by Martina Iring | Featured Contributor
How many times have you asked yourself, “I wonder what my customers think about this?” or “How does my target market feel about that?”
You probably have some of your own ideas about what the answers might be, but what you really want is the goods straight from the horse’s mouth.
Large companies and corporations spend tons of money on research – surveys and focus groups, research panels and interviews. But as small business owners, we certainly don’t have these kinds of resources at our disposal. We also may have simpler needs. We might not have millions of dollars on the line when launching a new product. But we can still greatly benefit from insights and research into our target market.
So let’s turn to the best resource there is – the web! There are so many ways to leverage the power of the internet to do a lot of your own sleuthing. Here are some of my favourite ways…
Twitter is hands down one of my favourite research tools. It’s so easy to keep tabs on what Twitter conversations are happening around specific things by using the search functionality. You can search for specific topics related to your industry, you can set up a search for your business name to see if any conversations are happening about you, and you can do searches for competitor names to see what Twitter users are saying about them.
Use your existing networks to ask questions. Head over to social media and use your own profiles or social groups and communities to pose your queries. Use your blog and your email newsletter. Leverage all your communications channels to ask for feedback and gain further insights.
Check out other social media profiles
You might not have a super large following or get tons of responses when you ask questions. However, you can leverage other larger followings that also serve the same target market as you. Asking questions on social media is a good content tactic and you’ll find many larger profiles will do this as part of their social strategy. Or they might even have a weekly Q&A day, or other strategies to encourage their audiences to share their feedback. Use this to your benefit. It can be as easy as heading over to their Facebook page, for example, and scrolling through their comments.
Check out other blogs
As with the point above, you may not get a lot of feedback on your blog, but other sites certainly do. Again, leverage their credibility. Find blog topics on larger, active sites that are relevant to what you want to know and go through their comments. You can find all kinds of interesting insights into what people are struggling with, what they don’t understand, what they like or dislike etc.
In my last post, we touched on keyword research and most people usually associate it with SEO and search rankings. But it serves another very important purpose – it gets you in the heads of searchers. You can learn about how people talk about certain topics (i.e. what words they actually use which could be different from what you think) and what they are asking Google. This can be hugely insightful. You might think it’s really important to talk about feature x of your product, but you might find that it’s actually feature y that everyone is interested in.
It can be hard to keep tabs on ever-changing trends, but in some industries, it’s crucial to stay on top of what’s happening. Google Trends gives you a sense of the popularity of searches for certain terms, giving you insight into what’s hot and what’s not.
These are just a few of my favourite ways to do online research. How about you? How do you use the web to get into the heads of your customers and target market? Share with us in the comments!
Martina Iring – Internet marketing consultant & small business cheerleader
Martina Iring is a marketing consultant who works with small businesses and entrepreneurs unsure of how to make the internet work for them and their success. Whether they need to take their online presence to the next level, bring it up to date, or even get something going in the first place. This can be super overwhelming, especially if web stuff isn’t your thing. She’s on a mission to help the little guys make sense of internet marketing, teaching small biz owners how being online is not only profitable, but enjoyable! She is based in Vancouver, Canada but works with businesses all over the world.
She loves marketing. She loves small business. Bringing them together is her bliss. You can call her the small business cheerleader!
As a small business owner herself, Martina can relate to the whole magical journey of entrepreneurship – the challenges and the struggles, but also the joys and the amazing freedoms. Her blog, Small Business Bliss, offers up plenty of marketing info and doses of inspiration. Be sure to get your free website improvement guide here.