research customers

Research Your Customer

Linda Mulcahy
October 3, 2018

Before customers are ready to hear about your new product or service, they want to know that you understand them, their problems, and how those problems impact their lives. Rather than relying on hunches or assumptions, research your customer to ensure your messaging strategy is on target every time.

Your research will reveal insights that will help you write super effective copy. Why do people seek out your service or product in the first place? How do they describe their problem? What motivates them to finally find a solution? What keeps them from buying right away? What is the result once they do buy?

How to Research Your Customer

When you find comments from past and/or ideal customers, copy and paste exactly what they said into a document. Don’t worry about organizing the comments; we’ll do that later.

  • Survey recent buyers. Send a Survey Monkey, Typeform, or even just a simple email request to past customers and ask them questions about their experiences.
  • When did you realize you needed XYZ?
  • What other product did you try before XYZ?
  • What hesitations did you have before buying Product XYZ?
  • What problem did XYZ solve for you?
  • Conduct phone or Skype interviews. The beauty of a real-time interview is the opportunity for follow-up questions. Some people express themselves better in person, so you’re more likely to get authentic responses from them this way.
  • Read testimonials. You probably already have testimonials on your website or in a file somewhere. These can be a treasure trove of information with the actual words and phrases that describe how past customers felt before and after using your product.
  • Read blog comments. Whether customers are responding to a topic, asking more questions, or even complaining about something, blog comments offer a glimpse into what they are thinking about, what their problems are, and what they want from a solution.
  • Scan social media. In addition to your own company accounts, find out what customers are saying on industry and competitor accounts.
  • Read product or service reviews. This is a great tip for those who may not have past customers of their own yet. Search on Amazon for similar products and read the reviews. This research can provide a goldmine of insight as to why people are looking for a product like yours.
  • Read online community forums. Go hang out where your ideal customer is and eavesdrop on their conversations. You’ll learn about their current problems, how prevalent they are, what the current solutions are, and how well they are working. Check out industry groups as well as subforums on Quora and Reddit.

How to Analyze the Customer Research

Now that you’ve gathered the customer comments, it’s time to organize and analyze.

As you read the comments again, copy and paste the valuable phrases into one of these categories:

  • Wants or needs. How did the customer describe his problem? What did he hope to achieve? “We were wasting so much time waiting for our files to back up.” “It just seemed like we should be saving money on our insurance premiums.” “I felt tired all the time and wanted energy.”
  • Look for the places where people say something like, “Finally, I decided . . .” There’s likely a clue in there as to why someone went looking for a solution for the problem. “I couldn’t take the lack of technical support anymore.” “I hated myself for blowing my diet on fast food.” “I needed a better system if I was going to make this business work.”
  • Why did people hold back on buying? “I didn’t know if the commitment was too long.” “I didn’t see a money-back guarantee.” “I didn’t understand the technical jargon.”
  • Common words. Keep track of repeated words and phrases, especially ones that describe their feelings, both when describing their problem and once they found a solution.

The next step is to use this research to write copy that lets you speak to your customer using their own words.

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