Friend Requests? Do you send total strangers FRs? What do you do once you connect?
This question generated seven comments with detailed responses. If your business is providing social media expertise or helping people figure out how to network the right way to get client leads, this would be a very helpful thread to pay attention to and learn from. As an added bonus, you can also hop into the conversation with your expertise, focusing on providing value (not selling to them or self promoting!) and see if it resonates with people. AND, perhaps one of these people will like your approach, be curious about what you do, and end up hiring you - you never know!
You could also look for postings with relevant hashtags.
#6 Keywords Stats
I’ve found this so helpful for market research. Here’s why:
When you search anything on the web (like in Google, Amazon, or YouTube), this plugin automatically tells you what the search volume, cost per click, and competition are for that search term. Then in the margin, it pulls up related search terms with their stats as well. Combine this with the search predictions feature that Google uses (when you start typing something in the search box and Google provides suggestions for how to finish your phrase based on what other people are searching for), and you’ve got a super simple and free way to get insights into your industry and ideal customers.
Here’s a snapshot of what it looks like when you use it in Google search.
#7 Attending events & Having Coffee Meetings
Do you hate networking as much as I do? Whether I’m at an event with a networking time or someone reaches out to have coffee, it always seems so inauthentic and forced to me.
Recently, I’ve resolved to do things differently:
Just focus on learning and creating an authentic connection.
It’s simple - find people who may match your ideal client profile and take the time to get to know them. Learn about them as people and listen for what their struggles are and what language they use.
This serves a few purposes:
Market research learnings
They may eventually turn into a client lead (or refer you to one) if you form a connection with them (though if this becomes your main goal, this method loses it’s power)
Just think of it like a normal human conversation, starting with the age-old question, Tell me about yourself. Then, as they touch on something you want to learn about, ask follow-up questions, like What’s that like for you? or I’m curious how you went about that, or tell them how you can relate to what they’re going through.
The point is to just generally be curious and listen - not thinking about how you can fix them or help them or sell to them. Just connect.
Here they are in a nutshell
7 Creative ways to do market research
#1: Text message
#2: P.S. in emails
#3: Experiments & beta programs
#4: Online comments & reviews
#5: Social media listening
#6: Keyword stats
#7: Attending events & having coffee meetings
You may have noticed….
That I talked about your ideal client a lot in this article. Market research should always be done with your ideal client or the learnings won’t be relevant when it comes to better serving the people you want to serve. If you’re unsure of who your ideal client is, read this article, How to Identify your Ideal Client and download my free workbook to go along with it below.
I’m Stacy, an entrepreneur, strategist, and adventurer dedicated to helping you build a kick-ass business out of your skills & passions. Why? Because I think you should love your life and that’s kind of hard to do if you don’t love your work.
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