Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed by a problem or challenge, but when you spoke to someone else about it, they immediately saw a straightforward and obvious solution?

As humans, we tend to over complicate things. And that’s especially true when it comes to small business owners and their marketing message.

If you’re struggling to figure out what exactly you should SAY about what you do and the value you provide to clients, then one very good place to start is by simply ASKING (gasp!) your target market what it is that they really want.

By going straight to the source, you’ll be able to quickly zero in on not only the problem your ideal customer has, but also how they talk and think about that problem. Then you can use your marketing copy and sales conversations to explain — using their words — how your product or service is just the thing your customers’ need to make that particular problem or challenge disappear.

Now, don’t panic. I’m not suggesting that you invest thousands of dollars into market research (although there’s certainly a time and place when that makes sense). Rather, I’m suggesting that you spend a small amount of time and resources up front so that you avoid wasting A LOT of marketing time and resources on efforts that don’t deliver results.

Here are 19 different “ways” you can go about asking what your target clients want. (Hint: Start by picking just one or two methods that feel the easiest for you.)

Use your blog to ask questions.
Host a brainstorm session with your target market. Consider serving cocktails and appetizers to make it fun.
Offer comment cards to customers.
Send out a survey through the mail.
Pass out evaluation forms during presentations, workshops or other events that you participate in or host.
Do a Facebook or LinkedIn poll.
Leverage the group discussion function on LinkedIn.
Ask questions on your Facebook fan page.
Conduct one-on-one client interviews, either in person or via phone.
Ask questions during one-on-one discussions at networking events.
Conduct an online survey using a tool like SurveyMonkey.com.
Hire a company to do a phone survey.
Post a poll on your website.
Collect information during prospective client consultations.
Exhibit at trade shows. Ask attendees to fill out a questionnaire in exchange for a giveaway item.
Request feedback via your e-zine.
Participate in social network forum discussions like the ones on Ning.
Post questions via Twitter.
Allow readers of your ezine to submit questions. Provide answers to those questions in future issues.
Have you conducted “market research” for your business? What method worked best? And what did you learn?

Author's Bio: 

Known as The Corporate Agent, Angelique Rewers, ABC, APR, teaches micro business owners and solopreneurs around the world how to grow their small business by working with Big Business. Get her FREE CD and articles at www.TheCorporateAgent.com.