The seven types of research you need to find your ideal clients

The seven types of research you need to find your ideal clients

I have noticed so many solo entrepreneurs skip an important step when they are starting their business. It is not that complicated but perhaps it’s not the fun part of developing a business or they think it will take too much time and money.

I’m talking about market research. And believe me, skipping your research will only cost you time, money and energy in the long run. 

In this blog, I am going to help you do market research that will really help you find your ideal clients and choose the right marketing strategy to sell to them. I really do believe that there is a direct relationship between doing your research and getting results in your business revenue!

This blog article is a summary of the related podcast episode.

Click here to listen to the tips mentioned in this article.

I want to be clear. I’m not talking about the sort of market research you might learn about in business school that produces lots of data but isn’t necessarily useful to you as a solo entrepreneur! I am going to give you a more pragmatic and simpler version of market research, that includes exactly what you need to research, how to use that information to find your ideal clients and define a marketing strategy to convert them from prospects to clients. 

I truly believe that skipping market research is the reason why some businesses struggle to make money in the long term. One of the consequences of not doing research is that entrepreneurs end up trying several marketing strategies, trying to find one that works and in doing so they waste time, energy and money and fail to deliver results!

Doing your research allows you to where you need to focus consistent effort to increase your visibility and build relationships with your clients. Research helps you understand where to find your ideal client and how to reach them. Of course, you also need to know who your ideal client is! If you haven’t already done so, you need to define your ideal client otherwise you will struggle to undertake meaningful research and effective marketing!

And just a reminder that if your business serves different types of clients, you need to run specific market research for each one!

There are seven key types of information that you need to find. To help you focus on these and record your research insights, I have developed an Excel sheet with all the information you need. You can download it here.

1. Competitors

What info to look for:

Before you start Googling, we need to be clear about who your competitors are. If you don’t think that you have any, that’s actually a big red flag rather than a good thing. Usually, if no-one has thought of your product or service before, there may not be a need for it. So, let’s look at this differently. It is important not to think about people or businesses selling exactly the same product or service as you. 

You need to think about all those entrepreneurs and companies that are solving the same problem as you. 

So even if your idea or approach is unique, you will still find others addressing the same issue. Let me give you an example. If you have back pain, you might visit a traditional doctor or a chiropractor. You might try acupuncture or even yoga. Even a simple problem like this can have many potential solutions. And this is how you should think about your competitors. This is particularly important if you are trying to develop an innovative or technologically based solution – you need to understand how people with the problem you’re trying to solve with your new idea currently addressing the issue. And if you are an artist or a luxury business, try substituting the word ‘problem’ with ‘desire’.

How to use this info:

Once you know who your competitors are, you can start to think about how to use this information to gain clients. First of all, big companies often share their client lists on their websites, for example, a relocation consultant might list the companies they serve. Smaller businesses might feature reviews or testimonials. This gives you information on how they are working with and this can help you know where to find your clients. In addition, you also want to pay attention to your competitors’ marketing. Look at what publications they are featured in, their social media and what platforms they use. This can give you a goldmine of information for your marketing strategy!

It is really important to not look at your competitors as a source of fear or anxiety! Try to think about the power of embracing competitions as a source of knowledge and information that makes your life easier. I know from working with my clients that it is easy to get overwhelmed and intimidated by competition when you start comparing yourself to others. So try to take a step back, be pragmatic and don’t judge yourself. I know this is a challenge but if you can develop this mindset, it will really help. If you find yourself stuck with competition, then check out this episode which might help you shift your thinking.

How to deal with fear of competition

2. Clients

Business to Business

You need to proactively look for your ideal clients! This is particularly important if you are in the B2B or business to business sector. This can be pretty easy if you know who you are targeting because you’re looking for businesses and organizations. You can search for them online and add them to my free Excel sheet. The next step is to find out who the key decision-makers are and figuring out who the right contact is so that you can reach out to them.  This is how simple it can be to go from market research to finding your potential client and starting a relationship with them. There are various ways to start those relationships from LinkedIn, networking events, asking your own contacts for introductions. If you want more tips on using LinkedIn, check out this episode:

How to turn your LinkedIn profile into a magnet for opportunities

Business to Consumers

If your ideal clients are consumers, you can also look for them online. Good sources are networking platforms and social media, where you might want to look at Facebook groups where your ideal clients are connecting and perhaps even sharing relevant information about the problem your business addresses. Most Facebook groups will not allow you to advertise but you can always serve by sharing your expertise and experience and nurturing relationships. Then later, you can connect with them outside the group and introduce them to your product or service. It is also really important to run your own research through a survey so that you really understand your ideal clients’ challenges and can focus on serving them, which is the best way to convert your efforts into sales and revenue. If you’d like to know more about how building relationships and focusing on serving your clients can build your business, check out these episodes:

Growing your business the meaningful way, the Go-Giver Way with Bob Burg

Use this formula to sell without being salesy

The simple way to know if clients will buy before you sell

3. Strategic Partners

What info to look for:

What are strategic partners? These are people, companies or organizations who serve the same target audience as you but who provide complementary services or products. For example, if you are an interior designer, you might have exactly the same audience as a real estate agent. So there could be a real benefit for you to know each other and be able to refer business to each other. Another great example is a yoga teacher and someone who sells essential oils. Most customers who practice yoga are also interested in self-care. Other examples including wedding photographers and make-up artists. From a research perspective, you want to look for other businesses that relate to your’s in some way and then reach out to build a relationship and a partnership, based on the fact that you are both targeting the same ideal clients.

How to use this info:

The important thing to remember about strategic partnerships and reaching your ideal clients is that it takes time to build trust and win their confidence so be prepared to invest time in building that relationship. There are some things you can offer them, for example, through cross-promotion. Usually, this is something you do for free or to secure referrals and it shows your potential partner that you are sharing their services with your clients. Another option is an affiliate partnership where you promote their product/service in return for a percentage of the sales or commission. Both of these approaches show your potential partner that you can deliver clients for them and they will be more willing to help you reach their clients.

4. Media

What info to look for:

This part of your research needs you to be a little more disciplined because it can take you all over the place! Media includes bloggers, influencers, magazines, podcasts, radio shows, TV – all the places where your ideal client consumes content related to the problem/desire that you are focused on, or that is about the same type of topic. When it comes to researching media, it is so important to have a very clear idea of who your ideal client is and without that knowledge, it will be almost impossible to focus on the right media! To try to make your media research manageable, you need to focus on that ideal client and on media that are talking about the sort of problem you are solving through your business.

In practical terms, try typing the type of problem you address into Google or another search engine. What influencers come out? What kind of podcast shows? What sort of magazines? And don’t forget there are other ways to search for media. Search iTunes for podcasts and Amazon for books and authors. Get creative and think about the type of media your customer is interested in and figure out the quickest way to learn more about it. The big question to remember as you do this is where is my ideal customer consuming content to educate and inspire them or to find out more about the problem you address through your product or service? For example, if you are in the fashion industry, your ideal client might be reading a certain type of magazine. The type of magazine will depend on their style because there are different magazines depending on that and there will be a tribe and community around that particular style. So you can think about where that community is looking for inspiration and information too.

How to use this info:

So now you have a list of media that your ideal client consumes, what do you do with it? 

  • Get featured: you want to get featured in that media either by reaching out to journalists or editors to be interviewed, to be part of a feature story or to place a story about your business or the problem your business solves. Don’t hesitate to reach out and tell them your story and offer an interview.  
  • Contribute free content: for example, a friend of mine is an expert in career coaching and resume building. She found a magazine that specialized in corporate careers and she has been contributing an article every month for years. Doing something like that can be very useful to build your brand, gain visibility and position yourself as an expert in your area.
  • Pay for advertising: be careful with this option. Make sure that you get data from any media outlet that you consider advertising with. You want them to show and prove to you that they are attracting the right audience for you, and that it is an engaged audience.

5. Networks

What info to look for:

Networks are clubs, associations, communities, membership-based groups and websites where your ideal client engages and spends time connecting with others, getting inspired, educated or entertained around the topic that your business addresses. Again, you want to focus on who your ideal client is when researching these. Sometimes you won’t be able to find a network that attracts your ideal client AND addresses the right topic. That’s OK, the main thing is now where you can find your ideal client and start building a relationship with them.  Here’s an example: you are a career coach for women. You want to look at professional networks for women. Even if they are not there to talk about their careers specifically, these networks are still a great place to connect with women who are looking to grow in their careers and develop. If that’s your focus, then connecting with professional women in the right industry for you is a great way to build relationships.

How to use this info:

Once you’ve found these networks, you need to participate and contribute on a consistent basis. 

Consistency is everything

It is also important that you go there to connect and build authentic relationships – don’t go there to sell! That is not going to work. You must commit to being part of the community and really investing in engaging with others. You can also look for speaking opportunities within these networks as they often host workshops and events and these can be great ways to gain visibility.

6. Events

What info to look for:

Events and networks often overlap so be careful not to get confused here. If you are using my free market research excel spreadsheet and you identify a network that does events, put it in both columns.

You can download my free market research Excel worksheet here.

When you’re looking for events, think about conferences, trade fairs, social events – anything that is organized around the topic that your business addresses or that will help you meet your ideal clients or where those ideal clients go to get inspired and informed about the topic you address. For example, if you are a wedding planner, wedding fairs are events that many brides go to get inspiration from different types of wedding suppliers so that would be a great event for you. If you are looking at trade fairs, check that they are designed to attract your clients because certain trade fairs are more about finding vendors and business partners so make sure you really understand their audience.

How to use this info:

Once you have researched your potential events, you can start to identify the best way to get involved. You can simply attend to network and connect with potential clients or you can look for speaking opportunities or opportunities to exhibit or even to become an event sponsor.

7. Secondary research

This is professional research created by other people that you can access for free or that there may be a charge for accessing. It is secondary because you are not the one doing the research. It includes statistics, original research and survey results drawn from a large range of people or businesses, often in a specific industry.  It can cover topics such as barriers to entry, market share and trends in an industry, information about clients’ pain points, the problem you solve and your customers’ behavior. This can be useful information to help you validate the problem that you want to address, give you insights into your ideal clients and learn more about the competition in your industry. This information often comes from professional organizations, consulting firms, research institutes, chambers of commerce and industry associations. A good place to start is to identify the industry associations or bodies for your sector and look at their websites to see if they have their own research. It is important to be pragmatic here. This area can get overwhelming and complex very quickly. 

How to use this info:

Using your industry association is often the quickest and easiest way to get information on your market that will help you refine your marketing strategy. 

Once you have reviewed the research, you can use it as the inspiration for free content. If you listen to the Tandem Nomads podcast you will know that an online content marketing strategy is an essential part of building a successful portable business. This content can include blogging, podcasting, videos, whatever is key for you. And sometimes it is hard to find inspiration. If you find interesting research, you can try to analyze and understand the information then break it down and explain it to your audience through your content, giving your customers important information that will help them. For example, if you are a nutritionist, you can find secondary research on a new health trend or new nutritional information that help your clients understand the impact of food on their health. You could use that to help them understand how valuable great support from a nutritionist can be!

You can also use secondary research to validate the problem you solve, not just for yourself, your marketing and your website but for your conversations with your clients. Independent data can be a great argument to help show a client why it is important to invest in solving the problem that your product or service addresses. Here is an example from my business: I work with organizations that send their employees and their families and children abroad. When I started Tandem Nomads, companies didn’t really take the impact of dual-career challenges on these families very seriously.  Thanks to secondary research, I can show them that 60% of failed expatriate moves are a result of the spouse’s career challenges. And those failed assignments are a big cost to the employer. This secondary research has helped me explain to employers which this issue is so important and the value of investing in career support for accompanying partners. 

How to beat research overwhelm

You will find so much information going through this process. So first of all, don’t get stuck down a rabbit hole of research. If you find a company that is useful to you as a partner, just list their name – don’t start reading everything immediately.  Just add the listing to your spreadsheet and move on. Go back and choose 2-3 to analyze in more depth when you have time. When you are doing the research, your focus is on building your list, not getting lost on the internet!

Once you have finished doing your research, then choose your top 3-5 results for each category and focus on those as your main market research. Use these to help you develop your marketing strategies and then test to see what really delivers results for you. As you learn and grow, you can drop the strategies that don’t work for you and invest in those that do. There are two critical things as you do this – firstly, be consistent in your efforts because that’s the only way to really see if something is working or not.

Secondly, be intentional – really commit to trying to make a strategy work before you drop it. If you do this, you will be able to find the place where you get real traction and results!

I hope this has helped you understand why market research matters so much and how it can help you develop effective marketing strategies for your business. I would love to hear your feedback! When you download the free market research spreadsheet, you’ll get an email and you can reply to me there!