It would be amazing if every single launch of a product, every upload of a podcast, every publish of a video or blog post was met with rockstar level fanfare, big paydays, and praise for your killer work. This can — and does — happen for a lot of business ladies out there, it's a lot less likely for those of us just starting out: those with small (to no) audiences. And that's part of the process, right? You grind it out in the beginning, build your audience, and then reap those sweet rewards later.
And the Internet at large will tell you that creating content (like blogs and podcasts and videos) are the key to growing your audience, and this is true. But what audience will you have if no one has the problem you're trying to solve? The itch you're trying to scratch? The hole you're trying to fill?
It's a scary thought: funneling all this time and energy into building something that gets nothin' but crickets when you launch. Not making a dime on sales. Not even generating any kind of interest, whatsoever. But the following two steps will change everything. It'll give you an intense understanding of who your audience is and what they need, so that you can create the content they want. And these two steps are:
Identifying your audience and market research.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but you'd rather dump your time and energy into something YOU KNOW people want rather than something YOU THINK they want, which is where audience identification and market research come in. They help to ensure that you are creating things that people want to buy, and solving the problems they actually have. This is usually done through some surveys and audience outreach.
But what if you don't have an audience yet? Don't worry — all of the information I'm presenting here is applicable to those without an already-established audience or customer base. So let's dive in.
STEP #1: Identifying Your Ideal Customer
Your customers: who are they, anyway? Are they fellow business owners? Mothers? Fathers? Entrepreneurs? Fashion bloggers? The very first thing you need to do when you set up a business is to get really clear on who your target audience is. We call this your "ideal customer" and more than just figuring out age and location, you need to get very specific and imagine your ideal customer as they are existing out in the world right now. What is her name? Marriage status? What does she do for a living? What's her favorite color? Did she like high school? Imagine her like you're talking to her right this second.
I know you're probably wondering why the hell you'd want to build a business around a single person — won't that limit your sales potential?
Short answer: no. No two people are alike in their personalities, but there are MILLIONS of people out there who are just like us. So when you're creating a persona for a single person, you're actually doing so for millions of people. You're not limiting your sales potential, you're targeting a specific subset of people who are more likely to buy from you because you're SPEAKING RIGHT TO THEM. It's the difference between walking into a really loud, huge New Year's Eve party and trying to have a conversation with someone verses walking into a quiet library meet-up of those exact people that fit your criteria.
After you get to know your ideal customer, you then start to know exactly what she needs. By keeping her top of mind when you brainstorm ideas, she will keep you on track to creating and building things just for her. Good news for you is, I've included an Ideal Customer Worksheet as a free download with this blog post, so download it here and get to work.
STEP #2: MARKET RESEARCH
Now that you know WHO your ideal customer is, let's figure out where she's hanging out online so we can observe and ask some questions.
Keeping her basic demographics in mind (age, and gender), where would she most likely be online? Consider things like social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr), what she's reading (blogs, magazines), and hobbies (is she a crafter? She might be hanging out on Etsy.).
There are lots of places you can do research for free and once you find your ideal customers there, it's as simple as asking them if they'd need a product like yours. Or if you're still at the stage where you're figuring out what to build, asking them what their biggest pain points, struggles, or stresses are. But as usual with social interactions in real life and online, don't just drop in and start spamming people – take your time to observe and participate, and then ask the questions you need answers to.
Fantastic places to get started:
- Facebook Groups and Pages — Are you a member of any groups or pages? If not, get out there and find your Ideal Customer where she's hanging out. Join up in some groups, observe, and participate. PS —This is my favorite way to do market research!
- Twitter Hashtags — Search hashtags and keywords.
- Etsy Forums — See what people are talking about by searching by subject.
- Reddit Threads — Find a thread related to your business niche and observe what people are talking about. Go one step further and create an account to ask a question.
- Quora — Search your businesses key words here and see what questions people are asking. Go one step further and ask a question you need an answer to!
- Pinterest Guided Search Results — Type in your key terms and see what pops up on the guided search section. Pro tip: Guided Search is actually populated by what's most popular on Pinterest.
- Pinterest Popular Pins — If it's trending on Pinterest, you know there's interest!
- Most Popular Items from Online Retailers — Where do your customers shop? Go there and see what the top sellers are.
So now you know who your ideal customer is, and you know what they want or the problem they want solved. Now you can start using your unique expertise and skills to create products and/or services to fill those gaps. Not only are you laser focused on who they are but you know exactly what they need. That's a recipe for success, my friends.
What lingering questions do you have about your ideal customer and market research? Hit me up in the comments or over on Facebook!
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