Do You Really Need to Pay for Customer Research?

Do you know how your customers find you? Can you list the problems you help them solve? What about your customers’ income level and educational backgrounds? Whether they use iPhones or Androids? Their favorite coffee shops? Where they vacation in the summer?

This may seem like way more information than you’d ever need to know, but these are the types of details some freelance web copywriters ask for before writing website copy for your brand.

Some businesses invest in expensive market research to know their customers inside and out and find answers to questions like these. But if you’re a small business with a limited budget, you may be thinking, ‘Is all that really necessary? Can’t I just tell you what I’m selling and you write about it?’

It’s a fair question. And while I can’t answer it for you, I’m going to do my best to help you answer it for yourself. Read on to learn more about when and how to save on customer research, and what you really need to know about your customers before hiring a freelance web copywriter.

What Is Customer Research?

Anytime you hire a professional copywriter, they’re (hopefully) going to start by asking you about your target audience. Before they can write content that engages your customers, a writer needs to understand who they’re talking to and what kind of information the audience really needs and wants to know.

Customer research helps you uncover that important information about your audience. Customer research can include:

  • Online surveys
  • Focus groups
  • One-on-one interviews
  • Data analytics
  • Competitor research
  • And more!

A lot of times, customer research will be compiled and presented in buyer personas. Personas are fictional characters based on real trends in your customer base. They’re often assigned a name and maybe even a photo, then given biographical information, like a job, income level, and education.

Personas also consider the big picture stuff that’s so important: What problems do they have that you solve? What goals are they trying to accomplish and why?

Customer research and buyer personas allow your freelance web copywriter to get inside of your customer’s head, then keep those customers front and center as they plan and write content to engage them.

If you want to hire an expert to conduct this research and create buyer personas for you, you can—but be prepared to make an investment.

When to Invest in the Best Customer Research

Because the techniques used in customer research can vary widely, it’s impossible for me to say exactly what you’ll spend on customer research if you decide to invest in the very best.

Vernon Research Group says U.S. businesses can expect to spend between $15,000 and $35,000 for quantitative consumer research (like online surveys). Qualitative research can run your bill up even further, with focus groups costing $4,000 to $6,000 and interviews running about $300 per session.

For most of the small businesses I’ve worked with, this type of investment is simply out of the question.

However, this may be something to pursue further if…

  • You have a lot of data available and need someone to help you make sense of it all. (Think website and social analytics or big customer lists with lots of data points.)
  • You have a complex customer base with varied challenges and needs.
  • You’re a large company that has to get a lot of employees (and content creators) on the same page concerning who you’re serving and how you’re going to serve them.
  • You’re already planning to invest in general market research, which can include customer research.

As a web copywriter, I can tell you that there really are benefits to knowing a lot of details about your customer. (Yes, even small details like the coffee they drink and where they vacation.)

The more I know about your customers, the more I can write content that connects with your audience and engages them. I can make them feel seen, known, and liked by your brand, which is a powerful way to build positive (and profitable) relationships with your customers.

But your copywriter isn’t the only one who will find market research useful. You can also use findings to identify new niches, inspire products or services, improve your customer service experience, and more.

If customer research fits your budget, then hiring experts to conduct it can really pay off. But for many small businesses, that’s just not possible.

How to Save Money on Customer Research

Most small businesses that can’t afford customer research either put it off until they can afford it or just ignore it altogether.

While I certainly don’t think you should spend your life savings on customer research, I also don’t think avoidance is the only alternative. There are several ways you can conduct some customer research on your own to discover important information about your target audience and save serious cash in the process.

Here are a few of my money-saving tips for customer research:

Tip #1: Start with what you know.

Start by brainstorming what you already know about your customers. And write that information down! In my Project Prep survey, I ask clients several questions about their target audience. No, I don’t ask about preferred coffee drinks. But I do ask about customers’ demographics, priorities and goals, favorite brands, and current path to finding the client.

Without spending a dollar on customer research, many of my clients know those answers and can share their impressions with me. Often, that’s all I need to write compelling copy. And if I still have questions, I can follow up or help them conduct some more informal research to dig deeper.

Tip #2: Browse what’s available to you online.

Even if you’re fairly confident in your impressions of your customers, you can always learn more by listening to your target audience. And in many cases, you don’t even have to ask them any questions! That’s because tons of valuable insights are available for free online.

Sites like Quora and Reddit allow people to ask questions on a wide variety of content. Browse the categories and threads relevant to your industry to look for common themes or questions your company is uniquely positioned to answer.

Online reviews can also reveal valuable customer insights for free. Check Google, Yelp, Amazon, and Facebook for reviews of your company and your competitors. How did people describe their positive experiences? What about the negative experiences?

All of this information is easily accessible and valuable. What your target audience is saying online can reveal big pain points your company can speak to in your copy and may even inspire specific phrasing that will resonate with your target audience.

Tip #3: Just ask!

If you still have questions about your target audience, fill in the knowledge gaps with a simple customer survey. This doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.

Tools like Typeform and Survey Monkey make it easy to create a survey and share it with your email list or social media followers. You can further increase the likelihood people will respond by offering an incentive or personally asking some of your top customers to fill it out.

If you’re working with a copywriter or content writer, make sure you share your responses so they can use them to inspire engaging content that actually generates leads and drives sales for you!

What I Need As Your Web Copywriter

As a freelance copywriter, I’ve worked with brands all over the customer research spectrum. Some come with polished branding guides and creative buyer personas. Others are brand new startups unsure of how to answer even simple questions about their target audience.

No matter where you are on that spectrum, my job is to find out what you know and use that to write compelling web copy that sells. As a general rule, the more you can tell me about your customers, the better. But that doesn’t mean you need to rush out and invest in customer research you can’t afford.

In my Project Prep process, I’ll prompt you to share what you know. And if I’m left with important questions, we can discuss those and consider together whether it’s worth your time to conduct further research and how you can do that in a way that fits your budget.

Now that you’re thinking about who your target audience is, it’s time to consider whether your website is actually driving sales with that audience. Click here for your free download, “5 Signs Your Website Copy Is Costing You Sales.”

In it, you’ll find simple steps you can take to make sure your website is making you money… so one day, you may be able to afford that fancy customer research after all!

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