I recently published a video on why it is important to develop a deep understanding of your customer. In that video I covered a brief overview of the different psychological elements that relate to you understanding your customer and how you fit in as a service or product provider, fulfilling their needs.
After reading the comments on that video I felt more explanation is required to help you come to a deeper understanding of this very important topic.
If you can develop an intimate familiarity of how your target audience operates, what motivates them emotionally, what language they use to describe their problems and how their problem impacts their life in real, external and tangible ways, the easier it is to succeed in that market. All aspects of your business are derived from your understanding of your customer, and if you are working off of assumptions, you’re making mistakes and not likely enjoying the level of success you could.
Are You Your Customer?
When I first started teaching how to blog in my Blog Mastermind program I related stories of how I began all my successful online projects.
For example, when I developed a site targeting Magic The Gathering card players, I was a card player myself, who know the game and the online environment for the game intimately well. I knew what motivated players of the game because it was what motivated me.
Magic players want to win tournaments and trade cards. My site was successful because we published content on how to win tournaments, including reports from people who had performed well, listing what cards they used to win with. Later I added a trading forum, the one element that really skyrocketed the success of the site because people kept coming back to list, sell and trade cards every day.
My proofreading business began as an idea in my head after I experienced working with international students writing group assignments at university. Group members who had English as a second language struggled with academic writing and I knew how important it was that they maintain a high grade point average, or risk losing their visa to study in Australia.
This insight led to developing a proofreading service that targeted a very specific need in a specific group. We never had a lot of traffic to that site, but those who did you use the service used it for every paper they wrote, resulting in a high customer value for the business.
If I didn’t understand the psychology behind the motivations of these groups of people, I wouldn’t have been able to meet their needs so closely.
It Always Begins With Keywords
When developing a niche most internet marketing teachers will explain how to do research online, which pretty amounts to developing an assessment of the supply and demand relationship for certain keywords.
Traffic on the internet, especially when it comes to tapping small niches with basic websites as opposed to building authority over time, is all about keywords. Knowing how many people search for things and the quality and amount of websites that currently rank for those phrases, is the difference between making it work and having a site with no traffic.
These methods assume you are tapping into organic traffic flows in search engines, the cheapest form of traffic there is. However it doesn’t change much if you are buying traffic with Pay Per Click, as the supply and demand ratio of keywords impacts the cost and results.
Almost all internet marketing products I’ve come across that attempt to teach beginners how to make money online start with keyword research, as they should, and usually focus on either search engine traffic or buying traffic with pay per click.
Some programs go so far as to not just assess the supply and demand ratio of keywords, but also look at the psychology behind the keywords so they know whether they are “money” terms. Not all search phrases are equal, as some searches are conducted by people researching to buy something, while others relate only to free information seekers, who may or may not ever prove profitable for you depending on how you monetize your site.
For those selling information or physical products, whether as an affiliate or producer, getting in front of the buyers is the most important thing. For bloggers focusing on advertising, increasing pageviews is more important, the quality of the keyword may not matter as traffic volume is more critical.
Are Keywords Enough?
As I teach in my programs, taking steps to research customer behavior beyond just keywords is important.
I recommend researching in forums, reviewing comments made to popular blogs, assessing what advertisers spend money on Google Pay Per Click and how long they continue to do so (the longer, the more likely they are profiting from it), checking out facebook groups, leaders on Twitter, and top organic search results to see what people are interested in.
In this case the important considerations to look out for are -
- Are there enough people interested in a subject to support large community sites and retailers who sell products (in other words are people making money in this niche already?)
- What sub-topics are currently discussed by people at these sites, what language do they use, what are the most common issues, and how do people currently go about solving their problems?
This is priceless information that is available simply by searching Google, so there’s no excuse not to do it.
A lack of information is a warning sign, and although you might think it’s a good thing because of lack of competition, it’s better if there are people already succeeding because that means there is a market. A lack of websites might mean there is no market, though it could also mean it’s an untapped opportunity too, you never know for sure until you test.
If you want the highest quality data about your potential customers you need to speak to them or collect information as directly as you can.
So many people want to launch information products in markets where they have never actually helped anyone before. If you really want to succeed as an information marketer, spend some time actually servicing real live people. You will learn so much when you go straight to the horses mouth, so to speak. Here are some ways to do this -
- A survey is an option if you have a means to access a group of people. If you have a blog or email list with a critical mass of responsive subscribers, you can tap into that knowledge base anytime by simply asking questions in a blog post, email or using a dedicated survey tool like Survey Monkey or a Google Docs Form.
See my Blue Sky video for more details about how I have used surveys in the past to learn about my customers before launching membership sites.
- A webinar where you teach some content first, then ask for questions from the audience, is a great research tool. Teleconferences also work. Gideon and I run regular group coaching calls for our members, and we learn a lot about what people are struggling with based on what and how people ask for help with.
- Providing consulting calls, even for free as a screening tool before taking on coaching clients, is a great method to learn more about your customers. Any time you spend one-on-one time with a client or potential client and learn about their situation and how they describe their problems, is a brilliant opportunity to develop greater familiarity about your people.
- If you’re just getting started, charge $50 an hour for phone coaching and you’re basically getting paid to do research about your customers.
You can’t ever know enough about your customers, so using all of these methods is the best advice, but obviously you need to work your way through the methods as you build your reach over time.
In my case the best way I have learned whether my idea works and refined my understanding of the psychology of my customers is to actually put something out there.
All my successful projects were created with NO KEYWORD RESEARCH. That’s right – I’ve never done keyword research for all my money making projects, at least not before I started them. This of course is not advice that you shouldn’t, but realize that if you really want to know the answer, take action and create a website and see if you get customers.
I wouldn’t recommend going in completely blind – I knew the people I was targeting and what needs they had. However I launched all my projects okay with the idea that I was experimenting for fun just as much as to make money, and I was fully willing to fail.
This is why speed of implementation is so critical. The most successful online entrepreneurs aren’t the best researchers, but they are the best at getting ideas out there, which ultimately is the best form of research you can do – a live test.
What Do You Need To Know?
On many group calls I’ve been confronted with members of my programs who show me websites looking for critical feedback and improvement suggestions.
In almost all cases, every website I review has a fatal flaw – It’s not obvious what the point of the website is.
If you want to assess your own website or any marketing materials I suggest you ask yourself the following questions, or have someone else ask you and then you answer them and see if they understand, or you ask them and see if they can answer by looking at your website.
The questions, or really it’s just a question, is – Why?
- Why does your website exist?
- Why should people visit it?
- Why did you create it in the first place?
Often when you answer these questions you end up describing abstract ideas, so it’s best if you focus instead on tangible and external elements, and then ask why again.
For example –
My website exists to give information about healthy eating.
Because I want to help people lose weight.
Because if people have less weight they live longer and do more fun things like dancing, play tennis or run around with their kids.
I could drill down much further, but essentially we are talking about discovering the core, external, emotional and physical elements that motivate your customers to take action. Eating healthy is a concept, being able to play with your kids at the park and experience the joy that activity brings, is an external tangible outcome with a strong emotional drive behind it.
If you are concerned about how good a first impression your website makes, watch this video I made demonstrating some ideas to clarify your websites purpose to new readers – Can Your Blog Explain Its Purpose In One Second?
You Need To Know This
Every single would-be online entrepreneur – me included, and you too – does not have a solid enough understanding of their target customer. There is always more to learn, more to clarify and a deeper understanding to be gained from further study of who you are trying to help.
The best way to establish the necessary level of intimacy with your marketplace is to start interacting with the real live humans who make up the market. The more human contact you have, with your marketing brain switched on looking for the cues that reveal the psychology, the closer you get to nailing the needs and wants, so you can better sell to and meet these desires.