In today’s marketplace, the buyer holds all the power. Developing and adapting your marketing strategies to match the needs, desires and expectations of your audience is the key to success, and it’s the foundation of stellar customer service.

But in order to get to that point, you absolutely must perform in-depth market research. This is what will ultimately help you understand exactly where your buyers are and the best way to target them with your product or service. Not sure where to begin? Follow these six easy steps to get started.

Define your buyer persona.

Before you can start to figure out how your customers are making buying decisions, you need to first understand who they are. This is where creating a buyer persona comes into play. A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer.

Some of the key characteristics to identify in this persona include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geographic Location
  • Job Title
  • Income
  • Major Challenges

There are loads more characteristics you could add to your own buyer personas depending what you’re selling and how much information you need on your prospective customers.

Identify a segment of that persona to engage.

Once you’ve got a general idea about who your target audience is, the next step is to identify a representative sample of that audience so you can learn more about their actual characteristics, buying habits and challenges. Ideally, you should focus on people who have recently interacted with your brand, whether it was making a purchase or purposefully deciding not to buy. You may also wish to expand your research to include individuals who have purchased a similar product or service from a competitor.

Engage your participants.

There are a number of different ways you can approach this step. For instance, you might conduct an in-person focus group, send out an online survey or engage in individual phone interviews. Regardless of the method of engagement, you may also need to consider offering some type of incentive for their participation. Rewards can help motivate people to give up some of their precious time.

Prepare a list of questions.

Being prepared in advance will help to ensure that you get the most out of your market research activities. Whether you’re running a focus group, survey or interview, you should always come ready with a discussion guide so you can use your time wisely. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, your questions should be open-ended as opposed to yes/no.

Identify your competition.

The next important step in your market research involves learning more about who your primary competitors are. Keep in mind that this may be more than just Company A and Company B. For instance, you may also be competing for your customers with a specific division of a larger corporation. That’s why it’s important to be thorough and dig deep with this step. Focus on identifying both your industry and your content competitors.

Summarize your findings.

The final step involves pulling everything together into a report that you can then use to guide your marketing decisions. Feel free to add what you’d like, but you should at least include the following details in your summary:

  • Goals of the study
  • Who the participants were
  • What you learned
  • What the buyer journey is like (i.e. awareness, consideration, decision)
  • Action plan for how you’ll proceed

Performing market research is an essential part of running a successful business. And thankfully, with the right approach – such as the six steps above – it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process.