At the core of any great marketing campaign are the customers. They are the ones who bring home the bacon for you by signing up to your email list and purchasing your products or services.

No doubt you are desperate to know more about what your customers want and how they behave online so you can adapt and tailor content for their deepest desires and challenges (I certainly am!).

The harsh reality is that customer expectations for personalized content are growing and changing every day. If you are not filling every stage of the sales funnel with personalized, helpful, and timely content, regardless of your tenure or reputation, eventually you will lose out. And the thought that your current marketing efforts might become ineffective in a week, month, or year from now is scary.

I often hear people say the future of marketing is personalization. But, in fact, that time has come already; personalization is already what your customers expect from you. So come to the party and give them what they want.

The backbone of personalizing content is knowing who you are personalizing that content for. Customer research allows you to better understand why, when, how, and what your ideal customers do online. Once you gather that information, you will be able to create highly tailored content that converts visitors into customers and customers into advocates.

So let's look at nine practical ways you can sharpen your customer research efforts right now.

1. Question-and-Answer Forums

A good starting point for researching your buyer personas is free-to-use question-and-answer forums. Get out there and trawl through everything that has already been talked about. What questions are your customers asking? What challenges are repeated over and over again in these forums?

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image of Will Blunt

Will Blunt is the founder of and chief contributor at Bluewire Media. He is dedicated to helping marketers attract, grow, and nurture an online audience.

LinkedIn: Will Blunt