Tips for do-it-yourselfers.
One thing I miss about working in a big agency is having access to a research department. Nothing helps you craft a powerful brand story better than real, honest-to-goodness customer insights. Of course, the budgets that solopreneurs and small branding firms usually have to work with are rarely ample enough to fund customized research. And while it’s always good to get out in the field yourself every now and then, barriers like access and time make this kind of mother-in-law research difficult to do well.
That’s why I found Will Blunt’s two-part article, Nine Ways to Sharpen Your Online Customer Research to be so interesting. It offers you a number of tips and tools for understanding your customer, many of which are free. Though his primary focus is online behavior, the insights you pick up will be useful regardless of the branding or communications effort you’re working on.
For instance, if you’re interested in understanding some of the challenges your customers are facing, check out some online question-and-answer forums such as Quora, Yahoo Answers, Fluther, and Spring.me.
Do you think that keyword research is just about website optimization? Well, as Blunt points out, it also gives you "valuable insights into the language your customers are using—and therefore your customers themselves." He also recommends using Quick Sprout to analyze the keywords your competitors are using. It’s a great way to see what customer pain points they’ve uncovered and are targeting.
Blunt also provides useful advice for using the BuzzSumo search function, as well as Twitter Advanced Search, LinkedIn Groups, and Google + Communities. He even offers some suggestions for paid market research.
All in all, a valuable read for anyone who’s ever wished they could just pick up the phone and call their research department.