There are multiple ways to try and understand your audience. But the best way usually comes from direct interaction with your customers. There is also the issue of cost. Before the digital age, most of the research had to be done manually with pen and paper as people you employee would seek out your customers and try to get feedback or recommendations. This was usually an expensive endeavour, especially for larger projects and would require a large budget.
This is generally what most marketers come to think of when they say market research. However, that does not need to be the case. With the internet, you can now use platforms to try and understand people’s interests by identifying them on certain behaviors, using target methods to reach out to people could be your client, and through online survey forms that let you reach people wherever they may be in the world.
Ask Your Network
The cheapest and possibly the easiest way (depending on your personality) would be to ask your network. Look for people that fit the target you want to address and find out what they think about the product service you are offering.
Analyze Your Current Customers
Your own data, if you have the benefit of already operating a site, look at the type of visitors you are getting. Link your site with google analytics to be able to take a deep look into the demographics and usage tools of your visitors
Utilize Your Social Media Following
Social media now contains a wealth of information available for those who know where to look. Find a couple of people who are following you (or would follow you) and follow the trail to see what other handles they follow to get a good gauge of interests. Check out which groups they are part of. Check Quora to see what questions are being asked on your topics and how people are responding.
Run surveys, either through your own website, through providers like survey monkey, or through in-person or telephone interviews. The price range can vary vastly depending on the channel but a well crafted questionnaire to capture their goals, values, and key pain points when it comes to dealing with your niche. The information gathered here will be vital for the formation of the unique value proposition that you will provide to these personas.
Look through your competitors in the industry and see the groups that they are targeting as well as the type of people that are engaging with their content. This could be helpful if you are starting out and do not have any of your own user data.
Just enough to get started
There are a multitude of ways to get information regarding the market to define your target personas. You can bootstrap with your small network or engage with large agencies with huge budgets to get the information. It’s a matter of what you need at that moment. However, using some of the resources outlined here, you don’t need a large budget to start testing a proof of concept. You can start small test it out and when your revenue increases, engage with the larger agencies to test other markets.