Customer research – your business depends on it

This article will give you the background information on the principles and philosophy of conducting customer research. It will present to you why this is the key point in the life of your business. The success of your business depends on it so I encourage you to read it to the end.

Resonating with your target audience is the key to growing your business

Your message, your communication with your tribe brings people to your world and invites them to interact with you.

Your website copy, blog posts, Facebook post, video’s, LinkedIn articles,… everything tells a story about who you are and what you do.

A person uses Google to search for a solution to a problem you know how to solve.

Or sees a friend on Facebook liking your Facebook page.

He comes in contact with your messages.

Now it is crucial. You want to capture their interest.

Make them click on your Call to Action to continue reading another article, like and comment on Facebook, follow you on Twitter.

Maybe subscribe to your email list or already book a tour with you (depends on the length of your sales cycle connected with the price of your tours).

Anyway you want them to become a part of your tribe.

This is the starting point of a new relationship.

Now it is your job to take them from someone who is interacting with you occasionally, to someone benefiting from your service.

So the question is how to create a connection between you and someone who visited your site or is reading your blog post. To make them say “This is for me”. I want to know more, teach me, improve my life.

Goal is to create that instant connection when a visitor of the site knows he has found his solution. He is in the right place.

Attracting an audience

For you to gain new leads and new clients, you have to make a compelling promise to your followers.

There is one question that you must answer in your copy. When a visitor comes in to contact with your messaging, he is wondering:

“What’s going to happen to me after I buy?”

Remember the person found your company because he was searching for something.

Maybe actively (on Google) or passively (on Facebook as a suggested content or a friend liked it)

But he has wants and needs currently not fulfilled.

That is why he clicked on your content.

People don’t buy “products” or “services.” They buy better versions of themselves.

They imagine themselves using the product or service. Experiencing the benefits.

Show how you will bring him from where they are right now to where he wants to be.

Christiansen, Hall, Dillon and Duncan put it this way:

“When we buy a product, we essentially “hire” it to help us do a job. If it does the job well, the next time we’re confronted with the same job, we tend to hire that product again. And if it does a crummy job, we “fire” it and look for an alternative.”

From how they feel right now to how they want to feel.

The answer to the question “What’s going to happen to me after I buy?”  has to be in line with what your customer wants.

Promise him exactly what he is searching for.

The words, the end goal, the process of getting there… has to be in line with his wants and desires.

How to construct your ideal persona

There is no way you can be specific enough in your promise if you don’t choose, who you want to serve.

You can only make a  promise to one target market, one persona.

“The reader has to identify himself with the person you are addressing if he is to enter your world”

You can’t build your business targeting everybody.

Nobody will identify with “everybody”.

And for you to do this, show you understand.

That you care and can help.

But do that, you have to know certain important pieces of information about your visitor.

There are many people visiting your site. Most of them are not interested in buying from you.

But there is a certain number of people that match who you want to work with.

People you enjoy working with but also value your work and are profitable to you.

You want your website to appeal to this kind of visitors. Ideal clients.

The old way

The traditional way of constructing your ideal buyer persona focuses on a demographic and psychographic profile (age, gender, income, favourite books and movies, job title, marriage status, car…).

While this information can help in learning about your customer, it is very incomplete.

“What matters is the reason behind the click”

A great example from a customer-focused marketeer and advisor Claire Suellentrop:

My name is Claire Suellentrop. I’m in my late 20s. I live in Atlanta, GA with my husband, our cat and no kids. I’m self-employed, have a Zipcar membership and support the local arts community. I love dark chocolate and wine and black coffee.

Okay, now you know a few things about me—but none of these things caused me to buy a subscription to a meditation app this year.

You have all this data, but you don’t know whether I made that purchase because…

    • I struggle with anxiety and need help managing it

    • I’ve been reading a lot about Buddhism lately and want to dip my toe into some of the basic principles

  • I feel overwhelmed by the demands of life and need a way to squeeze in a few minutes of daily personal time

Or from a well-known business writer and a Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen.

He’s 64 years old. He’s six feet eight inches tall. His shoe size is 16. He and his wife have sent all their children off to college. He drives a Honda minivan to work.

He has a lot of characteristics, but none of them has caused him to go out and buy the New York Times.

His reasons for buying the paper are much more specific. He might buy it because he needs something to read on a plane or because he’s a basketball fan and it’s March Madness time.

“When learning about your customer, you want to understand the fundamental motivations and concerns your customers have”

And then reflect these motivations back to them and alleviate every one of their concerns.

Your visitor is struggling with something in his life and is searching for a solution.

There is fear,  hope, desire behind the click, behind the purchase.

What is behind the purchase, hidden in the mindset of the click has profound implications for your marketing strategy and beyond.

2 great examples of what it means to listen to your customers, apply what you learn and make the fixes to the current way of working.

A building company in Phoenix USA built new apartments for retirees ready to move out of big family homes.

Sales were abysmal despite a strong sales team and a big marketing budget.

They showed the apartments to many prospects but purchases were rare.

Until they hired a consultant to help them with sales.

He started his work by speaking to the people who bought the apartments so he could learn what drove them to buy.

The company made changes to the apartments (a lot of customers were put off by lack of space for their dining table that brought the family together all the years in the old house)  and increased sales by 25% in 2007 despite market plummeting for 49% that year.

Another great example is Hershey’s peanut butter cup.

After decades of selling the standard format, researchers discovered why were regular customers not buying the product anymore.

By talking to them, they discovered the original large format was too big and messy in many situations (driving the car, standing in a crowded subway) while the smaller, individually wrapped cups were a hassle (opening them required two hands) and the accumulation of the cups’ foil wrappers created a guilt-inducing tally of consumption: I had that many?

When the company focused on the job that smaller versions of Reese’s were being hired to do, it created Reese’s Minis.

The results were astounding: $235 million in the first two years’ sales.

You can find other great examples in this article from Harvard Business Review.

The new way – find and target the core motivation

These 2 examples illustrate what is your task or “Job to be done”.

For your messaging and your offer to be in alignment with your site visitor, dig deep into his core emotional motivation.

So your ideal persona is not just an age, sex, gender and income, but a story about goals, fears, feelings, motivations and expectations.

What you need to focus on is:

    • Goals he wants to accomplish?

    • His wants and needs?

    • His biggest pains and struggles?

  • His Expectations – What is he hoping to find when he arrives on your site?

The goal is to get inside your customer’s heads to make sure you base your persona on what real people think, not just your idea of what they think.

By discovering the answers to these questions you will find out what the trigger events are going on in a person’s life that motivates him to seek your solution and what your customers consider the problem to be.

You may even find there are problems you’re solving that you didn’t know about and can target.

Lessons from neuromarketing

Are you offering discounts when people want “limited edition”?

The concepts from neuromarketing are also applicable to your business.

People are different and are governed by different emotions or emotional drivers.

What is most important for your client?

    • He doesn’t want to make a mistake? (Social proof)

      • Is he attracted to new, limited time access? (Scarcity)

  • Does he really want and need the feeling of victory? (Discount?)

“Discovering the main driver of your ideal customer can increase the likelihood of  him continuing on his path of conversion”

We will go deeper in neuromarketing knowledge in future blog posts.

Fix your messaging

When you understand the motivations driving your prospects and customers, you can reflect their feelings back to them in their own words.

Joanna Wiebe from explains it nicely:

“The best copywriters in the world are thieves and frauds.

We’re thieves because we steal words from our customers and prospects. We’re frauds because we act like those words came from our brains.”
We pore over the voice of customer data – from surveys, focus groups, product studies, market research, one-on-one interviews, usability studies. From countless sources.

And as we’re picking through all that data, we’re making note of:

    • Exactly how ‘real people’ describe our product

    • The multiple benefits and points-of-value they talk about

    • Anything they absolutely rave about

    • Specific things they don’t like about products similar to ours

    • Suspicions they have / Ways they’ve been burned before

    • The exact real-life problems our product helps them minimize or solve

  • Interesting analogies and similes they use

After discovering the emotions of your ideal clients, their core motivation wants, needs and desires… you have done 90% of the work.

You can now appeal to exactly what they need – you can shape your service in a way they want it and not just what you think.

You will find the gaps in your existing copy by comparing what’s on the page with what your visitors are saying.


Hopefully, I have made it clear why customer research is important and why it needs to come first so you don’t waste your money on investments in your business that cannot work.

    • Branding (Your brand – the colours, logo, shapes, fonts,… have to match the emotional state of your ideal clients. If they need more warmth and comfort in their life, maybe passionate and active red is not the best colour to choose and you should move towards orange and yellow)

    • Copywriting (there is no way you can write compelling copy without thorough market research that gives you insight into your customer’s mind)

    • Design (Design follows copy. If the copy is not right, design can’t fix problems on your site.)

  • Marketing strategy (You cannot create a compelling marketing argument if you don’t know what beliefs you need to instil in your reader. You are wandering in the dark hoping you catch something)

Market research directly or indirectly affects all aspects of your business

It is by far the most important part of growing a business and attracting more clients.

Check out this great article from Talia Wolf that is focusing on conversion rate optimization but you can apply the experts’ answers to any phase of growing a business.

In a way, we are all optimizing our conversion rates.

What is the most common thread you see repeating over and over in the expert’s answers?

Let me know what do you think about customer research in the comments below. Is there any topic you would like me to go through?

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