How to Do Customer Research for Digital Entrepreneurs
Here’s where many online entrepreneurs fail!
Why Customer Research So Important Is
In its basic concept described a business as follows:
Business is the activity of making one’s living or making money by producing or buying and selling products (such as goods and services). Simply put, it is “any activity or enterprise entered into for profit.” — [Wikipedia]
I prefer my streamlined version:
You need clients who are willing to pay you money for a product/service that you are offering.
Why on earth am I telling this?
That is because a lot of entrepreneurs, especially at the beginning, make the same mistake.
They fall in love with their idea and spent all their time and energy on it.
Only to eventually figure out — nobody cares.
Disappointment. Frustration. Confusion.
“But why, that product was amazing?!” you might say to yourself.
That is exactly the problem. It is not about you. It is about your customers.
Make this your new mantra!
There is a reason why the marketing guru (a real one, not one of those fake ones!) Jay Abraham still promotes his “Strategy of Preeminence”!
You need to know your (potential) customers inside out. Even better than they know themselves.
Then you can create products and services precisely tailored to the needs of your target market. It makes it a “no-brainer” to buy from you then!
- SEMrush’s “70 Powerful Customer Retention Statistics You Need to Know in 2021” found that the probability of selling to an existing customer is between 60% and 70%, while this is at 5% to 20% for potential new customers.
- At the same time, the “The State Of Offer Relevancy 2021: Bridge The Relevancy Gap With Optimization and Automation” found that almost 70% of customers do not think they receive relevant offers.
This means they potentially leave to a company that is relevant to them!
When your customer research is outstanding, they will tell you exactly what kind of product or service you need to create.
Remember, only the market can verify your products and services!
What Customer Research Includes
It all starts with demographics — which itself is a dry term if you ask me. But, it is super important!
Demography is the statistical study of populations, especially human beings. [Wikipedia]
However, the truth is: Customer research only starts here!
Let us have a look at the various aspects!
• Who is your customer? What about their age, gender, living status (house, flat, etc.), education, income level, employment status, family status, kids, mobility, savings and countless other things.
• What attitudes do they represent? This is about politics, religious, social, economic, environmental and other topics.
• How do they behave and act? Think about how do they dress, talk, walk and represent themselves? Are the lonesome tigers or social heroes?
That already is a good start. But now it is getting exciting. It is about understanding what your customers want and why they do not have it yet.
• What are their hopes and their dreams? Maybe somebody wants to finally get in shape and look really hot, while somebody else wants to secure the long-desired promotion.
• What are their victories and their failures? Chances are they already tried a few things, but it did not work. The important thing is to figure out why they have failed so far — or what little victories they celebrated.
Human beings are more emotional than rational. People not only fail, but they also have a reason — or better an excuse — why!
• Whom or what do they blame for not having success? “I have a job and two kids; I cannot go to the gym”, might be one.
• What are their prejudices? Think about it. It is a little bit like “White men can’t jump” in basketball.
Eventually, do the following!
• Write a short summary of their core beliefs in life!
Here is one important thing: Your customers will not directly tell you what they need, and their real pains are.
They act emotional and make most of their decisions unconsciously:
95% of consumer decisions about brands are actually unconscious” — Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman, “How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market.” [Online source]
Hence, it is on you to figure out, read between the lines and correctly interpret what it is your customer needs and wants.
Tip: It helps to create one or more marketing persona! A “marketing persona” is a virtual character based on the characteristics of your customer research.
See here for a guide on marketing personas by Buffer: The Complete, Actionable Guide to Marketing Personas
The better you do this exercise, the better the product or service that solves their problems will turn out!
Where and How You Can Do Customer Research Online
Many upcoming digital entrepreneurs get stuck quickly when doing customer research.
Some may have never had one because they are just starting.
While others think, “how can I do that? I am working only online. It is not like I have a store where people come in.”
Here are a few ways to research customers online, and you do not even need to spend money on it.
Many use this straightforward to optimize their SEO (Search Engine Optimization) performance. They hope it gives them a spot on the first page of Google.
This is nothing else than market research, thus customer research.
What terms would your clients enter into Google, and what would they hope to find?
Here is a beginner’s guide to keyword research by Moz: Keyword Research — The Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
In June 2021, Google had a market share of 87.76% while Bing had 5.56%, according to Statista’s “Worldwide desktop market share of leading search engines from January 2010 to June 2021.”
Based on the keyword research, you can also use Google itself to find out more.
First, the auto-fill function will tell you what most people type given a particular keyword.
So, type a keyword and do not hit enter. Just look at the suggestions from Google.
It looks like this:
There are two more interesting sections once you have your search results:
- The “People also ask” part right in the beginning and
- The “related searches” at the end
This is all based on data from Google — a true gold mine.
YouTube is more than a video platform; it is a huge search engine by itself.
Aside from cat videos and other useless stuff, the entire platform is a big “how to do x” collection.
Do you want to cook a specific recipe for the dinner party? You go to YouTube.
Do you need to hack your smartphone? Same.
The auto-fill trick works here as well, and the “related search” section is on the right.
Comments on Amazon
You can search for books related to your target audience.
Then go down to reviews and read what people are saying.
Ignore the five- and one-star ratings. Typically they are the “it’s perfect” fans or “what a crap” and disappointed fraction.
However, those in the middle tend to be more reflective and say things like, “I thought it was excellent, but I missed X.”
That is extremely interesting. Why do they miss something? Why do they think something was great?
Forums like Reddit
You most probably know Reddit.
But did you know it is also great for research purposes?
It has over 52 million daily users and over 100.000 communities!
You only need to find the specific subreddits related to your topics. You then can either ask questions yourself or read through existing threads.
For example, r/FacebookAds is a specific subreddit with 16.5k members!
This question on tracking conversions from Facebook ads could be one starting point for your research.
However, any other forum where your target audience hangs out is excellent, too!
Hootsuite has a short guide: How to Use Reddit for Fast (and Accurate) Market Research.
Comments on Blogs
If you have your own blog and visitor engage by leaving comments — do not ignore them!
See what they tell you, and for each comment, you can write back and ask another question.
Brian Dean from Backlinko.com always encourages his readers to tell him their experience! Naturally, this results in some insightful replies like this one:
While this insight may not result in an entire product or service, it can be an extremely valuable part of one!
Maybe you do not have a blog yet — no problem! You always can find one blog relevant to your niche and see what people are writing there.
There are some very engaged blogs out there, and you just need to find them.
Also, nobody hinders you from jumping in there as well with questions and comments.
Udemy is another golden gem for your research — and you do not have to sign up for this!
You go to their website and search for keywords related to your audience.
Find those courses which are best in their class given the people who bought them and their rating.
Then scroll down to the “Course content” section and see what they are tackling in their course. Most probably, it is what the customers are looking for.
A little further down is another section called “Student feedback.” Here you can easily apply the lessons learned from the “Comments on Amazon” section.
Ask Your Existing Customers for Feedback — Always
Here are sections for people who already have customers.
It is a straightforward tip: Ask them!
What did they like? What did they miss?
A customer who feels he is heard will likely return. Since they already bought from you, they most probably will give you one or the other information.
However, try to be specific and focus — because nobody wants to answer a 15-minute survey!
Mail Individual People from Your E-mail List
Do you have a mailing list? Use it to your advantage!
Here and there, add a short question on a topic — and ask them to give you their opinion. Promise you will read each mail.
Then, please do so and try to add further, more detailed questions to better understand them.
An e-mail list must not be one-way!
Talk with People — Skype/Zoom for More Extended Conversations
Here is a shocker — call people!
If you engage with somebody who gives you great insights, at some point, it is better to hop on a call using Skype, Zoom, or something similar.
Whether this arises from blog comments or an e-mail conversation is irrelevant.
As I like to say in consultancy: “If you cannot solve it in 2 e-mails, call the person — it is faster.”
There are many ways to do online research for digital entrepreneurs. Here are just some I regularly use with great success.
Remember, people are emotional and typically not able to “just tell you” what they need and want.
That is the crucial part of understanding the topic of customer research!