The market analysis must reflect feedback and insight, not guesses and conjecture.
But where do you start?
No doubt this information can´t all be gathered with a simple internet search. However, that´s not a bad place to start.
01. How to research your target market online?
- Industry association reports,
- trade publications,
- white papers,
- and case studies
are all often available online.
These are preferable to blogs and magazine articles, but if the latter cite primary sources, they may be good resources.
Some will be freely available to the public while others are available only to association members.
Additionally, government agencies, small business associations, and other institutional sources may offer industry-specific data.
Another helpful general-purpose online tool is Google´s free data-crunching tool called Google Trends.
Google Trends is part of the Google suite of applications and measures search volume to produce sentiment indicators, interest over time, and interest-by-region information. Other free resources from Google include Consumer Barometer.
Consumer Barometer focuses on digital products and the role they play in the lives of customers, and Google Public Data is a searchable, highly visual repository of the publicly available results of research projects, studies, and other insight.
As an authoritative source, the US Census Bureau offers a wealth of information about different geographical areas across the country. To explore this data visually, The New York Times offers an outstanding tool that reflects insight from the most recent census.
Also finding other statistical databases is quite easy. The Pew Research Center´s massive database is available online for free. For a mix of free and paid statistical information, Statista is a powerful solution. There is no shortage of information in today´s time.
Purpose-built online research tools exist as well. For example, ratings and customer-insight mainstay Nielsen offers My Best Segment, an online customer insight portal.
02. How to research your target market on social media?
For the socially savvy entrepreneur, social ad buying programs offer interesting insight into trends and interrelated customer attributes.
These insights can be accessed and leveraged without committing any advertising dollars if you so choose.
- One of the best examples of this tactic is Facebook´s Ad Manager.
Because Facebook derives its revenue from ads and because Facebook´s users volunteer tons of behavioral and demographic data, the social network used by over one billion active users has developed an impressively sophisticated and powerful advertising service.
What Facebook and other social media plattforms offer their advertisers is insight and more important laser-focused ad targeting options.
It is important to keep in mind that these numbers only reflect Facebook users who represent the parameters that you have selected and that they should be taken with a grain of salt.
Regardless of the limitations of using social media targeting software, it can be a helpful first look at the relevant target market based on a set of very specific target parameters.
03. How to research your target market in person?
What´s best to find out more about what people in your target market really think?
The worst they can do is to decline to participate.
Surveys that are conducted face to face have the pontential to uncover unique insight from the very people to whom you want to sell your products.
This doesn´t have to be a complicated process either.
The best way to get started is to get out and pound the pavement.
Use your customer avatar to make a plan, and put yourself where your customer avatar would hang out.
A tech-enabled alternative to conducting surveys in person is to carry them out digitally.
You may have to pay a small consideration to reach respondents, but you will be able to reach many more in the same amount of time, and the resulting data is easy to process digitally.
- Companies like SurveyMonkey make constructing online surveys fast and easy.
Thinking outside the box, there is a whole world of digital consumer insights tools.
When constructed in a compelling and engaging way, social quizzes can be fun for respondents while providing you with excellent customer insight.
There are services that easily set up giveaways, promotions, or data-gathering campaigns that emulate the look and the feel of a game show.
Whatever methods you choose (and it is a good idea to use as many methods as is economically feasible) ensure that you are really getting insight from the people in your target market.
It can be all too easy to incentivize survey respondents who simply provide their feedback for the prize at the end but don´t represent someone whose opinion has value to your efforts.