Market research, i.e. getting to know your potential customers, their unmet needs and who your competitors are, is essential if you are going to effectively market your new idea, service or product. Using language which resonates with your target audience and answering actual problems is a fast-track way to build trust and convert them into ardent fans.
The problem is, doing all these can take a long time, and traditional market research relies on building models, or avatars, of your clients. Below, I describe an alternative method, where you find real people, using real language to describe their real unmet needs, and then use those facts, rather than an avatar, to produce relevant and compelling marketing material to get your big idea directly into the hands of the people who need it most.
There are two parts to this article, and you need to read both to get the full value out of it.
First, you will find a summary of 7 Useful Google Search Techniques which will give you better, more relevant results, and considerably cut down your market research time. Some of these ideas are borrowed from ‘Will it Fly’ by Pat Flynn. Others, we learned through our own research and good old trial-and-error.
Second part, is the 6-step system to delegate this entire job to your VA, so they do all the hard work for you! This is exactly what I did when I performed market research for my Systems and Outsourcing Platform, Course and Mentorship Program. The nuggets of marketing gold I uncovered during that process has enabled me to fill the first two courses, with a waiting list for the third, without spending a single penny on marketing or ads!
I have a background in computing, systems, and medicine and had no previous marketing experience so if this worked for me it will work for absolutely anyone!
7 Useful Google Search Techniques
1. Use Google Text Prediction and Related Search Results to come up with popular search phrases AKA ‘long-tail keywords’ to get better search results.
2. Search for phrases: Combine long-tail keywords with quotation marks to list only sites containing the whole phrase e.g. “managing virtual assistants”
3. The power of the colon!
Using a colon, you can find information from specific sites, related sites, or types of documents sources amongst other things.
For example, say you know ‘chrisducker.com’ is a popular blog site for VA related ideas. Using the search term “related:chrisducker.com” will list sites which are similar to chirsducker.com.
Other ‘colon’ searches include:
Search a specific site- site:<root URL> <query> [root URL means without http:// or www.]
Search for a type of file- <query> filetype:<file extension>
4. Digging for gold in forums! Forums can provide an honest, unfiltered insight into your customer’s thoughts and grievances about existing products or services that you are hoping to compete against. To search only forums use “inurl:”. For example, the search term “virtual assistants inurl:forum OR inurl:forums” will list only sites where the word forum or forums appear in the URL (i.e. forums) that contain the words ‘virtual assistants’, You can do the same for blogs, too.
5. Use AND or OR. You can narrow or expand your search results using AND or OR. For example “blog AND outsourcing” will only list sites containing both words, “blog OR outsourcing” will list sites containing either word.
6. Exclude keywords. If you want to exclude a word from your results, for instance, “UK”, use the minus sign (-). For example, “virtual assistants -UK” will mostly list sites outside of the UK (nb. This doesn’t exclude paid AD sites containing “UK”).
7. Google’s Advanced Search feature. Just click “Settings” under the search bar, then click “Advanced search” in the drop-down menu for loads more options to play with.
For a really comprehensive guide of 67 different Google Search techniques you can check out Dr. Peter J. Meyers blog here: https://goo.gl/C8fBqc
Putting it all into practice:
The 6-Step Market Research System (for your VA!)
Below is a real-life example to demonstrate how you can use these techniques to help market a new product. This simple 6-step system will massively reduce your market research time, allowing you to delegate the majority of the work to your VA and, more importantly, identify real-life problems that actually need solving and to describe your solution in words that resonate with your customers.
STEP 1- Be clear on why you are doing this!
This is a fact-finding exercise so don’t expect your VA to come up with your polished marketing copy or you will be disappointed! The purpose of this activity is to identify who your target audience is, where they hang out, what their unmet needs are, and who is already serving them.
For example, my goals were to:
Identify common search terms in my niche
Identify the influential people and companies within my niche
Locate where my potential customers reside online (which forums, blogs, etc.)
List recurring problems, and grievances experienced by my customers
Record phrases, words, the terminology used by my target audience
STEP 2 – Come up with some words and phrases to get your VA started.
For instance, we wanted to find what information and services were already in the marketplace for VAs, systems and outsourcing. So we guessed at some terms and keywords, as follows:
virtual assistant / VA
The problem was that we weren’t generating the results that we needed.
For example, “virtual assistant” gave us information on virtual assistant services available online. General terms such as “business systems”, “systemising”, “systemisation” produced results about finding solutions to business problems in general, whether or not a VA is involved or not. “Outsourcing” lead us to information on physical outsourcing of labour from other countries.
STEP 3- Identify your long-tail keywords
Use the technique described above to find popular search terms and use these to refine your results.
By doing this, we identified a set of long-tail keywords which produced not only more results, but better results.
“managing virtual assistants”
“remote employee management”
“virtual assistant management”
“systemising virtual assistant management”
“system for virtual assistant management”
STEP 4- Find your target audience and the key people of influence in your niche
Next, combine these long-tail keywords with the ‘inurl:<blog/forum>’ technique or use AND ‘blog/forum’ to find where your customers hang-out and who they are listening to. Getting to know who the key players are and how they are connecting effectively with your potential clients is absolute gold when it comes to social media marketing!
From the lists of blogs and forums, identify the most popular by checking out the number of subscribers, ratings, activity levels, frequency of posts, etc.
Think 80:20 – you want to spend ALL your time focusing on the 20% of sites and people that are reaching 80% of your audience.
STEP 5- Learn the problems and language of your customers.
Search the top blog sites and forums by combining the URL with phrases such as “I hate it when”, or “Why is it” or “How do I” to find grievances and real-life problems from customers. It’s these problems that you need to solve in order to connect with your target audience and market your product or service.
For example, ‘site:virtualassistantforums.com “I hate it when”
Reading the posts can take a bit of time so is best left to your VA to sort through the noise and find the hidden gems. But don’t let your VA paraphrase! Ask them to copy and paste whole sentences or paragraphs- this will enable you to learn the language and terminology as well as uncover the problems and unmet needs.
STEP 6 – Ask your VA to create a structured spreadsheet listing all of this information
(I drafted one first and then had my VA refine it as she went along)
They should include sites, forums, blogs, phrases, words, comments and questions that come up regularly. Always include the URL for every piece of information so you can quickly refer back to it if needed.
The purpose of this is to make your life as easy as possible and let your VA do the time-consuming work for you.
Once I had all this information in a spreadsheet, I asked my UK-based PA to read through and pull out key phrases, problems, language, etc – I felt I needed someone who was a native English speaker to do this. If you haven’t got a UK PA then you might have to roll your sleeves up and do a little work yourself!
Now you have a valuable resource to use when creating your service or when deciding which product will best serve your audience. You know where to find your potential customers and who is already serving them. You also crucially know what their unmet needs are and are ready to explain how you can solve their problems using language that resonates with them!