Last month in the Digital Dining Room we focused on Market Research.

Specifically, how the heck do you find out what your Ideal Client is ready and willing to pay for?

Because there’s a difference between them needing and wanting something. Traditional business folks would call this the difference between a chronic need and an acute need.

For example, I knew I needed to take better care of my health (eat better, exercise), but until I had a series of gall bladder attacks, it wasn’t at the top of my priorities.

My chronic need to take better care of myself became an acute need and then I took action.

Your prospective customers also have these kinds of thoughts about your product or service. If you’re lucky, they may even know they need what you’re selling (and that YOU are the person they should be buying it from). But until their pain or desire becomes acute, they probably won’t be standing in line to give you their money.

No Cabbage? No Worries! You Can Still Do the Research

As solopreneurs, most of us don’t have heaps of extra dough laying around to spend on hiring a research expert. So we need to learn how to do these things ourselves. The good news, is that with the advent of the Internet and social media, it’s completely doable.

First, we need to understand the differences between qualitative and quantitative data (think focus groups vs. surveys), and what we can learn (and what we can’t) from each. We also need to learn how to ask the right questions. But most of all, we really just need to practice our listening skills.

It’s Time to Reinvent the Focus Group

I’ve written about the traditional focus group before. And yes, they can sometimes be very helpful. But more often than not, when you put random strangers together and ask them to discuss a certain topic, their answers will change based on what the others in the room have to say.

A better way is to just spend some time listening to your ideal clients on social media channels. I call this The Un-Focus Group. And that’s exactly the task I gave the Digital Dining Room folks: Find five people who fit your Ideal Client Profile and then listen to what they have to say. Visit all their pages — on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. — and really drill down as much as their privacy settings allow. What kinds of things are they talking about? Much of it probably won’t relate directly to you and your product or service. And that’s actually a good thing.

You’re Looking for Clues

Pretend you’re a detective out to solve a mystery. Look for signs and signals like:

  • Other sites, blog posts and articles they share (this will tell you where they hangout online)
  • The kinds of things they complain about (this might tell you what other issues are impacting a decision to buy from you)
  • What kind of lifestyle they live (and how that might affect a buying decision)
  • What kind of questions they ask their friends (or IF they ask questions at all)
  • How actively they participate in conversations

Of course, direct conversations about your type of offering are also a big help. Maybe they’re shopping around for someone or something new? Groups and communities (forums, too) are also fabulous places to listen and ask questions. Try not to leave any social media stone unturned as you go about your sleuthing.

Gather all these clues in one place.

Create a file specifically for research and copy/paste actual conversations or status updates so you have their exact words and phrasing (this is good stuff for writing sales pages!). Then, spend some time looking at the clues and ponder what other questions might need to be answered in order to get at the heart of what really matters to you and your business.

The assignment this month had our members do all of this and then come up with two compelling questions for their ideal clients. Two questions that — if answered — could shed real insight on how and why they’d be ready to make a purchase.

One of our members, Rhonda Sweeney-Hohman of graciously allowed me to share her questions (and how we refined them) with you.

Rhonda is an intuitive life coach who helps people get clear about their purpose and how to fulfill it. She’s looking to work with people who’ve already accomplished quite a bit in life, but find themselves asking, Is this all there is? What’s next? After doing some listening on social media, these are the questions Rhonda wanted answers to:

1. When you make a decision to do something important just for you, do you follow through with the decision — stay committed and on course? Has there ever been an instance where you made a commitment to yourself and something stopped you from following through? Why do you feel like you stopped yourself? (Note: this question is actually three questions. 🙂 )

2. When you are faced with those deep internal feelings of needing to make some changes in your life, business or both — and you somehow just know being proactive is the right answer, what is your usual response and why? How has your usual response worked for you in the past? Is there any difference in the way you respond to your business versus your personal life?

Rhonda said, “Kinda feel like these are win-win questions for both my ideal client and myself. Spurs their self-empowerment and personal/integrity/authority and gives me a good sense of what motivates them. It also reveals their personality and clarifies for them and me that NOW is the right time and only answer. If they are willing.”

Our group gave her feedback on how she might refine these questions. Notably, most of the focus was on the first question:

With the first question — just the wording — I wondered why it would be worth discussing just one instance of not following through.

Would it be a problem that needed delving in to?

If you asked me do I often not follow through then I perhaps would be looking for what you have to offer. Does that make sense? 

The questions are posed in an easy way to discover my motivators without me thinking about it. I agree…about question #1. Perhaps rewording it to be something like: “How often do you make a commitment to yourself and something stopped you from following through?” 

These questions are simple, but deep and powerful in their simplicity.

In a one-on-one session, I pointed out to Rhonda that asking someone to think about how they do things in general (versus thinking about a specific instance) can make pulling out the answers a little more difficult.

Mainly because we humans have bad memories (especially us older types). So it’s always better to direct your survey takers to think about something very specific, if possible. Like the last time they had to make a big decision. Or the last time they felt a deep need to make a change.

And then we talked about how and when these questions might be asked and answered. Sometimes, you can pose a question to your friends and fans on social media and collect answers that way. But those questions need to be extremely short and to the point.

Questions like, “Who sends an email newsletter that you love to read each week?” Or, “What time of day do you start reading your email?”

Things that are more personal (like Rhonda’s questions) might be better suited to a survey. Anytime you’ve got a deeply personal topic (like she does), you need to think about whether or not people will be willing to share their answers with the whole world. So for Rhonda’s purposes, I recommended she put together a short survey. (You can see her final questions and how she formatted things here.)

Keys to Survey Success:

  • Open-ended questions are great, but they require more brain power than your survey-takers may want to expend. Limit your open-ended questions to two per survey. Break the questions down into discrete parts and use things like check boxes and drop-downs to help folks get to the answers quickly.
  • Try to inject a little branding and fun into your survey.
  • The abandon rate of your survey goes up with each additional question. Try to keep your survey as short as possible.
  • People generally don’t like to fill out surveys, so you’ll probably need to incentivize folks with a gift or giveaway.
  • Ask at least 10 people to take your survey for every one response you need. If you’ve got an active email list (and your engagement with your peeps is high), you might be able to get as high as a 40% response rate from that list. Posting the survey on social media channels might only elicit a 2% response.
  • Your survey can also double as a list-builder. Allow folks to add their name and email address at the end (especially important if you’re going to give away something). Add a check-box so they can tell you “Yes, I’d like to get updates from you and hear more about the survey results.”

So what do think about Rhonda’s questions and the survey she finally came up with? What have you tried successfully for your own business? Are are you stuck with where to find your ideal clients online? Share with us in a comment below and let’s discuss!