Knowing your customers on a deeper level allows you to make better informed business decisions. You’ll be able to tailor your marketing, product development, or services in a way that attracts high value leads and customers. 

Of course, it’s impossible to talk to every single person in your target market to learn what motivates them as consumers. However, you can utilize primary research, the component of market research that involves gathering data and information directly from real people and experiences. While any business might conduct primary research, it’s especially useful for exporters. The information you collect from primary research is a significant factor in making your final decision on your target market, and how to effectively market your business there. In this blog, we’ll cover ways to do primary research, and how it relates to making buyer personas.

You’re likely familiar with doing research online, or secondary research. You may find that secondary research can’t always answer all the questions you have. To fill in knowledge gaps, primary research will help validify your online findings or bring new insights. 

The difference between secondary and primary research is simple: secondary research is a prerequisite to primary research, not a replacement. Both are equally important for a thorough understanding of new markets! Creating a customer (or buyer) persona is a great way for exporters to demystify their target market in terms of knowing who they’re selling to. 

Primary research methods

Data collected from primary research often falls into one of two categories – exploratory and specific. Exploratory information is open-ended, general, and often has few restrictions. Specific information is more intentional about answering a question or solving a problem. Here are a few different methods that cover both ends of the spectrum:

  • Interviews

Interviews are suitable for getting exploratory information from a small number of people, either one-on-one, or in a small group. Whether it’s formal or informal is up to you. There are usually little to no limits imposed on the conversation, so expect to cover many topics. Interviewing a subject matter expert is immensely valuable for gaining an expert opinion on your industry, target market, and so on. 

  • Focus groups

Focus groups are a type of group interview. What sets it apart from a regular interview is the type of participants selected. In focus groups, you would specifically choose demographically similar people to interview. As an exporter, one example of a focus group is gathering a small selection of consumers aged 18-24 from your target market. You could also group similar buyer personas together and find participants that match your descriptions of potential customers. 

  • Surveys 

Surveys are less flexible than interviews because there are typically more people involved. It is a more structured method, with predetermined questions that you can’t change on the fly. A lot of thought goes into designing a survey, with the goal of getting precise answers. This method is useful for gaining specific information and insight into what a larger population thinks. You can administer surveys online, with sites such as SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, or Jotform

  • Observations

Observations are for when you want a less biased approach to the research question you’re trying to answer. Rather than interviewing someone for their point of view, the observation method involves taking organized notes about what you observe. For example, you might travel to the target market and observe the attitudes or preferences of your target market. If you were at a trade show, a question you could answer through observation is what are the most common marketing practices there. This method is open-ended and is suitable for collecting exploratory information. 

  • Analysis 

No matter what method you use to collect your data, you’ll need to analyze the responses. Analysis is organizing your data according to criteria you develop, and using it to discover patterns that answer your research question. It can be simple, like recording your observations and grouping common ones together, then drawing conclusions from your notes. Or, you can use online tools with sophisticated data analysis techniques. From word clouds to graphs, there are many ways to draw definitive conclusions from your research. 

Creating your buyer persona

Now that you have a quick overview of what primary research entails, you can use these methods in building a buyer persona. Just like how authors create a character, marketers do the same thing making buyer personas. According to hubspot, the definition of a buyer persona is a “semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers based on data and research.” The good news is, if you’ve done your primary research then you’re already halfway through creating your first persona! 

The objective of having a customer persona is twofold – figuring out who your ideal customer in an unfamiliar market is and how to best cater to them. Doing primary research first allows you to learn what customers and prospects like about your business. This will help you put together a customer persona. 

Here are a few key points to look for when making your customer persona(s):

  • Basic demographic information (Age, gender, occupation, cultural background, family status, etc.)
  • Motivations – What drives this person to make decisions, especially when it comes to buying different items or services? Does it have to do with fulfillment, social status, love, or basic survival
  • Challenges – How can your product or service make this person’s life easier?
  • Lifestyle – How does this person generally live? What does the lifestyle of your ideal customer look like? 
  • Job – This is briefly covered in the demographics section, but it’s worth going in-depth on your buyer persona’s job. What is their job title and role? What skills or education is required? 
  • Shopping preferences – How does this person like to shop? Do they prefer to shop online or go in person? How do they research new vendors or products to try? 

Personas are often used for creating persona-specific content. Examples include using the social media platforms your persona spends the most time on, and considering the social causes your persona stands for. For example, if you were to partner with a company or influencer, make sure it’s one that appeals to and has compatible values with your persona.

Next steps

Not sure if your market research is going in the right direction? Export Navigator can help. Our experienced export advisors can walk you through the export process, including the fundamentals of market research. Talk to an advisor today to get started.