In order to learn how to successfully market to your customers, first you have to get to know them. Market research is a great tool for anyone looking target their key demographic to grow their business, and learn how to engage with their audience more effectively.

In this article, we will mainly be focusing on primary research. There are many ways to perform market research, but primary research is the best and most sure-fire way to get a good idea of how customers interact with your business through first-hand accounts. Primary research is any kind of research that you can do yourself without the help of the internet or other data sources. In short, it’s going right to the source to find the information directly from people who are already interested in your product or service, could be interested in your product or service, or have used or purchased from you in the past. Join us as we dive into some of our favorite ways to get a good look at your target market.

Surveys 

A good tactic to use to gather this first-hand market research is through surveys. However, not all surveys are built the same. It’s important to have a clear goal for what information you really want to gather before you hit send.

In your surveys, it’s good to make sure you are asking guided and specific questions that encourage longer, more open-ended responses. Instead of asking “yes or no” answers that get the WHAT of their opinion, you want to go for the WHY. For example, if you owned a zipline company, you would want to ask WHY they liked the experience you provided, and acknowledge that there probably were some parts that they loved and some parts that they would change. This will give you a clearer image of who your ideal customer is.

You also want to check that your surveys are tracking how people are finding your business. This can be as easy as having them check any boxes where they have seen you, whether it’s Facebook, print advertising, or other ambient media. Knowing where your customers are finding you or how they would prefer to learn about you is key to helping your sales team turn prospects into customers so you can market better.

There are a number of good survey softwares out there that can help you compile results. SurveyMonkey is one we have used in the past and recommend. It takes the stress out of surveys by automatically compiling your results so you can get your answers more quickly. We also really like JotForm and some of the functionality and pricing options it provides. If you want a more simplistic and free option, Google Forms is another way to go.

Interviews

Interviews are similar to surveys in that they showcase unique opinions and buyer personas, but interviews also provide the value of one-on-one interaction. When using interviews as a way to research your target market, a good place to start is people who have already purchased your product or service. Similar to a commercial for a stain remover, they will tell you their situation and experience with their problem, and then tell you how your product may have helped you solve their problem or change their perspective. This is a good time to gather testimonials or ask if they would be willing to leave an online review for your product or service as well, just make sure you are doing it in the right way and not soliciting (more information about that here).

If you’re wondering what questions you should be asking in a customer interview, a good place to start is getting some demographic information from the person you’re interviewing. How old are they? Where do they live? What kinds of things do they do for fun? These things may seem personal, but will help you get a better idea on one buyer persona of an average customer who is interested in your product or service. Also important to ask them is where they found your company. This information is crucial to your targeting strategy because it will give you a clearer idea of where you seem to be getting traction on your marketing efforts.

Focus groups

A focus group is a way to conduct market research by gathering opinions and gauging the interest of a wide variety of potential customers. The members are typically diverse and carefully selected based on perceived buyer personas of your business. Focus groups participants are typically limited to a group of 8-12 participants so you get a good view of how people really interact when discussing your brand. 

There’s an old saying that a picture says a thousand words, and having a potential customer or client in the flesh can provide insights and information that you can’t glean from a survey. Focus groups provide the unique opportunity to not only gather the answers to the questions asked but help you be able to gauge the reactions to the questions and the materials presented. They can be as simple as an open discussion about how a brand or product makes the group feel, or as specific as targeting certain features. There is also the added benefit of the group playing off the answers of the other members, which encourages more discussion and provides more answers for you.

It can be hard to figure out how to get this many people with the same interests in one room. You can always reach out to your customers or your audience on social media, but if that doesn’t work, or you’re new at social media, meetup.com is a good resource for finding groups of like-minded people. For example, if you sell bike equipment, it may be useful for you to find a biker’s group via meetup and reach out to them to see if they might be interested in helping.

Customer reviews

Your reviews are another side of the customer experience you should value. These reviews can provide insights you can get in a survey without you even having to ask, which can give you some good insights on what the general reputation of your brand is. Whether positive or negative, they can provide information into the kinds of people that are purchasing, and then reviewing your product. Look at the people who are leaving the reviews. What can you get from their profiles? Their photos? Learning what kinds of people are actually interacting with your brand can give you a better idea on who to target.

Reviews can also be a good chance to get to the bottom of how your customer is finding you. If a review is left on a forum for a specific topic, for example, it may provide some insight into what your typical customer’s hobbies are. This can help you get referrals from people that already know your business as well.

Customer Service

Time to tap into your all-time most valuable resource: your employees. Your employees are on the front lines when it comes to your customers. They know better than anyone what is working, what is not, and what questions your audience is asking the most before they make the decision to purchase your product or service.

When talking to your employees, you can also give them a list of questions to start to ask when people call in for help or a comment about your product or service. This can help get an overall view of your customer with less effort than having to set up a survey or focus groups.

*BONUS*

Conducting Market Research through Facebook Audience insights

If you’ve never taken a look into the back-end of Facebook, it’s time to pop the hood and look around. When you are using Business Manager or a Facebook Page for your Facebook accounts, click on the ‘Insights’ tab on the top. Here you can see all the metrics that make up your Facebook page, from a look at your followers, to the success of the ads you’re running, to your most engaging posts, and everything in between.

There are a couple of things that are valuable to note within your Insights. If you click on the “people” tab on the far left, you can get a view of two major metrics: the age and sex of your audience. Here’s an example of the demographics of our page. 

Here you can see the majority of our audience are women (69%), and our biggest age group is in the 35-44 range. We can use this information to better target our marketing efforts to make sure they pique the interest of that group. 

The “people” tab can also give you a good idea of the location of most of your audience, and this can help you tailor your marketing efforts to match. For example, if you are noticing most of your traffic is local, it may be worth posting about local events so your audience knows that their community is important to you, which can help you gain trust. Partnering with local communities with similar demographics can be a mutually beneficial choice for anyone who is catering to a more local audience as well.

Primary research is just one of many tools to learn how to better target your audience, but it is one of the most effective ways of getting information without investing a large sum or too much time. By no means do you have to try all these tactics, but by starting with one or two, you can start to get a better idea of who your audience is, and how you can best market to them to serve their needs.