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Why Market Research Matters – Beyond the Ideal Client Avatar

Hey there, Bold Leader. Ever have that sneaking suspicion that you’re the only thing standing in the way of your success? Perhaps you’ve even tried the quick fixes, but they didn’t quite fix anything, or maybe you’re just tired of spinning in your own head. You, my friend, are exactly in the right place. The Bold Leadership Revolution Podcast is your source for straight talking, no-fluff business and high-performance conversations that add real depth and value to the way bold leaders live, work, and thrive.

I’m your host, Tara Newman, and I am delighted to be here with you today to nerd out on one of my favorite topics, market research, or what I’m calling ‘Beyond the Ideal Client Avatar’. This episode is for you if you want to build the trust of the people you are serving with your business. This episode is for you if you want to truly understand exactly what it is your audience and clients need, if you want to hit the nail on the head with not just your content, but to create products and services that they cannot wait to buy. In this episode we’re going to go beyond the client avatar and delve into what market research is and what it means for your business, how to make it a part of your ongoing strategy for sales and engagement, the different types of market research and how to use them both, and the cost of not doing market research.

As you can tell, it’s no secret, I love me some research. When I broach this subject with my clients though, they get super squirmy. Maybe you can relate. Some even resist it hardcore, to their peril. The term market research doesn’t mean much to business owners at times because it sounds like a corporate thing. It’s confusing as to why they need it and it feels like another thing that they need to learn about. Some people say it feels icky, or who even has time for this, I need to go make money, stat.

I get it because I didn’t understand it either in the beginning. As a matter of fact, when I was in grad school for industrial organizational psychology, we had an option to go into the field of market research and I saw very little value in that. Instead, I went into organizational development, which entailed things like creating competency models, training initiatives, and helping organizations and leaders perform their best. It wasn’t until I realized I needed to get buy in from senior leadership for my initiatives that I understood between market research, marketing, and sales.

WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THEIR NEEDS AND DESIRES ARE, HOW WE CAN HELP THEM SOLVE PROBLEMS AND REMOVE OBSTACLES SO THEY CAN GET CLOSER TO WHAT THEIR GOAL IS.

Everyone, whether you’re a business owner, an executive, or a parent, needs to understand the person in front of them. We need to understand what their needs and desires are, how we can help them solve problems and remove obstacles so they can get closer to what their goal is. This is one of the main jobs that you have as a leader. If I want my children to get on board with a family initiative, for example, having no-spend month, which we are actually going through right now, we are having no-spend month, I need to make a compelling case for why that should matter to them. I need to understand what makes them tick, what problems they have, what they will think or feel about no spend month so I can be prepared to have a conversation that is mutually beneficial. By the way, no-spend month is fantastic. We’re loving it and we’re probably going to do another no-spend month.

Now, in business, having this data allows me to build meaningful connections with the people who I want to serve. It also helps me identify people who don’t need what I offer or who might be better helped by someone else. Knowing this alone makes you a very generous and abundant leader. Being able to tell somebody that you think somebody else might be a better fit to help them is priceless and it builds so much trust from just having that honest conversation.

Knowing this alone makes you a very generous and abundant leader.

Now, my previous thought process, this might be yours as well, was why can’t we just show up exactly how we want, say what we want, and have people completely understand us and then purchase from us or buy into our ideas? You can, but like I found out, you might need to make some tweaks. Market research in its most simplistic form is understanding your customers or stakeholders goals, challenges, and interests. For example, one of my greatest strengths is radically reducing overwhelm and stress, allowing a business owner to zero in on exactly what gets results.

WhyMarketResearchMatters 1

When I first started marketing, I used the term overwhelmed. Based on the audience I had, not necessarily my ideal client, because they were following me from a blog that I was writing for called Family Sport Life, I would get a lot of overwhelmed moms looking for help navigating early motherhood, a totally and utterly overwhelming experience, but those were not my ideal clients. That was not my target market. Through some trial and error and a lot of CEO Debriefs, I came to better understand my ideal client, who would use terms like overloaded, overworked, too many irons in the fire being pulled in multiple directions. That slight shift in language allowed me to find the right people to speak with so I could learn even more about them.

Let’s look at this like a Bold Leader. Bold Leaders are here to do it differently. What this often looks like in a business setting is we are here for transformation through services we sell. We don’t want to do business in a transactional way, even though that might be how most of our industry does it. In order to do our most important work in the world and prosper from the impact we want to make, we need to be able to cut through the noise and speak directly to those who matter the most to us, the ones we know we can serve powerfully. This applies to all leaders.

We are here for transformation through services we sell.

I look at market research or business intelligence as my way of earning the right to ask for somebody’s business. This is my job, to get to know people intimately. It’s why I love the entire sales process so much. It allows me to give people what they desire the most without even solving the problem I solve. Humans want to be seen and heard, and I love giving that to people whether they ever work with my company or not. It’s a little piece of myself that I give freely and without expectation, that ability to see someone and hear them and listen. I love learning new things and learning about human behavior.

When I listen and reflect back to them what I’m hearing them say, I can build trust. I truly believe the world needs more trust. It’s the most generous thing I can do when I ask for the conversations that allow me to get that business intelligence, do that market research, have that deep and powerful conversation is a gift for both of us but in different ways. If that’s all I do is put more trust out in the world, I think that’s amazing. If I meet someone new and interesting people along the way, that’s a bonus. If I find people over a period of time feel comfortable seeking out support from us, I feel like I’ve won the jackpot. It all starts with listening. It all starts with the intent of researching the people who I most want to help in this world.

Market research is a fact-finding mission of finding out what people need. It’s a part of business development. We discover what their thoughts are about this thing, the solution we might be offering, what language do they use, what is important to them so we can build trust? So they know if we have the item, the product, the service that can help them the most. It helps them cut through the noise. It helps them identify whether or not they’re in the right place, whether or not they should give you their time and attention. So it’s not just about your business, it’s about the people you want to serve.

Let’s look at all the reasons why market research is important and what it means for your business, beyond being a caring human being who listens, beyond being a caring human being who sees people, beyond meeting new and interesting people and helping others cut through the noise to identify whether or not they should be tuning in to your messaging or not. Let’s look at why market research is important and what it means for your business.

It allows you to give more effective and impactful messaging, which leads to better engagement on the content you produce. They will say things like, “Are you in my head? How do you know this?” and they give you a lot of yeses in all caps and that feels so good for both parties, for you and the other person. Knowing, it saves you time. You know exactly what to create, document, and share. You know what’s going to resonate. When you resonate on that level, you need fewer instances to be in creation. You need the most powerful moments. You just need to say the thing that they’re wanting to hear you say and then you don’t have to create all the things.

THIS IS A BIG MISTAKE THAT BUSINESS OWNERS MAKE, NOT SELLING WHAT’S NEEDED IN THEIR MARKET, BUT SELLING WHAT THEY WANT TO SELL.

Increased sales. You’re going to be selling what your people want the most, not what you want to sell. This is a big mistake that business owners make, not selling what’s needed in their market, but selling what they want to sell. I have been guilty of this myself on a number of occasions, and I’m sure some of you are probably shaking your head too, that you have been guilty of it as well. This is that really hard thing that people just want to go out and deliver what they are really passionate about, and it doesn’t mean you can’t. A lot of times we just need to language it a little differently so it’s understood by the people you want to help. Oftentimes, you’re just too far along or too in your own product or service to be able to communicate it effectively to the people who need it the most.

Market research allows you to test the market, to create some street science, a feedback loop, and see what works. Entrepreneurship is just one giant experiment, and a big part of experimentation is gathering the data and having the research. I’ve had programs that have failed to sell because I was too timid, embarrassed, or fearful to ask people questions. As a matter of fact, I spent three months asking people questions before I even launched BRAVE.

Entrepreneurship is just one giant experiment, and a big part of experimentation is gathering the data and having the research.

Market research helps us stay in the long game and reduce risk. When we have our finger on the pulse, we know what is going on. We know when to pivot and make tweaks when needed. This means researching not just the people who you want to be working with, but the economic and global and societal changes that might be happening in your business environment.

Customer satisfaction and retention. It’s no secret that customer experience is important for your bottom line, but how do you know what experiences your customers want? How do you know the next steps in their journey so that you can increase your lifetime customer value? You have to be asking, you have to be listening. You have to be doing your research and collecting the data. Market research gives us a window on what your people are thinking, feeling, saying, and doing, and market research is ongoing. It’s not something that you do once and then stop or do you want some leave behind or do once a year. You need to have your pulse on your community, on your clients, on your customers, on a daily, weekly, quarterly, and annual basis. That is my opinion.

One of the most deeply loving things you can do as a leader is to understand your people, whether it’s your clients, your teams, your customers, your audience.

Market research makes it so much easier to position yourself when you are in tune with the people you serve. One of the most deeply loving things you can do as a leader is to understand your people, whether it’s your clients, your teams, your customers, your audience. To see and hear them is your greatest act of service. One of the biggest pitfalls as a leader is to make the assumption that everybody is just like you, and that is what I see a lot of business owners doing with their products and their services. We need to respect the diversity of the humans around us.

The more you get your brains wrapped around market research as the most loving thing you can do, that is a mindset shift by the way, market research is the most loving thing you can do for your audience and your people, the easier it is to spot trends, feelings, and conversations, which makes it easier to create programs and have those sales calls in a way that feels genuine and authentic.

THE EASIER IT IS TO SPOT TRENDS, FEELINGS, AND CONVERSATIONS, WHICH MAKES IT EASIER TO CREATE PROGRAMS AND HAVE THOSE SALES CALLS IN A WAY THAT FEELS GENUINE AND AUTHENTIC.

Having market research in our toolkit makes it far easier to identify ideal clients by some of the things that they say. When I hear somebody get on a sales call with me and say that they’re impatient and they want what they want and they want it now, or they have a frustration around internet marketing models, websites and funnels, I know that these are my people. I know immediately to tune in and that we can have a conversation on a sales call and it won’t be a waste of either one of our time. When I hear them talk about things in a transformational way, in a transactional business, but they want to do things in a transformational way for a deeper change that’s below the surface, I know these are my clients.

When people get on the phone and they want to know the latest marketing tactic, hack or trick, I know they’re not for me and I can end that call very quickly, not wasting anybody’s time, or make a recommendation to somebody who can truly help them because that’s not my wheelhouse. When people start talking about customer experience and delivering operational excellence, I know they’re for me. These are all the little ways that help me be a better business leader.

People often don’t do market research because it takes focus and patience and they just want to make money.

Let’s look at the benefits of market research versus the cost of not doing it. People often don’t do market research because it takes focus and patience and they just want to make money. If you have ever tried to sell anything and it’s fallen flat, the first question to ask yourself is did I research the product or service that I’m trying to sell? Did I talk to 10, 20, a hundred people about this idea and get feedback and get a pulse on what they’re thinking?

Before I would present anything in corporate, in a boardroom meeting, I would ask other stakeholders and float my idea past them so that when I walked in to make my business case, I already had people bought in. I had already eliminated the possibility of a takedown. I have a friend and client who is a business consultant and he calls us expediting the beatings. When you expedite the beatings in your business by using market research, you get so many more benefits.

Now, where does the data come from? There are two types of data that you can collect, qualitative and quantitative. Quantitative, this is the data you might pull from surveys, questionnaires, polls. For example, I know that based on a poll I did on Instagram, 75% of my audience once worked a corporate job and left to start their own business. Based on this information, I can make some assumptions about them and test whether or not those assumptions are correct with followup questions. That data has informed how I create my content, not necessarily in terms of what topics to discuss, but how the content is presented and delivered, a nuance I believe many who teach content creation miss.

That data has informed how I create my content, not necessarily in terms of what topics to discuss, but how the content is presented and delivered.

Then there’s qualitative data, and this perhaps is my favorite form of data and one that I use to look at when I would mine 360 degree feedback reports for Fortune 100 and 500 companies to help them gain insights on their strengths and weaknesses as a leadership team. Qualitative data is non-statistical data that gets collected in lots of different ways, but primarily from asking open-ended questions that allow respondents to use their own language to describe their personal experience. For me, this data is rich in psychographics. Psychographic data is what truly helps us get to know the people we want to serve.

As professor Michael D. Myers (he’s a professor of information systems from the University of Auckland Business School) says, “If there is one thing which distinguishes humans from the natural world, it’s their ability to talk.” It is only by talking to people or reading what they have written that we can find out what they are thinking, and understanding their thoughts goes a long way towards explaining their actions.

If you’re going to make market researcher priority and operationalize this in your business, every part of the customer journey is an opportunity to collect this qualitative data. Ask questions on social media. This increases your engagement and gives you some kind of idea around what your customers are thinking of. For example, were you always an entrepreneur, this is the question I asked on Instagram and 75% of them came back and said that they came from a corporate background.

ANYTIME YOU DO A CHALLENGE OR HAVE A FREE OR PAID FACEBOOK GROUP WHERE YOU’RE ASKING QUESTIONS IS A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN COLLECT THE DATA.

Anytime you do a challenge or have a free or paid Facebook group where you’re asking questions is a place where you can collect the data. You can just copy it into a Google Doc and keep it there so you can go through that from time to time and look for themes or patterns or trends that you can ask followup questions to, that you can create podcast topics on, that you could create social media content on, that you can write your sales pages from.

Any kind of intake form you have, most of us have intake forms for our initial sales call, that too is data. Save that somewhere so you can look back on it and identify what about this person made them my ideal client and buy from me? What about this person made this not a good-fit client and didn’t lead to a sale? Because what doesn’t happen and what didn’t lead to a sale is just as important as what does. If you offer weekly check-in forms or progress forms to your clients, any client discussion where you’re listening more than you’re talking, that is also data. Keep notes, write it down, save it somewhere for later. Exit interviews, off-boarding, testimonials, these are all a treasure trove.

What doesn’t happen and what didn’t lead to a sale is just as important as what does.

Now, I’m someone who, as I mentioned in another podcast and if you follow me on social media, I at times struggle with how to use social media. I’ve never been the face of the person who wanted to be a celebrity, I don’t have acting skills, none of that really applied to me. So going on social media and putting my face there has always been something that’s been challenging and awkward to me. I am much, much, much better in person than I am on social media.

In the beginning, as I was learning how to use social media and how to express my personality through, say, live video, I used social media primarily for listening, and I still do. Which is, in my opinion, one of the points of social media. For example, in free Facebook groups, if you don’t want to be participating, if you feel awkward in posting in there, back in 2015 there was this whole rule of thumb around posting three to five times in free Facebook groups and that never felt good to me. So what I did instead was: I listened. I looked for what was being commented on, I looked for what people were struggling with, and I built relationships in the background without making all these flashy, sexy Facebook posts. It worked for me because it worked for my personality.

Listen to the words that people are using and the phrases, hone down on the problems they’re having that you can solve and how they talk about them. Ask deeper questions. Ask people in person, you can always find people who you think are your ideal clients and they may not even be using social media. You might be in a coffee shop. For example, when I was starting out, I wrote a list of a hundred people that I knew. If you don’t have a hundred people you can do 20, and systematically connect with them and have conversations. I did this right after I left corporate. I spent pretty much three to four months just reaching out and reconnecting with my contacts, talking to them, hearing what they were up to. I had no intentions of selling them anything, I just wanted to learn about who they were as a person. That helped me inform who I wanted to be working with and who I wanted to be talking to and how I could better be talking to them.

I remember getting on a call with a colleague of mine thinking, “Wow, this woman is somebody who I would love to support,” and after we finished the call, I was like, “No, she’s lovely. I adore her as a person. However, she doesn’t tick those boxes of someone who I want as a client. She ticks those boxes as someone who I want as a colleague.” That’s really important information to have, to know when you’re talking to someone who’s a potential client versus a colleague versus a friend so you know where you’d put your energy and how you interact with this person.

That’s really important information to have, to know when you’re talking to someone who’s a potential client versus a colleague versus a friend.

Knowing what’s happening in your industry and in the worldwide space is important. I remember a few months ago I was reading all about the WeWork CEO and founder and the Forever 21 going bankrupt, and these become relevant for us in terms of talking about founder CEOs, right? What are the challenges with the founder CEO at WeWork or what could Forever 21 had done better to prepare themselves and position themselves in the market so they didn’t have to go bankrupt. Doing market research on your ideal clients, but it’s researching and learning about the actual market itself.

I’ve been planning for a market recession since June of 2018, because that’s when all these articles started coming out about the potentially recessive economy. As a result of reading those articles and looking at how I could prepare my business if that time ever came, it made things less scary to think about. As a matter of fact, through that research I realized that 50% of all businesses are started during a time of an economic recession or depression. You’ll need to shift how you are using your capital and resources and your business model might need to shift, but at least you’d be prepared for that.

In my opinion, innovation is so lacking in service-based businesses now, and when you look at how things are done in other industries, it allows you to be more innovative. People are stuck in a playbook and there is no blue ocean, which means businesses are missing opportunities to disrupt their space. But when you look outside your space and you collect some data and you bring it back into your space, all of a sudden you’re innovative and revolutionary and able to disrupt. Market research helps us to innovate and stay in the long game versus becoming a laggard and operating on a reactive basis. From this viewpoint, when and if the economy becomes recessive, it won’t be a problem. I’ll have been prepared, but if you don’t do the preparation, it’s going to be too late.

When you look outside your space and you collect some data and you bring it back into your space, all of a sudden you’re innovative and revolutionary and able to disrupt.

I would love to know how this episode has helped you see the value, as a bold leader, of quality market research, of collecting data, of taking a look at patterns and trends from an objective perspective, from getting to know the people you want to serve, even better than you think you might. Challenge yourself. Can I know this person even better? Can I go beyond the basic ideal client avatars that are given out in free worksheets? Let me know on Instagram how this has helped you shift your thinking and focus to go beyond your client avatar and to build trust and connection and a business for the long game.

Now, if this conversation was interesting to you and felt unique and a little different, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to take me up on my invitation to join The BRAVE Society. If you’re a female small-business owner, this is likely your community, if you’re resonating with this podcast and the things we’re talking about over here, because they are very much the essence of how we talk about things in The BRAVE society.

The BRAVE Society was founded on three basic principles. One, community. How can we come together and become a marketplace of business owners where we can do business together, where we can open doors for each other, where we can collaborate with like minded, credible business owners. Two, nobody should ever shortchange their leadership development. I see too many times women spread thin, making investments in their businesses as they grow and shortchanging their leadership development. I’m here to solve that problem. You can make the investments that you need to make in say your marketing or your branding or your website and develop yourself as a leader. The third thing that we come together for is to really stand at the pinnacle of our leadership, which John Maxwell talks a lot about in his work. He says that we’re the pinnacle of our leadership when we are a leader who develops leaders who develops leaders.

What I asked the women of The BRAVE Society to do is to take what they learn in The BRAVE Society and bring it into the world, into their communities, into their families, to their clients and their customers, and to really continue to develop more leaders on this planet. If this sounds interesting to you, I want you to go over to the show notes and click on the link or you can come find me on Instagram, I’m @thetaranewman, and ask me any questions you need to about joining The BRAVE Society.

If you found this podcast valuable, help us develop more bold leaders in the world by sharing this episode with your friends, colleagues, and other bold leaders. Also, if you haven’t done so already, please leave a review. I consider reviews like podcast currency and it’s the one thing you can do to help us out here at The Bold Leadership Revolution HQ. We would be so grateful for it. Special thanks goes to Stacey Harris from Uncommonly More, who is the producer and editor of this podcast. Go check them out for all your digital marketing and content creation needs. Be sure to tune into the next episode to help you embrace your ambition and leave the grind behind.

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