If you want to gain a real understanding of your users, start by conducting user research. Conducting market research isn't sexy, but it's one of the most effective ways to dig deep to prove that your product meets a clear, relevant need and that it's going to be far more successful than a competing business.
This critically undervalued skill begins with surveying the people who will make or break your product or service. The importance of research cannot be overstated if you want to succeed in the long term. It's how you determine what matters to people and how you use that information to build a sustainable business. Analytics gives you the' what,' but research gives the 'why.' Research helps you understand your customers' experiences.
The tricky part is finding how to do that efficiently and quickly. Here is a crash course into market research (with proven methods).
Develop A Detailed Buyer Persona
A buyer persona is an archetypal representation of your ideal customer. These personas help you to shape your messaging and the types of features you offer. There are many different ways to develop buyer personas, and the process will vary depending on your industry, business model, and product or service offering.
When creating your personas, think about who these people are, what they do, and how you can help to build a better marketing strategy around them. Keep this process organized through segmentation by segmenting your audience into smaller groups based on demographics, interests, location, buying behaviors, etc.
Survey Your Target Audience
A survey is an incredible way to find out what your customers think. It's also a great way to get valuable feedback from your customers with minimal cost or effort. The best kind of surveys are those that collect both qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative data is information such as opinions, feelings, or reactions that you can put into words. This can include analyzing why someone made a particular buying decision or asking customers whether they would recommend a product or service to others.
Quantitative data uses statistical analysis through polls or questionnaires. Collecting quantitative data is a method that can also show you the power behind the numbers (i.e., percentages, frequencies).
Research Your Competitors
Once you understand your buyer persona, you'll next need to understand your competition. What if you could get inside the minds of your competition? What if you could see how many customers they had, what products were selling best, and where you could improve?
Competition always exists, and it's not a bad thing. But, if you're able to outprice, outperform, or outsmart your competitors, then that's even better. Regardless of what you're selling, there is a level of competition for everything. This means that if you're in business, somebody else has dipped their hand into the same pot as you have, and you will need to know this information so you can make efficient decisions on how to move forward with your business.
Here are the 4 P's of competitor research, product, price, place, and promotions to get you started:
What's your competition selling? What are the benefits of the product? How can you make it better?
At what price are they offering their product? Are people willing to spend that price? Can you charge more for a luxury item or less for a cheaper version?
How is your competition reaching its customers? Is it effective? Or can you find a better way to reach them?
How is your competition promoting its product? Where are they spending their marketing funds, and where are they wasting it?
Choose Your Market Research Methods
Now that you have all this information, it's time to decide how to conduct your market research. There are six methods below to choose from:
Use existing research.
There's a lot of research out there. Unfortunately, most businesses don't take advantage of the knowledge that's been already collected and shared on the web. Unless your business is highly niche, another business has likely done the research. Use other people's research to your advantage by pulling out the most valuable findings for your business.
Listen to your customers.
Your customers are already talking about your product or service. Find out what they're saying. You'll gain valuable insights on what they like, what they don't like, and what they see differently.
Observation is free.
Observe your customers using your product or service. How are they using it? What features are they enjoying the most? The least?
Conduct focus groups.
Focus groups are a great way to get direct information from your customers. You can easily measure customers' reactions and their thoughts. However, keep in mind that focus groups tend to be more expensive (buy-in), moderately biased (because of people's interpretations), and time-consuming because you'll have to do quite a few of them for more accurate results.
Conduct individual interviews.
One-on-one interviews are an excellent way to get accurate information from your target market. Since individual interviews are a bit more intimate than focus groups, they can sometimes feel like a conversation which naturally encourages people to share deeper.
Organize field trials.
Use field trials to test new products and gauge the public response to a new product currently being sold or soon available. These field trials place the product in selected stores or venues to get a "real world" reaction from consumers.
One last suggestion is to hire a market research agency—if you have a bigger budget. You may well have the time and research skills yourself, but using market research firms can be highly advantageous. Research companies generally have access to panels of consumers or businesses that you would not have a chance of approaching yourself.
Market research can feel tedious, and time-consuming but it's well worth the effort. Your market research aims to create products and services that people will use and buy. Doing research helps you to build a sustainable and profitable business.