What Exactly Should You Be Learning About Your Market (And What Everyone Is Lying About Market Research)

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The hardest part of creating this episode has been finding the right title. And you’ll soon see what I mean.

In the previous episode I introduced you to the framework for a marketing plan. Today, I want to help you rapidly understand your market.

But first, I want to play this short clip so we set the stage.

That’s Steve Jobs, and yes, I’m a big fan. But that’s not why I played this snippet. It’s a video from the Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in 1997, just after his return at the company.

And I want to highlight the fact that he never used the phrase “market research” and used “customer experience” instead. And that’s a great place to start our episode.

If you have taken the marketing plan quiz on our website, you see that the first key element in the framework for a marketing plan is the Market.

But businesses don’t run because of markets.

They run because of customers. Or clients. It’s customers that decide, and pay money for what we have to offer. So every time you want to create a product, you start with the customer or client.

But how can you learn about your customers’ needs? Here’s what everyone talks about: Do Market Research. Understand the demographics of your market. Find out who your ideal customer avatar is. ICA is the hold word...

And they give you tools to research your market–Customer journey maps, Customer persona, research techniques, on and on.

And it’s perfectly fine to go that route. In fact, even if you went that route, it’s perhaps a great idea to start with this episode. What you’ll learn here is something that’s:

  • More specific
  • Saves you a lot of time
  • One that will help you validate your product before building one
  • An approach that will hopefully take you a step closer to business and help you presell your products
  • And finally, perhaps the most important benefit, is that you’ll not just learn about your customers and their experience, but also understand why exactly do these customers will back-off from buying your product.

If you are a solopreneur, creator, or even a small business, you want to listen to this episode closely, and maybe re-listen many more times.

As usual, you will find a guide for this episode in the show notes that you can download. So let’s begin with this seven-step process to learn about your market, customers, and clients.

Step 1: Define the Problem

And we begin by defining the problem.

This is by far the most important aspect of understanding your market. If you can’t define what the problem is, it’s impossible to do anything. So that’s what we will do first. Define the problem.

The simplest way of doing this is by asking a very simple question.

What is the exact problem your customers or clients dealing with that’s relevant to your business?

Let’s say you are in the cooking business. You teach mothers of tweenage kids how to cook healthy food.

A specific problem they face could be “kids are always hungry and you spend too much time in the kitchen making healthy snacks.”

If you are a lawyer helping freelancers, the specific problem your clients might have could be “clients never stop coming back with requests for change, and you spend a lot more time than what you charge.”

It’s important to define the problem in the context of your business. If you don’t have a business, define it in the context of your skills or in a topic you understand or have experience with.

So that’s the first step. It’s to clearly define that problem in one sentence. And once you have defined the problem, let’s move on to step two.

Step 2: Document Habits, Behaviors, Routines

Fifteen years ago, I was a lot into long distance running and in one training run, I injured my knee. And a knee pain is not something you can ignore. It pained when I walked, when I drove around in my car, and of course when I ran too.

The problem had gone so far that I couldn’t stop thinking of it even when I was not doing any of this and just sitting. And this new habit of lesser movement had it’s on effects on my body.

I started putting on weight. And since I was working a rather sedentary job with my laptop, I developed this habit of frequent movement when at work. I started to walk to drink a cup of water. But soon that changed to coffee. I had more than 6-7 cups of coffee or tea. This is the Indian version with milk and sugar.

You know how that went. I developed many new habits like that. I got a lot irritable too. Partly driven by the fact that I had the pain. But you know how that goes.

And I’m saying this because as someone that wants to understand the market, you need to understand these habits and behaviors in your customers too.

So that’s the second step. It’s about documenting the habits, behaviors, and routines your customers have got into because of the problem.

Busy Working Mothers...

Let’s take the busy working mother as an example.

Because they are spending too much time in the kitchen baking or cooking snacks, they are tired throughout the day during meetings. Perhaps they are now going to the gym twice a week instead of five times.

And sometimes your customers or clients don’t realize this until you ask them. Because they have gotten used to it. It’s become a new routine.

Have you ever seen people getting into elevators all of a sudden pull out their smartphone and randomly pretend to lookup something? That’s a habit.

And that completes step two.

Step one was to understand the problem. And step two was to document your customers’ or clients’ habits, behaviors, and routines that they got into because of the problem.

Step 3: What Are They Missing?

Let’ move on to step three.

One of the things I did when I had my knee injury was to go to the doctor. Or, should I say doctors. And every time a doctor checked my knee, they would send me for a few weeks of physiotherapy. I spent quite some time with physiotherapists.

But nothing happened. And then one day, someone recommended this doctor to me. He was practicing in a different city. I had to travel over 300km to visit his clinic. But after all that ordeal when I landed at his clinic, I felt so comfortable. He was unlike any other doctor I had been to.

And the first question he asked me is this: What is this pain stopping you from doing?

He understood I was a runner. But he wanted to know when that pain would start to show up. Was it stopping me from getting out of bed, or was it stopping me from running even a short distance, or did it show up when I ran a longer distance like 5 or 10 kilometers.

The very instance he asked me this question, I knew he will fix my problem too. And that’s what I want you to do in step three.

Document what the specific problem is stopping them from doing.

What is the problem of “spending more time in the kitchen cooking for the kids” stopping the working mother from doing? Spending time with family on the dinner table? Spending quality time with their spouse? Taking on more responsibilities at work or getting promoted?

In steps two and three, you are looking at the two impacts every problem has on your customers. What’s holding them on to the problem. And what are they missing out because of the problem.

And once you understand the problem, what’s getting them stuck with the problem, and what they are missing out because of the problem, it’s time to move on to step four.

Step 4: Understand the Transformation

Step four is about understanding the transformation.

Your customer has a problem. They want to get rid of it. What would life look like/feel like when they have got rid of the problem?

For the working mother, it’s perhaps about feeling in control at home and at work. Another one could be waking up every morning, sipping coffee, spending time with family at breakfast, never having to think about food for her kids.

My doctor tried to understand this too about me. He asked me what was the next long run I was planning for. When I told him I was preparing to run the Singapore Marathon, he even gave me some exercises to help me strengthen by hip flexor muscles and. But I digress.

But that’s step four.

Here’s what we did so far:

  • Step one, defined the exact problem.
  • Step two, documented what’s holding them on to the problem
  • Step three, documented what are they missing out because of the problem.
  • And step four, you documented the transformation they want

You’re already half way through this exercise.

Step 5: State of Awareness

Step five is a very important one, and a nuanced one too. It’s about the state of awareness.

There was a time in my life when I didn’t even know what online marketing is.

And then I heard the term for the first time. I couldn’t stop noticing it ever since. I started following blogs, watching videos, and listening to podcasts about starting an online business and such.

And then I got to know that online businesses cannot run with something called an email list.

Then I got to know that there are tools available that can help me use online marketing to grow a business online. When I heard about something called as an email marketing software, a thousand light bulbs went off inside my head.

Soon after, I came to know of this software called ConvertKit. I signed up for the product, started growing an email list. I got to learn what a email automation is, what broadcast emails are, tagging, and a bunch of things you could do inside ConvertKit to sell products on auto-pilot.

Today, I’m super active with email marketing and ConvertKit. I’m inside their communities, I attend events, I teach how to start and grow email lists, strategies, etc. with my courses, client work and so forth.

As you saw me talk about this example, about my journey with online marketing, you cold see that my state of awareness about online marketing evolved over a period in time. If you talked about tagging and automation sequences ten years ago, I might have given you a blank stare.

That’s because my awareness has grown over the years.

  1. 1
    First, I was completely unaware of online marketing.
  2. 2
    Then, I got aware of the problem of needing an email list.
  3. 3
    And then, I got aware of the solution of an email marketing software.
  4. 4
    Then, I got aware of a specific product called ConvertKit.
  5. 5
    Finally, I’m at a stage I’m super aware of everything with email marketing.

You need to document this for your customer too. And that’s step five.

Here’s what we did so far:

  • Step one, defined the exact problem.
  • Step two, documented what’s holding them on to the problem
  • Step three, documented what are they missing out because of the problem.
  • And step four, you documented the transformation they want
  • And step five, you documented their state of awareness

We got just two more steps. So let’s get moving.

Step 6: Understand Your Competitors

Step six is about understanding your competitors. But I’m not going to ask you to list a bunch of names of your competitors.

Remember the doctor that treated my knee injury?

When I went to his clinic (which I visited only once, by the way) the first thing he did was something every doctor does -gave me a form to fill up. Well, in this case, it was not just a form. It was a few pages.

One of the first few questions in those pages was: Tell us everything you’ve tried so far to fix your pain. I’m paraphrasing it. He wanted me to write everything. Not just medicines, or doctor visits. Everything else too. So I did that. Want to know what my list looked like?

  • Painkillers
  • Knee braces
  • Massage
  • Sauna therapy
  • Red light therapy
  • Read books
  • Saw videos on YouTube
  • Took a foot scan at a running shoe store
  • Bought two shoes
  • Took ultrasound therapy

There were more. But I think you see the point.

When the doctor saw my list, he told me that I came to the right place.

Because he said he had something I had not tried.

Specific stretches and strength training. But I digress.

Step six is about shortlisting and understanding your competition. In other words, you want to know everything that your customers are trying to help them overcome the problem. In simple words, the doctor’s competitors were not just other doctors. But they were therapy centers, YouTube videos, shoe stores, physiotherapists, and many others.

A better way to approach this step is by reframing the question. What actions have your customers taken to resolve their problem? And what was their experience like?

That’s step six. Let’s look at the final step now.

Step 7: Find their Biggest Objetions

Step seven is about finding out your customers’ biggest objections.

When we try something new and it doesn’t work, a new story is born. That’s how the human brain works. We tell stories to ourselves based on our experiences. There are exceptions to this that we’ll perhaps cover in a separate episode another day.

As usual, let me use an example to explain.

Let’s say you never tasted wine, and someone offered you a sip. You take a sip and you feel like it’s bitter or sour. You dislike that taste. So your brain now creates a new belief that wine tastes bitter and yuck and hence I don’t like it.

That’s the story your brain it telling itself. So the next time when someone offers you a bottle of wine, your brain will raise an alarm “This one is bitter and yuck.”

In order to understand your market, it’s important to understand their beliefs and what are driving those beliefs too.

It’s these beliefs and stories that turn into objections, preventing your customers from finding the right solution to their problem.

And that brings us to the end of this episode.

Let’s take a quick look at what we just covered.

  • Step one, defined the exact problem.
  • Step two, documented what’s holding them on to the problem
  • Step three, documented what are they missing out because of the problem.
  • And step four, you documented the transformation they want
  • And step five, you documented their state of awareness
  • Step six, you documented all the actions your customers took to resolve the problem
  • Finally in step seven, you documented their biggest objections. In other words, the stories and beliefs that limit your customers from finding a solution to their problem.
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