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Customer Research: Why Mining for Your Ideal Client’s Problem Language is Like Panning for Gold

You are staring at your computer screen. You are wondering where to go next with your ideal client profile, but you’re not 100% sure what you are supposed to be looking for.

You know your ideal client. You have an idea of what her problem is, and how to solve this problem. The issue is: what words does she use to describe her pain and or problem?

And, where does she hang out or go looking for answers online to solve her pain?

You have reached the stage in your business planning – or the Audience Business Masterclass program – where you need to scour the internet looking for words or phrases that your client would use to describe their pain or problem.

You’re overwhelmed by the whole task.

You’re much like the novice gold miner standing knee deep in the cold river, pan in hand as you gently swirl water around the bits of gravel, wondering if you will recognize that hidden flicker of gold.

Like the gold miner, you’re immersed in the search, but not completely confident that you’re in the right place, or if the bits you have found are the gems you’re looking for.

Fool’s Gold or the Real Thing?

When I first headed into the internet in search of how my ideal client described her pain or problem, I was sure I knew where to look. Maybe I was even a little cocky, as I knew my client and I was sure I knew what I was looking for.

Instead of finding flecks of gold, I discovered a lot of flashy bits of color that distracted me. I am sure this was similar to what a gold miner felt each time he discovered a bit of fool’s gold and believed it was the real thing.

It was only when I began establishing a relationship with my community that I realised I had to go deeper. I had a lot of fool’s gold, but not the real thing.

How Do You Find the Gold?

Step #1: Keep Returning to Your Ideal Client

I kept asking myself: “Is this really what Karen would say?” “Is this a site Karen would go to?” (Believe me Karen and I have become very close.)

Step #2: Get Yourself Out of the Way!

If you are like me, you think you know best. But when I think I know best, I’m coming from my perspective and my experiences – not from Karen’s. I have to find out how she would describe things from her point of view, not mine. It’s not always easy to put the ego aside.

Step #3: Put Yourself in Her Shoes

Once you move your ego aside, you can more easily put yourself in your client’s shoes. You have to get to that place where you will know intuitively where she will go looking for help. You will also know which words she will use to talk about her situation, and intuitively you’ll know which words and phrases to select.

Step #4: Go Deeper

If your client is using the words “stuck” or “helpless”, then search the surrounding words to see if there are clues as to why she feels stuck or helpless. Should you be fortunate enough to be in communication with this individual, you can ask questions that will go deeper in help clarify what she is trying to say.

Step #5: Build a Stockpile of Phrases

Create a Google doc, or a Word doc, or write it down by hand. Whatever method you choose, develop a stockpile of words and phrases that your ideal client is using. Then, use it to tease out the gems in your future research. This is time consuming but very valuable.

When you have a large enough database of phrases, you can be more selective in creating your list. But a large database of words and phrases, or even whole questions, can also help you see a bigger picture. Maybe you’ll find different perspectives or issues related to the problem that you hadn’t thought of before.

Step #6: Sort Your Stockpile of Phrases Into Themes

Don’t get too carried away and create a theme for each new idea. I did that and ended up with over 20. Too many! Take your time and find the thread that weaves several of the ideas together to create a bigger picture.

Step #7: Reiterate

Look at what you have created up to this point and see if it matches what you found on your mining expedition. When I reached this point, I looked back and thought, “No, this isn’t a reflection of what I found, nor does it reflect my original idea.”

I wasn’t afraid to stop, rework, edit, and modify the copy I had written on my website to reflect these new insights. After all, I want my website and marketing to reflect the best of what I can offer – and I’m sure you do too!

 The Results of My Mining Expedition!

 Taking the time to go back, dig deeper and refine my website and my marketing has paid off in tangible ways. My gold came shining through in the following ways:

  • My writing is more precise.
  • I have increased my opt-in rate.
  • I have an average of a 45% open rate for my emails.
  • I have significantly increased my views on various sites.

I also stopped and made changes along the way, which turned out to be very helpful. I recommend that you do the same. Sometimes, the only way to know if you’ve found the words or phrases that resonate with your client is to test them out!

Finding Real Gold

Now that I know what I’m looking for, finding my ideal client’s problem language is a lot easier than it used to be. If you haven’t done this research yet, don’t be afraid to go back and do it now. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to go back and do this work multiple times – the view is much different the second time around.

Doing the research took a lot of time and frustration, but the results were worth it. I’m sure that’s what motivated gold miners to stand in freezing streams and pan for gold.

How did you research your ideal client’s problem language? Do you have any tips or tricks to share? I’d love to read them in the comments below and so would your fellow Firepole readers!

About Carolynne Melnyk

Carolynne Melnyk is a coach, mentor and workshop facilitator with over 25 years experience helping others. She uses the 3 Principles as foundation for helping people who feel let down by life to find inner solutions to outer situations. This process helps them reclaim their innate joy, peace and contentment. She can be found at Living Life in Joy.

13 thoughts on “Customer Research: Why Mining for Your Ideal Client’s Problem Language is Like Panning for Gold

  1. Carolynne –
    great post. I am still amazed when I speak to clients who haven’t done this – a profile of their ideal client, where they would seek info answers online to their problems [or in my case, I ask what publications or blogs they read], as well as their specific language to describe themselves and their challenges.

    A simple survey has been my best tool – people are really happy that you are interested in them, and freely share their challenges, suggestions…If you use multiple choice, be sure to have one text box so they can add input in their own words [then you can just copy and paste those into your marketing pieces!]

    • Hi Jane,
      Thank so much for your support. I admit that the first time I did the research I was floundering, but since then I am hitting gold.

      I like your idea of a survey that will be next on my list to mine. Thanks!

  2. Building a stockpile of phrases and putting them into themes is a great tool. It helps keep you on track for whatever you are writing or speaking about. This also enables you to go deeper into finding the ‘key words’ that trigger responses.

    • Virginia, thanks so much for your comment and support. Having the phrases organized in themes and, in some cases, sub themes makes it very easy to access. Words at your finger tips.

  3. Nicely explained, Carolynne. I love #2. We actually make it harder for ourselves when we try to “guess” what our clients want and need. If we stay tuned in, we realize they’re sending us messages all the time—in emails, in conversations, in blog comments… Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Adrianne,
      Sometimes we just get in our own way and sometimes it is difficult to get beyond that. Getting in touch with our clients at a deeper level helps one see things from their perspective. From this point of view it is easier to be of assistance.

  4. Thanks for the insights. I particularly resonate with #4 – I find a lot of people using “generalized” terms (e.g. stuck, helpless) when they first talk about their problems but if they see those terms on a sales page they don’t feel like you truly understand their problems. I also find that if you talk to people who have done some research on the internet (i.e. read a few sales page using the same “language”) they start regurgitating the same generalized terms back to you without realizing that it’s not even their own words! Skillfully asking questions to get to the core of their issues is important to get to the “gold.”

    • Hi ling,
      Thanks for your insightful comment. You are so right about not regurgitating the same general terms. I don’t resonate with a general label, therefore I don’t expect my clients to either. Ask the questions and dig deeper for gold.

  5. You offer a “gold mine” of great advice in this post, Carolynne. I’m right in the middle of this kind of research as I work my way through Lesson 3 of ABM. Your additional perspective is very helpful in keeping me on the right track. Thank you.

    • Sometime people hide behind general labels so they don’t have to get specific, dig into their circumstances and face the truth. When my clients dole out these regurgitated terms I challenge them and it often turns into a important turning point for them.

      • Hey ling,
        Thanks for this additional gem. Yes, general labels are a great place to hide. I know that I have used them as hiding places. Many times we don’t even realise that we are hiding. That is why it is important to keep digging with challenging questions.

  6. I’ve found some good language in the paid ads of others promoting to my niche, and in their (often excellent) promotional videos. This forces me to differentiate my own services, too.

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