Here’s my story
Paragraph #1 that employers have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite soft skills. But what if employers are looking for soft skills and are not seeing them? The vast majority of mid-size and large employers in the US, UK and Canada utilize Applicant Tracking Systems.
Highlighted sentences #1 here are more employers that claim soft skills are hard to find than hard skills
Paragraph #2 Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) make it possible for employers to post new positions online and manage the hundreds of applicants who typically respond to each opportunity. No human hiring manager reviews hundreds of applications.
Paragraph #3 instead, the ATS produces a manageable number of viable candidates for the hiring manager to review. How does the ATS do this? It’s not magic, but rather a keyword-based filter, comparing resumes to the posted job description, and passing through candidates who appear to be a better match.
Paragraph #4 The keyword-based filter at the top of the hiring funnel of most employers has a number of interesting knock-on effects. One is the phenomenon of resume spam: candidates who literally copy the job description in white font into their resume in order to get past the screen. A second is an over-emphasis on technical skills.
Paragraph #5 Faced with the need to differentiate hundreds candidates for every online posting, employers have added many new job requirements most of which are technical.
Highlighted sentences #2 According to Burning Glass, technical skills now dominate in terms of the sheer number of competencies demanded in job descriptions more than cognitive and soft skills combined for virtually every career.
Paragraph #6 While the dominance of technical skills in job descriptions is probably a reflection of the fact that it’s easier to come up with 10 technical requirements for a job than 10 different ways of saying problem solving or communication skills, this is the reality Millennials face in being seen by hiring managers. Because if they don’t have these technical skills, they’re not making it through the ATS filter. And if they’re not making through the ATS filter, they’re effectively invisible to employers.
Paragraph #7 Does this mean there’s a soft skills shortage or that Millennials are all late, disorganized poor communicators? The punctual, organized and well-spoken Millennials whom employers should want have played by the rules and completed college degrees.
Paragraph #8 But because nearly all colleges and universities continue to live in a bubble, floating high above the mundane concerns of the labor market, and because they continue to believe that the job of higher education is to prepare students for their fifth job.
Paragraph #9 Colleges have not seriously undertaken to provide last mile technical training to students. So all these Millennials are missing.
Highlighted sentences #3 The first is giving all Millennials a chance to become visible to employers through last-mile technical training
Paragraph #10 The second is that employers need to escape the tyranny of the keyword-based filter at the top of their hiring funnel. Employers need to demand that their ATS vendors like Taleo (Oracle) incorporate new technologies that allow them to screen (and search) on competencies rather than keywords.
Paragraph #11 The shift to competency-based hiring is inevitable and will broaden the top of the funnel to include candidates with great soft skills, and likely more diverse backgrounds than the current pedigree- and degree-based hiring system allows.
Highlighted sentences #4 Gyroscope founder Anand Sharma seems pretty content when we meet up for a walk to The Mill, a hip cafe known for its $4 toast in San Francisco’s NOPA neighborhood. It’s a rare sunny day in the city and his startup is growing.
Paragraph #12 His self-tracking platform with a sleek UI has added a genetics and step tracking component and soon blood tracking. He’s also closed on a small sum of angel funding from key investors like Periscope founder Keyvon Beykpour.
Paragraph #13 Even Jack Dorsey has started using Gyroscope, he tells me. Sharma’s worked for well over two years! He called it AprilZero then but the idea grew to include friends and soon anyone who wanted to track themselves on a range of different metrics relating to health and wellness.
Paragraph #14 The plan now includes where you go, what you eat, how many times you go running in a year and how much time you spend staring at the screen in front of you.
Paragraph #15 The platform seems like an outgrowth of the quantified self movement a movement pairing technology with personal data to help you improve your life in some mental or physical way. But Sharma shrugs off the suggestion.
Paragraph #16 I don’t like to place myself in that category, he says. Mainly because those guys are little weird. He’s not wrong. The movement, also known as life logging, conjures up images of folks wearing six different health tracking bands, sensors on their heads and measuring every little detail of their actions in every part of their life for what sometimes is very unclear.
Paragraph #17 But Sharma, whom we’ve written about before when he was just getting started, has shaped the platform up quite a bit since starting out. Gyroscope is in the App Store now!
Paragraph #18 He has thought about productivity components like how much time you spend surfing the internet each day and added a bit of a competitive enhancement to the platform, allowing you to compare how many steps you took compared to your friends on the platform.
Paragraph #19 He’s also launching a feature this summer called Insights, an AI component that aims to help you make connections between certain behaviors and what you log on the platform. Sharma tells me it would work by drawing these connections and then sending push notifications to motivate and remind those using Gyroscope to do something relating to their goals.
Hot, Hungry and Hurting
Marketing is so much like fishing I often wonder if fishermen actually make better entrepreneurs. The analogy is almost too perfect.
As with marketing products and services to a target audience, to catch a fish, I need to do some planning.
I’ll need to know WHERE I’m going to fish. I can choose a pond, river, lake, stream or ocean to name the obvious choices. Further, if I choose to fish in a lake, for example, I then need to decide which lake I will pursue. There are thousands to choose from.
This choice of location is going to affect what kind of fish I potentially catch. If I want Steel Head Trout, I’ll need to fish in a fresh water stream or river…and not in just any river. The Columbia River on the Washington/Oregon Coast is a good start for that kind of fish.
But then if I head to the Columbia Gorge without the right equipment, it will be a waste of a trip. I’ll need bait, and the right kind. I’ll need the kind that Steel head fall for. I’ll need equipment that will help me catch the kind of fish that puts up a pretty good fight. Since steel-head know how to survive harsh winters, they are some pretty tough opponents.
We would never dream of such an excursion without doing all of that homework. Knowing WHAT we want to catch, WHERE we are going to look; having equipped ourselves with the proper tools and bait. These will all be decisions we will have made in advance.
Imagine grabbing a pole and a line and dropping it into some random body of water and expecting to catch a fish. You might, but it will not be anything like what you could be doing. Now imagine doing that and calling yourself a “professional” fisherman. We would laugh at the angler who had such a preposterous scheme and was convinced he could make a living catching fish that way.
Yet people start businesses like this all the time – especially online businesses.
Just putting up a website with a product you “think” people should buy and then hoping they happen upon your site by accident and purchase it from you is like fishing in a large mud puddle with no bait.
Derek Halpern, famous copywriter and online marketer, once said, “You can’t make everyone happy. When selling, focus on making the right people the happiest they can be.”
This quote sums up the concept of market research quite well because you can’t sell to everyone, nor should you try to. Instead, you go after a specific kind of person. In marketing terms we call this a niche.
If you are wondering if niche marketing works, take a quick look at how the television industry has evolved since its inception. Instead of having a few major networks with thousands of affiliates, we now have thousands of networks – each one targeting a specific topic or niche. We have networks that focus on one area of interest only – whether it be cooking, car racing, old movies, cartoons, game shows, music, programs for babies, hunting, do-it-yourself projects, health and fitness, and many more. This is an example of niche marketing at it’s best.
The same is true for the magazine publishing industry. From the days of general interest publications like LIFE or LOOK, the industry became overwhelmed tens of thousands of with magazines each focusing on a niche , sub-niche or even a micro-sub-niche. Hence the existence of magazines like Coral – with a focus on aquariums for reef species fish. Or publications like Genii Magazine – the industry standard for professional magicians.
Niche marketing is powerful and effective. When honed to reach and capture the proper audience, it can be quite lucrative. Successful niche marketer’s first understand WHO they are reaching before they do anything else.
In fact, to make any business successful – whether online or off, we need to know who we are going to try and sell to. We call this audience our TARGET. And we need to know everything we can find out about our TARGET; what they like, how they talk, where they hang out in large number, what they like to buy, what they hate and what makes them respond; what they are blogging about and posting in forums. We want to know how they talk, what lingo they use and what phrases they type into search engines.
We need to know what we can bait them with. What will make them bite?
A common mistake that new entrepreneurs make is this: they find a product or topic they like and assume that there is a market for it. Or they assume that because there’s something that they personally spend time with there must be someone that would certainly buy it as well. This may be partially true, but the problem is, they leave out an important factor in the equation. While there may be someone willing to buy what you want to sell, the question is, are there enough of them and if there are, so you k now where they are so you can reach them?
What YOU like is not enough of a test in discovering what the masses will buy.
Even what you THINK is a good niche is not scientific enough. I’ve never purchased a tennis racquet, a book about tennis or anything else about the sport because it doesn’t interest me.
But the fact remains that the sport of tennis is a multi-billion dollar industry. So, if given the opportunity to capitalize on it, I might miss an important opportunity if my response was based on personal preferences only.
You see, the real work of market research is rather mathematical and mundane. It’s about numbers, not about what you like or how you feel.
While there is great value for you as a business person in enjoying what you do and having a passionate understanding for your product – that isn’t reason enough to go into business. Successful marketing is about calculating how many people are willing to purchase a product or service that you can get to them. It is not about finding a product that makes you happy (although it may), or one that is fun to sell. This is where most people go wrong.
How many local businesses in your town have you seen go up, only to have them go out of business within a year or two. In most cases, these small businesses don’t last because their operators failed to do their market research. Instead of researching how many people want to buy hot dogs, they decided to go into the hot dog business because they like hot dogs, or they assume there are enough people who will. The problem is that without doing the proper market research, they run the risk of opening their hot dog stand in a neighborhood full of vegetarians and health food enthusiasts. Market research prevents making this mistake.
When we talk about targeting an audience, more specifically, we are more specifically looking for a group of people that are in need, have a problem or in want of something and looking for a solution to that problem or that lack. The more desperate their need is, the hotter the market. The more passionate these people are about what they want, or the more emotional that crowd is about what they need, the more responsive they will be.
Locating the Target
Have you ever looked at a large crowd of people in a football stadium or flown over a city and looked at the rooftops over a sea of neighborhoods, saying to yourself…what if I could get each person out there to just give me a dollar??
I know it’s just a silly fantasy…but it is an interesting principle. If you could get just a little piece of the pie from a gigantic group of people, you could be wealthy. The fact is, the Internet kind of works that way…if you use it correctly.
In other words, imagine if there was a way for you to connect with a large group of people all in one easy to access location. Now imagine if you could gather, or collect all of those people into groups – each group categorized by some problem, passion or pain they have in common. Proper market research essentially does that.
Market Research can be summed up this way:
Locating a group of like minded people who want or need something they are willing to pay for.
The goal is to find a group of people that all are looking for the same solution to a problem they have, then providing that solution to them.
Brilliant marketers look for target audiences that have a problem, are in pain or are passionate about something. (This problem, pain, passion principle works in the offline world as well by the way.)
However, while market research helps us uncover a lot of possible niches, not all of them are always profitable, so our research also has to help us weed out the bad ones.
For example, you could find that there are thousands of people who want free pumpkin pie recipes. The problem with that group is that they are looking for free recipes. But what if we find that there are hundreds of people that are willing to BUY the world’s best pumpkin pie recipe the week before Thanksgiving. Both may be good sized crowds, but one has a better monetary value.
We want to find a target audience that does not need convincing. They need to be already looking for a solution to a problem and are ready to purchase that solution. And, again we want them passionate, emotional or even desperate for a solution.
The reason all this sounds complicated is because it is. At least, it used to be. Remember, technology can be a wonderful thing when you use it correctly.
What used to require months of research, millions of dollars, dozens of focus groups and months of man-hours can now be largely accomplished in minutes or days with Internet technology.
The problem is, most (not just many – but most) marketers skip this critical process either because they don’t know how to do it or they are simply not interested. Many make the mistake of falling in love with a product idea, invention or new business concept before they find out if anyone else is going to fall in love with it.
That could easily be the number one reason why most small businesses fail so quickly.
Without researching, locating and learning about the target market first, you can literally kill a business before it launches. Without this research, marketing efforts will be futile because we will find ourselves mis-communicating with our audience because we don’t know them well enough – or worse yet, we discover they don’t exist. It’s no fun making that discovery AFTER spending money on product development and advertising. It’s better to discover they don’t exist before you spend energy trying to reach them.
What about the product we are selling? Isn’t that important? Yes, but not yet. Not until we know our audience. You may be excited about a great product or idea you want to bring to the world…and you may have one…but hold that thought.
The real work of market research is rather mathematical and mundane. It’s about numbers, not only about what you like or how you feel.
The true entrepreneur does not always look for a product first. He usually looks for a market first. He studies that market and finds out what that market wants. He decides if what that market wants is also something he can be an expert in or at least become an expert in. Finally, he provides what that market wants.
A successful marketer never falls in love with the idea of selling one particular product or service. A successful marketer loves studying people – how they think, what they do, what makes them tick and what it takes to provide what they want. That is the making of true success.
The Internet has created a lot of room for marketing something. You would think there is too much competition for just about every topic, but it isn’t always the case. When you are doing business with the entire planet, you have to examine the global community differently than you would your own local town.
Market research helps us balance the issue regarding global competition. In choosing a hot topic or trend, it is important to remember these two simple equations:
Broader Topic = A Larger Audience = More Competitive Market
Narrow Topic = Smaller Audience = Less Competition
The larger the target is for a market, the more competitive it will be. Some folks stay away from highly competitive markets because they think there is no “room” for them. But the truth is, the amount of “room” that is left is determined by how numerically large that target actually is. You can only discover how viable a market is by actually doing the MATH on it…not gauging your decision on how you feel or what your skeptical brother-in-law told you.
On the other hand, a topic that is too narrow or too specific may not have a crowd large enough to make enough money with. While the competition may be null, there could be a good reason for that. Perhaps there is no audience showing interest in that specific area.
Obviously, there is a “sweet spot” somewhere between too broad and too narrow, where the competition is enough to have already proven the market, but not too stiff to contend with. Market research helps uncover the data for finding that happy medium.
Good market research is pragmatic, mathematical and un-emotional. Once you understand this concept, it will help you every time you begin to create a product for a particular niche. You will be surprised at some of the topics that people are hungry to buy information about…topics you may have never thought of without looking around first.
What If You Already Have Something to Sell?
What if you already have an idea for a product you just know will sell? Better yet, what if you are an expert in this area? Won’t that help? Maybe.
Even if you do have a product you feel is going to be a big hit, you still need to know WHO to sell it to and where they are. Otherwise, you will be trying to sell a great idea to the wrong crowd.
The rules of market research still apply. By starting with an idea of your own, you at least have a starting point for your research. So do your research OBJECTIVELY. Find out everything wrong with your idea and discover everything that is right about it. But don’t get emotionally attached to it too early. It may not have a viable target. If it does, you may have struck gold. The perfect combination is a niche that you like and are familiar with that also has an existing audience.
But if you have to choose between a niche that you like that has no audience and a niche you are clueless about that has a large following, choose the latter. You can always become an expert in just about any subject matter if there is enough incentive for you.
While it is good for you to be passionate about your market, it’s more important that your audience is passionate about it.
It is important to pursue markets that are plentiful with existing buyers who have proven that they are willing to spend money time and time again. For example, think about the dog lovers target. We know that these people spend money on dog food, visits to the vet, dog grooming, obedience school and endless pet supplies. They often will spend thousands of dollars over the life of their pet. This type of market is filled with existing customers who are already buying stuff for their dogs.
There are literally thousands of markets similar to this one that are full of buyers. Think of health and fitness, sports, weight loss, parenting, auto enthusiasts, musicians, body builders, horse lovers, writers, relationships; think of just about every hobby you can imagine or anything else people are passionate about.
Now think about how many problems people have that require solutions: acne, anxiety, belly fat, killing ants, losing weight, gaining weight, finding love, recovering from divorce, making more money, getting a job. The more emotional the topic, the more promising it is to research as a viable target market.
———– V2 ———-
Online Market Research Tools
So how do we find our target audience?
Thanks to an out-of-control expanse of the world wide web, there are more free tools available to us for locating markets and trends than there ever have been in history. And I’m certain more are on the horizon.
But because information is so convenient to get these days, it’s possible for us to very quickly gather some simple data that allows us to narrow in on a pretty specific target worth hunting down. Let’s look at some of those tools:
Google’s Keyword Planner Tool
You can find this important resource within Google’s family of keyword tools at:
There are several free services offered here that can be used to locate helpful market research data. In fact, you could spend hours here if you are not careful, so let’s take it step-by-step.
First, click on the link that takes you to the Google Keyword Planner Tool. It should be easy to find in their tool box and is probably located at the top of the page in bold font.
This tool helps us see at a glance what kind of phrases people are typing into Google’s search engine and how many of those searches are being done for each specific phrase.
Assuming you have an idea for a topic, start by typing in your basic phrase into the tool. (By the way, if you do not have an idea, skip over to the section on Brainstorming in this course and I’ll help you get a kick start. Once you get a few ideas, you can come back to this paragraph and pick up where we left off.)
It will help you to decide on some basic words and phrases to do your research with. For example, if you are interested in researching how viable the market for curing acne is, you might use the word acne as your broad root keyword. But you will also need a good starter phrase like: how to cure acne
As your research continues, you will quickly begin to collect a plethora of words and phrases that relate directly and indirectly to this topic. I suggest you record these in a spreadsheet (or on a piece of paper if that’s easier for you) in 3 categories: Broad, Mid-Range and Narrow.
Your Broad keywords will show search volumes in Google’s Keyword tool of 100,000 or more. Mid-Range keyword phrases will have 10,000 to 99,000 search volume rankings. And words and phrases that show searches under 10,000 will usually be narrow phrases. These are sometime called long-tailed keyword phrases because they are longer and more specific descriptions.
For example, let’s say we were researching How to Make Oatmeal Cookies (our starter phrase); our root keyword phrase is Oatmeal Cookies. We might end with these search volume results:
oatmeal cookie (165,000)
cookie recipes (673,00)
oatmeal cookies (450,000)
baking cookies (60,000)
oatmeal cookies recipe (40,000)
oatmeal cookies recipes (14,000)
best cookie recipe (49,000)
oatmeal cookies better (29,000)
chewy oatmeal cookies (59,000)
cookie mix recipes (8,000)
homemade cookie recipes (5,400)
brown sugar oatmeal cookies (3,200)
how to make oatmeal cookies (5,400)
oatmeal sugar cookies (6,600)
coconut oatmeal cookies (5,400)
Let’s examine what this simple research activity revealed to us with just a few minutes of effort.
First, note that Google presented us with phrases and words that we may have not already thought of. This is helpful in brainstorming who our audience may be. For example, people who look for oatmeal cookie type solutions often use the word chewy. This information will be important to us later when we are looking for good wording to use in our sales copy, book titles, article titles, blog posts, ad headlines, etc.
Secondly, we see that far more people are looking for ONE good oatmeal cookie recipe as opposed to looking for a collection of cookies recipes. How do I know this? Because of one letter: s
Google looks at plurals words much differently than it does singulars. (Although, they change the rules when you start running Adwords campaigns – but that is another topic.) For now, it is important for me to know that three times as many searches are initiated for a singular oatmeal cookie recipe (40,000) as opposed to the plural version oatmeal cookie recipes (14,000).
This is the just an example of the Internet helping you do market research in a way that was unheard of not too many years ago. This tiny little detail is not so insignificant when I am making the decision to market a book about oatmeal cookie recipes. Based on this finding, it might be more lucrative for me to create one good oatmeal cookie recipe and give it away as a loss leader in order to capture a mailing list of names I can contact and sell other cookie recipes to in the future. (We’ll talk more about capturing names with a squeeze page and building a list later. It’s one of our five essentials.)
As you can see, we have just scratched the surface on keyword research. The more you study the data, the more you will learn about this market and how to sell to it, and even what words to use when you communicate with its audience.
When you do this kind of research, collect and organize all these phrases into a spreadsheet so you can refer to them later in your marketing efforts. You should collect at least a half dozen broad words, maybe 15 to 20 mid-range words (the more, the merrier) and at least 20 long-tails (again, more is better).
As a rule of thumb, you should stay away from words that have over a million searches (too broad and/or too competitive); and also avoid most words that come up under 1,000 in search volume. Although, this is just a general rule. A search volume under 1,000 means there are not many people using that phrase, but is also means there is probably no competition for it. Also remember that these rankings change every month or so because we are checking the pulse of a changing culture.
Assuming you have collected a sufficient list of broad, mid-range and narrow keywords, you are ready to take your research to the next step.
———– V3 ———-
The print publishing industry is a vital player in the online marketing world. Companies who publish magazines do millions of dollars in research and its easy to hijack some of their findings…because they publish that information on their covers!
By studying what magazines are writing about (and displaying front and center), you have a good idea of what is popular right now. So you could go to newsstands and look at every magazine you can find, or you can use the magic of the Internet and do that in a few minutes from your kitchen table. Here’s how to do this online:
Go to magazines.com and look at what is being published. What is being written about at this level is also being read by the masses. Major publishers don’t publish topics haphazardly. They publish based on trends…and if they are big enough, they CREATE the trends. (Ever heard of “Oprah”?).
If you find a magazine that covers your broad topic (Such as Baking Cookies), there is a good chance you found a niche. If after looking at the covers of baking magazines, you find stories about oatmeal cookies, you have hit a winner. But you may discover that there is more interest in other kinds of cookies (like Christmas cookies if it happens to be November while you are doing your research). This information may even cause you to go back to the Google Keyword tool and re-think your focus.
———– V4 ———-
Another litmus test for us to work with is to see what people are writing about. The writers we will study will not be major magazine publishers. EzineArticles.com stores short articles written by a generally more amateur online audience. Almost anyone who wants to can submit an article to this repository for the use of other online publishers to add to their websites and newsletters as content.
There are two incredibly powerful pieces of information at Ezine Artcles.com (aside from the articles themselves.) First, Ezine Articles displays how many people are reading a particular story. In fact, without this information, their site would do our research efforts little good. The second bit of data is equally important. It tells us the date the article was published. A quick and easy calculation with these two pieces of the equation provides us with very important insight on the popularity of a topic.
In other words, we can look up articles (by category) in the database and find those that pertain to our proposed target. By looking at the date and the number of times an article has been read, we arrive at the average number of times per day an article is read.
So if the article I find was posted 30 days ago and has been read by 300 people, it is getting an average of 10 reads per day (300 divided by 30). An article that is a year old (365 days) and has been read 1000 times is therefore only getting about 3 to 4 reads a day.
But we can’t use that calculation alone. Here’s why….
An article older than 90 days is harder to measure for accuracy. As it turns out, it could be that a one year article that has had a thousand readers may be getting zero readers for the last several months, and got all 1,000 of its readers the first month or two it was published. This would be especially true for topics of current event.
Therefore, we have to implement a few basic rules when using Ezine Articles for market research.
- Find articles within your topic (niche) that are 90 days old or less.
- Calculate the readership by diving the number of days the article has been online by the number of readers.
- Generally, articles with 10 readers PER DAY or more pass the “test” of being a topic that is probably of interest to our target. The higher this number the better. But a daily readership under 10 is probably too weak.
So, we are looking for articles that are not older than 3 months AND that are getting at least 10 readers per day.
Our next stop on the research trail has become a cultural phenomenon and the kind of place that avid market researchers love. Wherever hordes of people are “hanging out” and interacting, we are going to be able to collect valuable data. YouTube will prove to be one of those great resources.
Using YouTube as a research tool is pretty easy to do and like EzineArticles, will require you to do a little math. Here’s how it works:
- Using one of your keyword starter phrases (e.g.: How to Make Oatmeal Cookies), search for videos that come up with that topic. (Note YouTube video publishers can assign keyword phrases to their videos. Not all of them are accurate or comprehensive, so you might want to get creative and try a few combination of sensible keywords).
- Like you did with the articles at EzineArticles.com. measure the age of a video with the number of it’s views. But the math will be different here.
- First find at least 10 videos to use in your calculations. Each video needs to be less than 13 months old.
- Next, calculate how many views PER MONTH (not daily) each video gets and record that information. In other words, if video #1 is 10 months old and has been viewed 2000 times, it is getting an average or 200 views per month. Do this for all 10 videos (or however many you are using and average out the totals. So if you are looking at 12 videos. Calculate each videos average monthly views, then divide the total of all 12 results by 12 to get the overall average.
- It is essential the the videos you are measuring all have as similar content as possible. In, fact, the more similar they are in their coverage, the more accurate your findings will be.
- The standard you are looking for is an average of at least 500 views a month. But this standard is only helpful if you have calculated it against at least 10 videos of the same topic. (Again, more is better).
Consider an average monthly viewing score of 500 or more a topic that is likely popular enough to pursue..or at least continue with in your research.
———– V6 ———-
Most online marketers consider Twitter a traffic source, (which it can be if used correctly), but few think of it as a research tool. Or at least they haven’t until they read the following paragraphs.
Of course, Twitter is part of the fast growing social networking sites that bring millions of people together for the purpose of communicating whatever seems to be on their minds. Some have called Twitter a micro-social network, because unlike Facebook, MySpace and other more robust interfaces, Twitter allows its users to simply post short 140 character “Tweets”.
Clever market researchers can use the frequency of Tweets to get a pulse on certain hot topics. Since Twitter a live, running master display of the latest Tweet 24/7, it’s easy to see what people are talking the most about by simply looking at how fast these messages are coming through.
The calculation is simple. Go to twitter.com and do a search on one of your broad or mid-range keyword phrases. You will see all the most recent Tweets that contain your words.
For example, if you search on oatmeal cookies you may see that the most recent Tweet was about 4 minutes ago. The one before that was 13 minutes ago (just 9 minutes between Tweets). This is a good sign. If that number is less than 10 minutes between tweets, you may have a viable topic. But you need to look back at least 20 Tweets or so and see what the average time between Tweets is. It needs to be less than 10 minutes.
This also helps you see how broad and narrow key phrases respond to the market. In other words, type oatmeal cookies (broad) in to the Twitter search bar. Then try chewy oatmeal cookies. Your findings will probably be drastically different and will give you a better feel for what kind of phrases people are using as they communicate online.
Try this exercise with as many of your keywords as possible and it will really help you see the difference in their strength. Your broader keywords will be a good enough measure for viability.
———– V7 ———-
The concept of using Amazon as a market test is similar to looking at magazines.com. Basically, we want to see what the big boys are doing. If mainstream publishers are putting books on the market on similar topics, then we can follow their lead and assume they are either responding to the market or creating one for us.
The math on this one is simple. If you look for books about anything to do with your basic broad topic, Amazon will display how many such books are on the virtual shelf. if there are at least 500 books about your topic, you should be safe. As I write this, 619 books come up with the phrase oatmeal cookies so I would consider it having passed the “Amazon test”.
As a word of caution, let me remind you that when you search at Amazon, you will default to all types of products (video, clothing, music). Make sure you do this particular test with the books category only.
Barnes and Noble (bn.com)
Barnes and Noble own the domain books.com – which in Search Engine Optimization terms, makes them an authority website on books. It makes sense to run the same test at bn.com as you did at Amazon. But because of inventory differences, change your numbers. Here, you are looking for at least 50 book titles that contain your phrase.
———– V8 ———-
Google and Quantcast
This next step is a bit more complex, but the data you can retrieve is incredibly helpful in your market research efforts.
The concept behind this strategy is to get market research data from the top websites in your niche who have already done a lot of work for you. First, you need to find who those authority sites are.
When you search on your topic (using broad and mid range keyword phrases), you will be able to find a few companies whose websites come up in the natural results area of page one. It is very important to ignore the sponsored listings while using this technique because those results come up as paid advertisements. We are looking for sites that Google considers to be an authority on the search term you are using. This is proven by the fact that they come up on top (or near the top) naturally because of their content, age, relevance to the keyword and their traffic history.
Once you discover such websites, (and you only need 1, 2 or 3 of these to accomplish this), you need to go to quantcast.com and do a search on that domain.
Quantcast allows you to look “behind the scenes” of a website’s traffic history and demographics when you submit the URL of the site you are studying.
The main thing you need from this is the number of unique visitors the site is getting. A good authority site should be getting at least a 1,000 visitors a day (or 30k per month). While this may seem like a lot of traffic, remember that this is an authority site, so you will be looking at traffic stats for larger organizations and corporate sites that should be getting larger amounts of traffic.
This simply tells us in broad terms that the “authority on the subject” we are interested in has some kind of a following – hopefully a growing one. Then we have a better idea if we are in a niche that at least has some room for more marketing.
While there are other sites with this kind of information, Quantcast is going to present you with some fascinating data you may want to spend some time with (now or later).
For example, Quantcast not only provides you with traffic information, but will also tell you what other websites this site’s visitors are going to. Also, it will give you gender, age, lifestyle, income and geographic statistics about this site and its audience. This kind of demographic research will prove to be quite valuable to you as you advance in your marketing efforts. Feel free to venture to those other sites to see what kind of places your target audience visits. You may pick up on important jargon you didn’t know about. Perhaps you’ll discover new keywords you should add to your research tool box. You may discover trends in that niche that change with seasons or common problems people talk about that are in need of a solution.
———– V9 ———-
Alexa is a fast and easy tool to use. Alexa has its own ranking system for websites. While not all sites are listed in Alexa’s database, most websites are that have any history at all are – and all of the big ones are.
Basically, you can use Alexa to look at your authority website’s Alexa Ranking score (the same sites you studied at Quantcast). If the authority site you are studying does not appear in Quantcast, it’s probably not a viable authority. If that’s the case, go back and find another.
The way Alexa scores sites is kind of like the “Billboard Top 40” of websites – except that they look at the top 1,000,000 or so. In other words, the lower the number Alexa gives your site, the more popular it is. Their one month rank is calculated using a combination of average daily visitors and page views over the past month. The site with the highest combination of visitors and page views is ranked #1. Google.com usually ranks at #1.
Alexa also provides other data such as number of back links coming into that site (sites directly linking to it.) This is important data as the search engines favor sites with higher back links.
Obviously, Alexa’s score data changes all the time, as do all of these demographic and traffic sites. But to give you an idea of how they rate websites, I will show you what information comes up at the time of this writing. Currently, the top 20 Alexa sites are these:
You can either use Alexa’s website to look up certain domains or, better yet, you can download their tool bar. It sits in the bottom right corner of your browser and gives you the Alexa ranking of every website you visit as you surf. This puts the data at your fingertips whenever you are browsing.
As a rule of thumb, any website that has an Alexa ranking over 200,000 is not a widely known site. It may have plenty of audience for its own niche, but it would not likely be an authority or be associated of a widely popular topic. But this is a generalization.
As you do market research on authority websites, a ranking score less than 200,000 should be what you are looking for to add credibility to your results.
There are a plethora of tools and software programs you can purchase that help with market and keyword research. I’ve tried as many as humanly possible, and I don’t like most of them. They are always either too expensive, too complicated or are missing some major feature.
The best market research tool that we have used in our offices is called Market Samurai. It is inexpensive ($100 to $150 at the time of this writing). Once you learn how to get around it’s interface, it does supply great research data.
When we use it, we mainly acquire statistics on keyword completion to search volume ratios. But Market Samurai also has the ability to calculate the commercial intent of a keyword phrase (OCI). A keyword with a higher OCI is more valuable. I haven’t seen this feature in any other research tool – especially at this price point.
Market Samurai taps into Google’s data centers to provide the latest and most accurate keyword traffic, competition, cost-per-click, value and commercially viable data. It has the ability to show you these things:
- What markets are worth targeting;
- What markets are worth avoiding;
- Which keywords you should focus on for fast results;
- Which keywords should be avoided;
- Which markets have weak competition;
- Which markets show impossible levels of competition;
- What are the chances of achieving front-page rankings for a keyword;
- What topics you should write articles on for your website;
- Where to find quality back links;
- How many back links you need;
- What quality back links you need;
- How to determine the quality of a page for a back link;
———– V10 ———-
The power of using Facebook for market research is probably underestimated since it used used by the masses for simply connecting with friends and family as the number one social media outlet. But it’s shear size is reason enough to pay attention to the data Facebook can provide the online entrepreneur.
What makes Facebook a valuable research tool is simply how many people use it. More than 82 percent of teens and more than 73 percent of adults use it regularly.
There are several ways to tap into Facebook for targeting the right market:
Watch Your Competition
Part of good research includes watching what competing marketers are doing. You can do this by simply studying your competitors Facebook pages. (Mainly the ones you think are having some level of success by using Facebook for their marketing efforts.)
Watch what how they engage their audience, what their followers are saying or complaining about and what conversations are occurring that seem to produce the most interesting feedback from their fan base.
The Facebook Ads section can be a very powerful tool in that it allows you to find out how many people are talking about a particular subject for the past 30 days.
If you go to to the ads section after logging into your Facebook account, (facebook.com/ads/create) and type in a web address (URL) and then start adding important keywords, you will see how many people are talking about or are interested in that particular topic. Then do some searching in Facebook to determine which are the the hottest or most lively topics for that target audience.
Facebook has a Graph Search feature can be used to dig for information about your desired audience.
For example, if you do marketing for a beach apparel company, like Cariloha, you might perform a search for “beaches liked by people aged 15-35 in California.” This can help you direct your marketing or a campaign to a specific location.
The idea behind social media is to socialize! Communicate with people directly, and ask them what they want, what they like and what they need. Surprisingly, their responses are not always about about price, or the products and services you may be thinking of. This will also play into the kind of keywords you choose to include in your marketing efforts. You may even discover that when you use a keyword or phrase in a certain way, it mean mean something different to others.
For example, [Houdini example goes here.]
When a someone likes your page on Facebook, they give you access to their profile and feed. Follow that through and see who they are. It’s amazing what you can learn about on Facebook when it comes to what people really believe in and are passionate about.
Notice the posts they share. That will tell you what they believe in, where or how they spend their time and even, their money.
———– V11 ———-
All the techniques above are great if you have some kind of starting point. Notice that we started with keyword research because I assumed you already had some idea of where you would like to begin your search.
But let’s supposed you are completely tapped dry on ideas. What if you have no thoughts or opinions about what to even research?
First, understand that what you are trying to discover is basically the solution to a problem. Good niches provide an answer to something people are passionate or emotional about. The best niche topics are those things that provide relief from pain – whether it be physical, emotional or psychological.
Often, the best topics to explore are those that are socially taboo. Why? Because people will search for answers to personal problems on the Internet more readily than they will in “real life”. This is just one of those inherent advantages of online marketing. People will buy things and read e-books they would never pursue without having the anonymity the web provides. Such topics include divorce recovery, personal health issues, preventing disease, etc.
You can also start with a list of things you already know about, or are good at doing. Remember that this is just a starting point, so we aren’t necessarily looking at putting you in a business based solely on what you like to do, but it can be a great place to begin research.
A good way to brainstorm for niche ideas is to think of what problems you’ve recently solved, and what kinds of problems others have had and solved. The basis for your research might be the result of just about any type of experience that has been part of your life.
For example, you may find that some of your education will give you particular insights that can form the basis for an idea. Work experience is another fertile ground for coming up with numerous topics and approaches for marketing solutions that convey a great deal of information. Hobbies can also yield a wealth of ideas that might attract the interest of a credible section of consumers.
Also, you can change your approach to the topic and twist it into another idea. You may come from the angle of providing a solution that helps to inform people of how to perform a task associated with a specific subject. Or, you may emphasize what not to do as a solution to a problem.
Make a list of 10 things you’re good at. Maybe you’re good at throwing parties for people—or you’ve got a knack for sewing. Maybe you’re a good soccer coach, or a good parent, or you can play the guitar; or maybe a good miniature golf player or you’re good at fixing bicycles, working with wood or building fences. Or maybe you used to be good at something when you were younger and you know enough to feel comfortable writing about it. Even if you no longer perform the task or use that skill, you still have KNOWLEDGE that is valuable.
Still stuck? Try looking at the people around you. What types of interests do they have? Are there life experiences of theirs that you can learn from and thus utilize to create a solution to a problem that would be attractive to a wider public? Spending some time with family and friends and just allowing them to talk about whatever comes to mind may yield some interesting topics that you can explore as subject matter for your information product or products.
Regional or national issues may also be a source of ideas. Events that seem to have a significant impact on the ideas and attitudes of a large group of people can often provide the seed of an idea.
There are even websites that can help you brainstorm by looking at what the hot topics are people are talking about. This is a great method of priming your creative pump because it also incorporates a bit of market research. The following websites all have information that provide lists of hot topics, products or issues in some form or another.
alexa.com – Hot Topics, Hot Products, Hot Pages
43things.com – a goal setting portal that collects phrases from people who type in what they want to accomplish in life
goarticles.com – look for what’s being read/written about
pulse.ebay.com – shows the hottest products being searched for
articlealley.com – look for what’s being read/written about
searchwarp.com – hot topics
about.com – hot topics
google.com/trends/hottrends – popular and current trends
bing.com – top searches
yahoo.com – top searches
readwriteweb.com – look for what’s being read/written about
buzzlog.buzz.yahoo.com – trends
magazines.com – look for what’s being read/written about
oprah.com – what she is talking about in the week to come is almost always the next fad
shopping.com – most popular products purchased online
articlebase.com – look for what’s being read/written about
articledashboard.com – look for what’s being read/written about
ezine-dir.com – look for what’s being read/written about
ezinelisting.com – look for what’s being read/written about
findarticles.com – look for what’s being read/written about
ideamarketers.com – the name says it all
blogsearch.google.com – see what people are blogging about
findblogs.com – see what people are blogging about
Use the above resources to jumpstart your idea processing, then go back to the Google Keywords Tool and walk your idea through the research steps I have outlined for you. if you do, your marketing efforts will have a much higher probability of succeeding.
More Market Research resources: