Once you understand the importance of knowing your ideal client, you need to know how to research your ideal client.
This can seem quite daunting at first, but in truth it need not be. There are quite a few ways that you can carry out this research. The best for you depends on what stage you are at in your business, and the kind of market / niche you are in. Today I am going to share seven different ways that you can research your ideal client. This will ensure that you will find a way that is right for you and your business.
1. Previous Clients
The absolute best way is to interview and ask for feedback from previous clients. This will give you the most valuable customer insights, as you will discover things that you just won’t find on websites. This is really quite simple to do. You can use the questions in the article Three Steps To Creating Your Ideal Client as a starting point for your interviews.
However, when you are building your business you may not have too many people that you can turn to so here are some other clever methods you can use.
2. Information Interviews
These are informal calls that you’ll conduct with your prospective target audience, or anyone else that you have reason to believe might become a future customer. This is a powerful technique for people who have very few previous clients as anyone can do it, and glean lots of rich and detailed information.
At a high level, what you’re going to do is reach out to these people, and say something like: “I’m doing some research for a new project about. Could I have 20 minutes of your time to ask you some questions? It would be immensely helpful to me in figuring out my next steps.”
You can approach your existing contacts who fit the description of your target audience. You can also reach out to people that you aren’t yet connected with.
During the interview or call you start with a brief explanation of why you are asking them to take this time with you and then ask them questions that will help you understand your ideal client. Be careful not too lead them in any particular direction and when they respond to a question always push deeper. Try to find the “why” behind what they are saying. You want to get as close to the root of the issue as possible.
3. Eavesdropping on Conversations
This is essentially a classic market research technique transferred to the online world. It is about paying attention to the engagement that different content receives, such as reviews, responses and other interactions in public places like social media, forums, blogs and e-commerce sites.
Each photography niche will have different hubs of engagement. For example, wedding photographers will probably find the most useful engagement in wedding forums. Commercial photographers may find LinkedIn to be a great source for research.
The comment sections on popular blogs that your clients would visit are a great source. Often with insightful clues as to what the audience is looking for and connecting to. If you are not already familiar with the popular blogs that your Ideal Client would visit do a quick Google search for “[Your Topic] Blog”. You should be able to find some authority or niche sites that speak directly to your clients and prospects.
You want to pay attention to examples of problem language in the comments as well as the topics that attract above average levels of engagement.
5. Forums and Communities
Forums are designed to start and continue discussions about issues that matter to their members so you will find lots of great material within. Forums tend to be very tightly focused on specific topical areas, which makes them an absolute gold mine for clear, descriptive problem language that you can use to answer the questions as your build your ideal client profile.
If you don’t already know any forums that your prospects frequent, do a Google search the same way you would to find new blogs: “[Your Topic] Forum.” You’ll probably find at least a handful that are relevant.
This will vary from forum to forum. However, in many cases, you’ll be able to read the topics and responses without joining the forum. But, since you’re going to be interacting in this niche anyway, why not join the group, and start contributing to the conversations? The more direct engagement you have with people interested in your topic, the better.
6. Amazon and Udemy Reviews
Another great source of information are the reviews that you’ll find on platforms like Amazon, and Udemy. Now, I’m assuming you’re already familiar with Amazon, the biggest book retailer in the world. Udemy might require an introduction. Udemy is to courses what Amazon is to books; a platform where lots of courses are published, by many different authors. Both of these platforms can be gold mines of valuable information, because in both cases, you can likely find product offerings, whether they’re books or actual courses, that are very similar in promise to what you’d like to create – at least from the perspective of your target audience.
Doing this is pretty simple; just search for books or courses about your topic area, and scroll right to the reviews section. While reviews are ostensibly about the book itself, reviewers will often provide a lot of detail about WHY the book either was or wasn’t valuable to them. That’s what you should pay attention to. Users describing the problems that caused them to purchase the book. This also demonstrates that they are willing to spend money towards a solution – and then explaining how it either exceeded or fell short of their expectations. In both cases, it’s really good information about what people want.
Not every review will be this clear-cut, but many will be. Pay particular attention to reviews on the extreme ends of the spectrum – you’ll probably learn more from the 5- star and 1- or 2-star reviews than you will from the middle range.
7. Social Media
Social media is the next platform where you’re likely to find conversations that you can listen in on. People spend a great deal of time there, and tend to share what they’re thinking in great depth and detail.
Now, of course, there are social media platforms for just about every type of internet user. And as I have already mentioned, each photography niche will have platforms that fit better, and worse. This is important to keep in mind, because you’ll get the best results by focusing on the platforms that your audience is most likely to be using. This may or may not be the platforms that you happen to like best.
So go to where your audience is already hanging out, and keep in mind the norms and expectations that each platform comes with. People share different types of content on LinkedIn than they would on Facebook, for example. As a rule, look for questions, personal stories, opinions and responses to posted content. Remember, eavesdropping on online conversations is all about paying attention to what your target audience is saying. It’s about what they want, where they have problems, and what they need.
And there you have it, 7 different ways that you can use to research your ideal client so that you can market to them more effectively.