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Effective customer research is an important process for your business. There are a number of ways to perform this accurately. If you are just starting out in business, there are certain things you can look for in order to determine whether you have chosen a paying niche or not.

If you have been in business for some time but not getting the results you hoped for, chances are you might have skimped on your research and it would be a good idea to dig a bit deeper.

1. Know Your Niche

What are the top websites and blogs your target customers visit? What are they looking for? What do they comment on and share?

2. Know Their Needs

What kinds of products and services does your typical customer need to buy regularly? For example, if they are a dog owner, they need food, treats, collars, leashes, grooming aids and so on. If they are a cat owner, they need food, treats, toys and so on. How often do they need to buy these things?

Knowing their sales cycle means offering them the right items at the right price. If you’re not sure, ask. You can easily create polls, surveys, and so on at Facebook, SurveyMonkey and more.

3. Assess Your Main Competitors

What are they selling, at what price point, and where? Read reviews of the items being purchased, such as at Amazon. What do the five-star reviews praise? What do the lower-star reviews complain about? If you were going to create a similar product yourself, how could you improve upon what is already available?

4. Research Carefully at Amazon

There are a number of ways to research at Amazon. The first is to look up the bestsellers in your niche. What are the top 20 items? What does each tell you about the needs of your audience?

Next, conduct a search based on your niche, and keywords related to your niche. What are the top products?

Your third search will be related to books and ebooks about the topic. Are there only a few, or is there a large number? This will give you an idea of whether the niche you are working in is a paying market. The titles can also help you determine your target audience’s real needs and concerns.

Run a fourth search for magazines related to your niche. If there are any, it is a good sign that it’s a paying market. People will be willing to buy the magazine, and advertisers will be willing to run ads in the magazine, so the niche must be profitable.

5. Research Forums, Discussion Boards and Groups

See if there are any forums, discussion boards and groups related to your niche, such as at Yahoo! Groups or Facebook. See what they are chatting about in terms of their issues, and what they are buying as solutions to their problems.

6. Check Trends

All the top social media sites have a trends section. See what’s hot, and if you can tap into it in relation to your content, products and services.

7. Check the Thought Leaders in Your Niche

Connect with the thought leaders related to your niche and follow them. See what people are discussing and plan content and products in relation to it.

These seven strategies will give you a solid foundation for completing effective customer research. When you truly understand your customer, you can develop products and services to meet their needs.

Do you have some questions about marketing your business online but don’t know who to ask? Why not ask me? I can help you with both strategy and implementation to make your business more profitable and more popular. We can do this together in 75 minutes; though my whiteboard session. Learn more about it!