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Subscriber DM writes: “Everyone constantly advises: know your market thoroughly—client needs, problems, concerns, worries, fears, desires, dreams etc. But I am exceedingly frustrated that nobody advises and clues you in on just how to exactly accomplish this.

“Nobody ever provides the essentially needed information/advice on how to actually do and accomplish this client/market research that is probably the most critical for marketing success. I think a lot of us do too much guesswork.”

Let me see if I can provide a useful answer…

To begin with, if you work in a niche that does a lot of direct marketing e.g. health, financial, business opportunity, get yourself on the lists of the major marketers in that niche (you can do that by subscribing to their e-newsletters).

Then pay careful attention to the appeals they use in their promotions. Since they are successful, they already know their prospects’ needs, problems, concerns, worries, fears, desires, and dreams. And you can quickly learn them by studying their copy. No need to reinvent the wheel.

In smaller niches that don’t do massive marketing, there are a number of shortcuts for getting a clue as to what prospects really want and what their concerns are.

One way is to read the “letters to the editor” column in that industry’s leading trade journal. You’ll discover the hot topics that people in the business are discussing and what they are saying about them.

I have also found it useful to attend the bigger trade shows in an industry and see what exhibitors are featuring in their booths. This is a good opportunity to be a fly on the wall and listen to conversations between exhibit staff (company salespeople) and exhibit visitors (potential customers).

You can read the popular blogs in your niche market and see what people are talking about. Participating in forums and bulletin boards offers the same benefit.

Many clients diligently compile testimonials from their customers, and these give insight into what’s important to buyers. Ask your clients for their testimonial files.

If I am writing to a specialized audience with which I am unfamiliar (e.g. pediatricians), I ask the client if I can interview a few customers over the phone. These conversations can reveal what’s on the prospect’s mind.

Also, your client is immersed in her target market, so you can turn to her or experts on her team and ask about their prospects’ beliefs, desires, feelings, and concerns.

In addition, there are expensive market research reports published on many major markets such as telecom and health care. You cannot afford them and are not expected to buy them. But if your client has one of these studies, ask him to share it with you.

Become an observer and student of human behavior. For instance, if your client’s target market is teenagers, watch them interact with one another at the mall.

Talk to as many people as you can…difficult for me because I am an introvert.

Another good idea: have your client survey their list. Ask 5 to 7 questions that reveal what’s on their minds. Use Survey Monkey.

I probably left out a few other ways to understand your client’s target market, but I can’t think of what those might be. Any suggestions?

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

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