Savvy entrepreneurs know to base their decisions on data rather than assumptions.
Try as you might, the products and features that you think will resonate strongly with your audience often don’t. In order to refine your offering and produce something that creates real value for your audience (and in return, money for you), research is required.
Here are 15 of my favorite tools that I use to determine what products, services and features my customers really want.
Google’s autosuggest is a great tool for learning about what people are searching for in a particular niche.
Answer The Public takes things several steps further, showing key questions that people are asking about a particular search term. For maximum clarity, results are divided into who, what, when, where, why, which and how.
These insights are great for uncovering features and services that the public is demanding, but are perhaps not being delivered by you or your competitors.
The tool generates some awesome data visualizations, which can be great for brainstorming sessions or to hang up around the office for inspiration.
One of the most common errors made by new entrepreneurs is deciding to innovate without any real customer feedback.
Finding out what your customers actually want (rather than what you think they want) is essential for long-term success.
If you want to know the values, pain points and ambitions of your customers: ask them.
This feedback is essential for you to develop product features that resonate.
I recommend picking up the phone and talking to your customers, but for the many online business owners who are introverts, SurveyMonkey is a less intimate alternative. With a simple interface, you can build professional customer surveys in minutes.
While SurveyMonkey isn’t overly expensive, it can be hard to justify anything but bare essential costs if you’re on a startup budget.
TypeForm allows you to build customer surveys for free and features an excellent drag-and-drop interface.
While the pro version has some great benefits such as custom thank you screens, the free version has everything you need and more to get started with customer surveying.
When it comes to developing a killer product, I’m a firm believer in offering users more of what they like and discarding what they don’t, as proven by data.
While qualitative user feedback is definitely valuable when developing new features, quantitative data is also very useful when it comes to formulating opinions.
Amplitude is an advanced analytics tool designed specifically for product developers.
By analyzing the behavior patterns of users from different demographics, you can quickly learn what type of features resonate with what type of user.
Additionally, the tool’s cohort analysis functionality enables you to segment users based on previous interactions – which provides another layer of insights regarding features.
Indicative is an analytics tool that provides comprehensive user engagement data.
Once you’re aware of what features are generating the best results, you’ll know where to place your focus.
By building complex behavioral cohorts, you’ll not only understand what features resonate with certain types of customers, but you’ll also gain insights into what causes churn.
It costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one, so by delivering features that keep customers engaged for longer, you’re improving your CLV and therefore, long-term profitability.
6. User Testing
If you’re working on an MVP (minimum viable product) and want to solicit feedback before rolling out the final version to the market, UserTesting is the application for you.
For a price, UserTesting will bring in users from its vast audience who meet your demographic criteria.
Next, you can run a test, watch each user’s screen and learn about how they interact with your website or application.
Setting up a test for a new website feature can be done in minutes, and you’ll receive the results within an hour. This is a great way to optimize your offering before you hit the mass market.
While most marketers use FollowerWonk to identify influencers and learn about their Twitter audiences, it can be a great tool for discovering what people are saying about your brand.
FollowerWonk will help you to keep up to date with your industry. By analyzing tweets of influencers and their followers, you can learn more about the pain points and unmet needs of potential customers – so you can deliver new products, services and features to help them.
8. Buffer Reply
In terms of solving customer problems on social media, speed is the name of the game. Buffer Reply is a tool specifically designed for customer support teams to enter a dialogue with dissatisfied customers and solve their queries rapidly.
This tool is especially good for product research, since there are in-built filters which bypass irrelevant chatter and allow you to focus in on areas of dissatisfaction (which can lead to new ideas for product features).
9. Keyword Keg
In terms of keyword research tools, Keyword Keg is one of the most advanced ones available.
The tool generates search terms that people are using for Google, Yahoo, Bing and even YouTube.
You can see the search volume for each keyword as well as the AdWords CPC – which provides telling insights into the demands of your customers. Breaking down results via country is another great feature if your marketing is geo-targeted.
I’ve used Keyword Keg to discover excellent e-commerce products for drop shipping, but it can be used to refine your offering for existing products too.
10. Crazy Egg
While Crazy Egg is an awesome tool for landing page optimization, it can be used for product development too.
With its advanced heat mapping functionality, you can see exactly where exactly people are clicking and how far down on a page they’re scrolling.
These visual displays are excellent for determining which parts of a page are functioning properly. You can see exactly which parts of your sites are grabbing attention and which are getting neglected.
With this information, you can make inferences about the values and interests of your users, which will help you to construct more valuable features in the future.
By implementing chat boxes on your site’s high traffic pages, you can provide a superior customer service experience that will encourage people to keep coming back.
While live chat is great for building brand loyalty, the conversations you have with your customers will provide insights into what they value, and what they don’t.
If you’re talking to users who are viewing a product page, make a note of any recurring themes that come up in the conversation. If people consistently ask about a feature or service you don’t currently provide – you know exactly what you have to do in order to make some additional income in the future.
12. Google Alerts
If you want to stay on top of industry events and be aware of cutting-edge offerings from your competitors (why wouldn’t you?), check out Google Alerts.
In the Age of Information, business landscapes can shift overnight.
Whatever industry you’re in, Google Alerts will provide you with relevant curated content. This can reveal customer demands and new technologies that will help you to refine your offering.
13. Google Trends
Google Trends is excellent for ascertaining the current level of interest for particular subjects. With data stretching back to 2004, you can determine whether topics are ascending or declining.
This is incredibly useful when determining what new services to offer – since it’s not always profitable to deliver a service that people are losing interest in.
Google Trends also shows queries that are related to your original search term. This can provide some excellent insights for new features and services.
For instance, some of the top related queries to the search term “SEO” pertain to WordPress. For SEO consultants, adding a WordPress SEO package to your site could prove to be profitable.
When deciding to offer a new product or service, how do you know if it will be lucrative or not?
In my opinion, one of the best indicators is the extent to which competitors are using paid advertising to market similar products or services.
In addition to providing an abundance of data about organic keywords, SEMRush provides insights about paid keywords.
If numerous competitors are pumping thousands of dollars per month into Google ads to promote a specific product or service, you can bet they’re getting a return on their investment – so it’s something you might want to pursue as well.
15. Facebook Ads
Oftentimes when I run a Facebook ad campaign, I split test my ads by highlighting different features of my product or service.
By monitoring my CTR, CPC and conversions for each ad, I can gain useful insights into the features that my audience appreciates (so I can deliver more of the same in the future).
Although Facebook ad comments can be a haven for trolls, it’s important to keep track of recurring comments that may indicate a deficiency in your current offering so you can make improvements in the future.
Can you think of any other tools for discovering features that your customers desire? Please let me know in the comments.
About the Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands, including IBM, Coca-Cola, Target and others, to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, his blog, Facebook, Twitter, Googl