Find Your Market’s Pain Points: 5 Proven Online Research Techniques

markets pain points
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“To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal ideas from many is research.”

Wilson Mizner, playwright, raconteur, and entrepreneur

How many times have you been told that you need to “get inside your customer’s head” to be able to sell successfully on the web? Countless times, no doubt.

But what exactly does “getting inside your customer’s head” mean? Simply put, it means that you need to understand the problems your market is facing and, more importantly, the solutions they’re actively looking for – what has motivated them to jump on the net and do a Google search, or direct navigate to a website about X topic.

A lot of internet marketers simply guess at what their market is looking for. They think, “Well I feel this way, so everyone must, too.” This is known as the false consensus effect in psychology. Anyone who dives into a market using this approach and still makes money is just LUCKY. Most dive in and lose a lot of money – whether they are affiliate marketers, information marketers, or small business owners.

Even experts aren’t immune to the false consensus effect. Glenn Livingston is a successful internet marketer with a Ph.D. in psychology – but before getting into IM he had a disastrous foray into the market for airline industry conference centers. As he says, he learned from that to always “do your frigging research”.

Knowing the solutions our market is searching for can lead to a bunch of great things. It can help you to:

  • Create products or services that solve our market’s problems with laser precision
  • Write Google ads that get 20% click-through-rates
  • Write email subject lines that get a 50% open rate
  • Write landing page copy that converts to sales at 5%, or leads at 25%

So how do you home in on your market’s pain points? You do it two ways: by asking them (duh…), and by observing them in their natural environment. Put on your safari suit and let’s dive in.

5 Laser-Targeted Ways to Find Your Market’s Problems

3 Ways To Ask Your Market About Their Problems

This sounds dead obvious, but one of the best ways to find out what people want is to ask them. You’d be surprised by how many organizations overlook this! There are lots of companies that have customer databases but still make business decisions based on the “gut” of their senior execs. Don’t fall into that trap – the most successful organizations are driven by research and analysis.

1. Survey your market using Google Adwords (or Yahoo or MSN)

The quickest way to find out what your market is desperate for is to set up a simple survey page and drive traffic to it from PPC ads on Google or another search engine. This technique is especially good for markets that you aren’t in, but are considering entering.

Here are the steps, in a nutshell:

a. Set up an account with an online survey provider, like Survey Gizmo or Survey Monkey. (I prefer Survey Gizmo.)

b. Design a one-page survey that’s attached to your website. So, for example, the URL of your survey would be Make sure you include a link to your homepage at the very bottom of the survey page.

I recommend that you make the survey a page on your website to satisfy the Google Quality Score gods – when Google’s spider crawls your survey page it will find the rest of your site, and you’ll get a better QS than one-page websites get.

c. Keep the number of questions on the survey page to a minimum – 3 to 5 questions. To get at your market’s pain points, ask these two questions:

“What is your most important question about X?”
“How difficult has it been to find this information on the Internet?”

The first question is obviously crucial; the second question is also essential because it gets at respondents’ intensity of desire. When analyzing your data you’ll want to focus on information that is very difficult to find – but that people desperately want.

d. If you are doing the survey to test the viability of a new market, do NOT follow the best practices in landing page design. In other words, you want the survey page to be butt-ugly. Why? To test the true responsiveness of the market. If you’re able to get a decent completion rate on a survey page that looks amateurish and ugly, you can be more confident that you’ve found a market with unsatisfied needs.

e. Drive traffic to the survey page by placing ads on Google search. (I haven’t tried this on the content network yet – would be interested in hearing from anyone who has.)

Your bid optimization strategy will depend on how competitive the market is, and therefore how expensive clicks are. In competitive markets (i.e. markets with expensive CPC) markets, bid to get your ad in positions 6 – 8.

In less competitive markets, bid for positions 1 – 3. Believe it or not, these markets still do exist, and it’s possible to get clicks below $0.10 on Google search. I completed a survey campaign in one of those markets in December 2008 – my average CPC was $0.08.

f. Once you’ve collected enough survey responses, analyze the data. Sort the responses by difficulty in finding answers – in other words, focus on the responses where people said it has been “very difficult” to find answers.

This is just an overview of the steps, of course. If you want the full-meal-deal check out Glenn Livingston’s course.

2. Survey Your Market On Your Squeeze Page

This is a technique that I’ve been trying out lately, and it’s getting good results. Basically it involves placing one survey question in the opt-in box on your squeeze page. So the opt-in box has three fields: first name, email address, and the survey question.

In my case I’m including the question “What’s your most important question about X?”

What’s awesome about this technique is that you’re asking a person what’s on their mind at the very moment they’re opting in to your list! I’ve found this information really useful in writing autoresponder messages and promoting affiliate offers to my lists – because I know exactly what my subscribers are looking for.

3. Survey Site Visitors on Your “Thank You” Page

If you’re building an opt-in list, this is something you need to implement TODAY.

Most people neglect one of the most important pieces of real estate on their website – the “thank you” page that follows an opt-in (or a sale). It’s crucial to keep in mind that when people opt in to your list (or, even better, buy something from you), it represents a psychological commitment in their mind. They’re temporarily opening themselves up to you – and you can take advantage of that opening by asking them what’s on their minds.

I also have a two-question survey on my thank you page, asking subscribers what their most important question is about X topic, and how hard it’s been to find an answer to that question on the Internet.

2 Ways You Can Spy On Your Market’s Problems

It’s not always necessary to ask your market what their problems are. And sometimes, even when you ask them they won’t tell you – or they won’t be able to explain it to you in simple language.

In cases where you can’t (or don’t want to) do a survey, here are two proven ways to infer the problems your market is struggling with.

4. Keyword Research: Look for “Pain” Keywords

A quick way to figure out your market’s problems is to use keyword qualifiers when doing keyword research.

A “qualifier” is a keyword that a searcher adds to their root keyword to refine their search. As an example:

“Acne” = root keyword

“How to cure” = qualifier keywords

Keywords with multiple qualifiers make up the long tail of search. What you want to look for is long-tail keywords that imply serious problems.

A simple technique I use is to go into the Keyword Universe in WordTracker and type in some problem-related keyword qualifiers. Here are a few qualifiers:

  • how to
  • build
  • learn
  • make
  • pros and cons
  • diy
  • remedy
  • problems
  • cure
  • natural
  • questions
  • embarrassing

A quick search in WordTracker using the keyword qualifier “natural remedies” resulted in these keywords (I’m only showing the top thirty here):

  • natural remedies
  • natural home remedies
  • alternative natural therapies medicine remedies nz health
  • natural remedies for throat candida
  • natural health remedies
  • natural remedies for aphids
  • natural flea remedies
  • natural remedies for depression
  • natural remedies for arthritis
  • natural remedies for constipation
  • natural remedies for hot flashes
  • natural remedies for high blood pressure
  • natural acne remedies
  • neuropathy, natural remedies
  • natural remedies for erectile dysfunction
  • natural remedies for acid reflux
  • natural allergy remedies
  • natural remedies for dogs who have heartworms
  • natural remedies for gout
  • arthritis natural remedies
  • natural remedies for strep throat
  • natural yard remedies for fleas
  • natural remedies for stomach  cancerr
  • natural remedies for menopause
  • mosquito bites natural remedies
  • natural remedies for asthma
  • natural remedies for growing hair
  • natural weight loss remedies

Once you have a list like this, the next step is to copy and paste the list into Google’s keyword tool (never take WordTracker’s volume data at face value – their numbers are a fraction of true traffic volume). This will give you an idea of which keywords get decent traffic and are worth pursuing.

5. Browse Niche Forums and “Problems” Websites

Many internet marketers spend time on forums – asking questions, answering questions, and just soaking up the glories of being an internet marketer J But did you know that there are tons of non-IM forums that get huge traffic?

Take some time to check out BoardReader. On that site you can browse stats for the most popular forums on the web. Before stumbling on BoardReader, I had no idea how many different kinds of forums are getting huge traffic. Here’s an example of a popular forum, according to BoardReader:

Forum name:
Topic: Paintball
Posts in the last week: 3,242

So how can you capitalize on a forum like this? How about using the search box in the forum to search for posts that use words like “problem” or “help”? If you’re interested in the paintball market, spending just ten minutes searching for problem-related posts would give you tons of ideas.

In addition to niche-specific forums, there are also sites dedicated solely to problems – health problems, pet problems, you name it. These are great sources of market intelligence – sites where you can get an idea of the common struggles that people are grappling with. These sites are even easier to use to find the problems people are having – because that’s all they deal with!

Here are a couple of “problem” sites:

Embarrassing Problems

And make sure to research “problem” sites that are related to your niche (for example, see the long list of health problems at Holistic Online).

I hope these 5 online research techniques are useful to you. For a great resource on how to produce information products for “desperate” audiences, check out Alexis Dawes’ Desperate Buyers Only (ignore the cheesy payment screenshots on Alexis’ sales page. I bought the book and it’s good).

If you know of any other useful tools or sites for finding a market’s “pain” points, please leave a comment below!

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