After Positioning, Market Research is the single most valuable action you can take as a freelancer to get more clients.
Once you know how your target market is suffering or outcomes they’re looking for, you’ll be able to identify how you can help them improve their condition through application of your skill, methodology, intelligence, etc.
If you know someone works in the dental industry and wants to get more clients, you can offer them a solution tailored to helping dentists get more clients. Ditto any ‘Target Market’ + ‘Expensive Problem’ combination you can come up with.
Reader Ben F. writes in with a wonderful question about Market Research for Consultants
I’m finding my target market on websites and social media, but I have real trouble finding forums/discussion boards that the buyers (business owners, etc.) are participating in. For Market Research, should I be looking towards Slack/LinkedIn groups? Web based discussion boards? (I’m looking to research my prospects in my target market and the challenges they’re facing). How would I go about doing this for a specialized industry?
Great question, Ben! (And remember, if you have a question about marketing for freelancers you can just hit email me and ask me — I read every email I get and respond to 90% of them).
First off, this is the right approach to Market Research. Once you’ve identified your target market / niche (aka ‘positioning’), you want to engage in market research to learn the pains and problems your target market is experiencing and the outcomes they’re searching for.
Ben is headed in the right direction and asking the right questions in terms of market research:
- Find out what problems they’re experiencing
- See what problems they discuss in online communities, Slacks, LinkedIn groups, etc.
- Refine your understanding of these problems through conversations with Business Owners in that industry
Now, Ben is targeting a specialized industry, one where it may be harder to find communities of people to research. In those cases, I recommend a three-pronged tactic of:
- Outreach to Business Owners. Identify 10-20 business owners in your target market, maybe in your town and maybe located elsewhere, and reach out to them to set up a short meeting to learn about their business
- Referrals to Business Owners. Similar to the above, except we’re reaching out to colleagues, friends, past clients, etc. and asking if they know anyone who is in our target market that we can talk with (creating a referrable moment: https://kaidavis.com/referrable-moments/)
- Conference Outreach. Find a conference (or three) in your industry and identify people who are speaking at or attending this conference. Then, reach out to 10-20 of these individuals to see if you can chat with them about the industry as a whole as part of your market research.
By adding in direct outreach to people in your target market, you make it easier to learn about the pains and problems they’re experiencing as business owners. By tapping into the power of your network to get referrals, you get connected with new people you didn’t even know you could connect with. By looking at conferences that your target market is attending, you discover more people to reach out to and discover problems the industry is facing.