You have an idea. You’ve been tossing it around in your head. Maybe even sharing it with your friends and family. And the more you think about it, the more excited you get. This could actually be the start of something!

You know you need to do some ‘research’, but where do you start?

Here’s some tips on how to tap into your potential customers through forums, and learn more about their needs.  Needs that, hopefully, you can help to solve

1.GET CLEAR ON WHAT YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND

Before launching into a forum and asking questions, take the time to simply write down the objective of your research.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll refer back to it regularly.

As a starting point, try this simple exercise to get you going.

Don’t overthink it.

Fill in the blanks

Right now, I don’t know (insert your problem/knowledge gap) .

As a result, I (what is this problem stopping you from doing?).

When I know more, I’ll (describe what you’ll be able to do next)

Here’s some examples

Right now, I don’t know the biggest challenges bloggers have.  As a result, I’m not sure how to prioritise my service to them. When I know more, I’ll be able to focus on addressing the biggest blogger pain points.

Right now, I don’t know if and why women find it hard to buy clothes. As a result, I can’t decide whether to offer a service that helps women buy clothes. When I know more, I’ll be able to design a service to make clothes buying a better experience.

Right now, I don’t know what “healthy eating” means to others.  As a result, I can’t decide how to describe my organic food business. When I know more, I’ll be one step closer to ensuring I use every day language that is understood by many.

2. DEFINE WHO YOU WANT TO TALK TO

Now that you’ve got your objective clear, let’s define who you want to talk to.

Look back at what you just did, and have a go at writing a description of your participants.

Get very specific about the type of person you want to better understand. The clearer you can get, the better the quality of insights.

Here’s some examples

I’m looking for bloggers with less than 500 followers.

I’m looking for women aged 25 – 55 who are interested in fashion

I’m looking for people who are interested in healthy eating

3. SPEND TIME IN THEIR WORLD

When it comes to testing new ideas, it’s common to gravitate to a survey. And yes, surveys can work really well. But, if you don’t have an existing list of people to email your survey to, another option is to gather insights through social media niche groups and general forums.

Niche groups on social media are everywhere.

A great place to start is Facebook groups. Do a search based on keywords or topics of interest your target audience has. If you’re focused on specific geographic locations, specify that in your search to narrow down the options. Join as many groups as you can and be an active contributor in the community to start building rapport.

Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn also present opportunities to immerse yourself in the world of your potential customer.

Then there’s specialised forums outside of social media platforms.

Start visiting forums outside of social media. In Australia there’s many attached to specific interests:

Looking for mums/parents or parents to be? Try Essential Baby or BubHub

Looking to run your idea by fellow small business owners? Try Flying Solo

Want to immerse yourself in the world of Sports fans? Try BigFooty or Netrider.

Looking more generally ? Try Ozbargin or Whirlpool

Remember, these are *just* in Australia – don’t forget to explore your idea internationally as well if you think there might be variations in attitudes.

Now you’ve found your forum, put it to use

Once you’ve established yourself in a forum, it’s time to:

  1. Undertake a detailed search using relevant keywords of the problem or topic of interest. See what discussions have already been held about the issue, to give you a sense of a) just how common the problem really is and b) what people are doing to address the problem.
  2. You can then post about the problem you believe exists (that you have the solution to) and see if others share the same challenge, and what advice they give to address it. This can help you determine if you’ve identified a genuine need that others have and learn how people resolve the issue today.
  1. With permission of the site administrators, consider posting a survey link (more about creating surveys in our next blog post), inviting forum members to volunteer their time to help you out. You can read about my experiences doing surveys in forums here.
  2. And if you’re using Facebook, don’t forget the wonderful poll feature. Simply create a new post, and select poll. Add in your options, and ask your question.

Encourage people to add options you haven’t thought of – it’s a great way to ensure you’re getting the broader perspective of your target market.

THERE’S A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITY OUT THERE

And there you have it – some simple tips to get you on your way to validating your idea through forums. If you’re keen to create a survey for a forum, check out our post here.

And when you’ve created your survey, run it through our Survey Review – it’s quick and free. Before you send it out, we’ll give it a once over for the most common survey problems. A fantastic survey makes for a great experience for your participants, and better data for you so you can make confident decisions.

It’s super easy – answer a couple of questions here and we’ll check your survey for everything from grammar, wording, answer categories, length, style, look, and feel. And most importantly, we’ll evaluate if your survey answers the issues you’re trying to understand.

33 ways to learn more about your customers

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