The hardest part of writing this post has been finding the right title. And you’ll soon see what I mean. In the previous post, I introduced you to a framework for a marketing plan. Today, I want to help you rapidly gather market intelligence so you can convert better and sell more.
Almost all businesses get this wrong–except a few.
One of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve gotta start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re gonna try to sell it. And I’ve made this mistake probably more than anybody else in this room. And I’ve got the scar tissue to prove it. And I know that it’s the. And as we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for apple, it started with what incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Where can we take the customer? Not, not starting with let’s sit down with the engineers and. Figure out what awesome technology we have and then how are we gonna market that?
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 Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in 1997, just after his return to the company.
I want to highlight that he never used the phrase market research and used customer experience instead. And that’s a great place to start our post. If you have taken the marketing plan quiz, 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, as I’d like to call them). Clients decide and pay money for what we have to offer. So, you start with the customer or client whenever you want to create a product.
But how can you learn about your clients? How do you know what they need? How do you gather market intelligence about your clients and customers?
Here’s the most common advice: Do market research. Understand the demographics of your market. Create your ideal customer profile or ICP. And they give you tools to research your market—customer journey maps, customer persona, research techniques, etc.
When you’re done, you end up with a ton of information about your clients and your market. The question then is–what pieces of information matter? You will end up with a needle-in-a-hay-stack problem. That’s why you need to read this post.
How will this post help you as a business owner or entrepreneur?
When you’re done reading this post, you’ll be able to:
- Gather intelligence about your market that’s more specific (using this in your marketing will instantly double the impact of your marketing spend)
- Save a lot of time (you can do the exercise in this post without doing elaborate market research. Your marketing will still be twice more impactful than what it is today)
- If you’re building a product, this post will help you validate your product before building one (you can save yourself hundreds of fruitless hours of meaningless donkeywork!)
- Take you a step closer to business and help you presell your products (You can write a decent opt-in page or sales page after doing the exercise you’ll learn in this post)
- If you already have a product or service that doesn’t sell enough, you’ll understand why your customers don’t buy them (save your hard-earned money to throw a pizza party when you fix your sales!)
If that sounds good, let’s move right into the deets.
Podcast Alert: This post was first published on The Launch Plan podcast. Here’s a link if you’d like to listen. Or, click the play button below to listen.
Seven-Steps to Gather ‘Profit Boosting’ Market Intelligence
Here’s a seven-step process that you’re about to learn so you can gather profit-boosting intelligence about your market, customers, and clients:
- Define the problem
- Identify the problem anchor
- Document what’s behind the problem-blinders
- Understand the Transformation
- Identify their state of awareness
- Document your customers’ approach to problem-solving
- Document objections
Let’s now look at each step in greater detail.
Step 1 – Define the Problem
This is by far the most important aspect of understanding your market. If you can’t define the problem, 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 exact problem are your customers dealing with 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 change requests, 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. Context brings specificity, and specificity begets clarity. So that’s the first step. It’s to define that problem in one sentence clearly.
Step 2 – Identify the Problem Anchor
Fifteen years ago, I was a lot into long-distance running, and in one training run, I injured my knee. And knee pain is not something you can ignore. It pained me when I walked, when I drove around in my car, and of course, when I ran too.
The problem had gone a little too far.
I couldn’t stop thinking of the knee pain even when I was not doing any of this and just sitting. And this new habit of lesser movement had its 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(!!).
Not everyone puts on weight because of milk and sugar.
Weight gain is not because of a cheat meal or having tea with milk and sugar. It’s because of the new habit that I had unknowingly gotten into. I got a lot irritable, too–partly driven by the fact that I had the pain. And all of this together contributed to the problem.
And I’m saying this because as someone who wants to gather intelligence about your market, you must also understand these habits and behaviors in your customers. So that’s the second step. It’s about documenting the habits, behaviors, and routines your customers have knowingly or unknowingly adopted because of the problem.
Let’s take the busy working mother as an example.
Because they spend too much time baking or cooking snacks in the kitchen, 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 someone unconsciously gotten used to it–it’s become a new routine.
Have you ever seen people getting into elevators suddenly pull out their smartphones and randomly pretend to look up something? That’s a habit.
And that completes step two. Document your clients’ habits and routines that keep them anchored to the problem.
Step one was to understand the problem. And step two was to document your customers’ or clients’ habits, behaviors, and routines they got into because of the problem.
Step 3 – Document What’s Behind the Problem-blinders
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, I felt so comfortable when I landed at his clinic. He was unlike any other doctor I had been to.
And the first question he asked me was 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 and running even a short distance, or did it show up when I ran a longer distance, like 5 or 10 kilometers?
When he asked me this question, I knew he would fix my problem too.
Because everything he did subsequently was to get me one step closer to my goal. And that’s what I want you to do in step three–document the problem-blinders. In other words, what’s the specific problem 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 at the dinner table? Spending quality time with their spouse? Taking on more responsibilities at work or getting promoted?
Let’s quickly recap what we discussed so far.
In steps two and three of gathering market intelligence, you are looking at the two impacts every problem has on your customers. What’s holding them onto the problem? What are they missing out on because of the problem?
And once you understand the problem, what’s getting them stuck with the problem? What are they missing out on because of the problem? It’s now time to move on to step four.
Step 4 – Understand 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 work. Another one could be waking up every morning, sipping coffee, spending time with family at breakfast, and never having to think about food for her kids.
My doctor tried to understand this, too, about me. He asked me what the next long run I was planning for was. When I told him I was preparing to run the Singapore Marathon, he even gave me some exercises to help me strengthen my hip flexor muscles. But I digress. And that’s step four.
We started gathering market intelligence by defining the exact problem in step one. And then, we documented the reason holding our clients anchored to the problem. In step three, we documented what our clients missed out on because of the problem. Finally, in step four, we documented the transformation our clients want.
You’re already halfway through this exercise. Congratulations. Let’s move to step five.
Step 5 – Identify Your Audience’ State of Awareness
There was a time when I didn’t even know what online marketing was. 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 then learned that online businesses cannot run with an email list. 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 email marketing software, a thousand light bulbs lit inside my head.
I came to know of this software called ConvertKit. And I signed up for the product and started growing an email list. I got to learn what email automation is, what broadcast emails are, tagging, and what 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, and I attend events. I teach how to start and grow email lists, strategies, etc., with my courses, client work, etc.
Our awareness grows over a period of time. It’s no different for your clients.
As you saw me talk about this example of my journey with online marketing, you could see that my state of awareness about online marketing evolved over a period of 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 step-by-step over the years:
- First, I was completely unaware of online marketing.
- Then, I got aware of the problem of needing an email list.
- Then, I got aware of the solution of email marketing software.
- Then, I got aware of a specific product called ConvertKit.
- Finally, I’m at a stage I’m super aware of everything with email marketing.
You need to document this sequence for your customer too. And that’s step five.
Step 6 – Document your customers’ approach to problem-solving
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–give me a form to fill up. Well, in this case, it was not just a form. It was a few pages.
“Tell us everything you’ve tried to fix your pain.”
I’m paraphrasing it, but that was one fo the first questions in the doc’s questionnaire. He wanted me to write everything. Not just medicines or doctor visits. Everything else too. So I did that. Here’s a picture of what my list looked like.
There were more. But I think you see the point. When the doctor saw my list, he told me 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 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 specific problem? And what was their experience like?
That’s step six. Let’s look at the final step now.
Step 7 – Document objections
The final step is about finding out your customers’ biggest objections.
A new story is born when we try something new that doesn’t work. 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.
“I hate wine. It’s yuck.”
Let’s say you never tasted wine. But you are out dining, and someone offered you some wine. You take a sip and 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, so I don’t like it.”
That’s the story your brain is telling itself. So the next time someone offers you a bottle of wine, your brain will raise the alarm, “This one is bitter and yuck.”
To understand your market, it’s important to understand their beliefs and what drives those beliefs too. These beliefs and stories become objections, preventing clients and customers from finding the right solution to their problems.
We are at the end of this post to help you gather market intelligence that can be readily used to market and grow your business. I hope you find it useful. Let’s take a quick look at what we just covered.
Steps 1 through 4
We started by defining the exact problem in step one. And then, we documented the reason holding our clients anchored to the problem. In step three, we documented what our clients missed out on because of the problem. And in step four, we documented the transformation our clients want.
Steps 5 through 7
We looked at documenting your clients’ awareness states and how they change over time. That’s in step five. The sixth step was documenting all your customers’ actions to resolve the problem. And finally, we looked at why you should identify and document your clients’ biggest objections. In other words, the stories and beliefs that limit your customers from finding a solution to their problems.
This post is also available for listening to on The Launch Plan podcast. You can even download a custom worksheet as you work to gather market intelligence for your business by subscribing to the Launch Plan Workbook for free.