3 tips to research (NOT market to) your end users

Written by Tom Swanson, Director of Engagement, Heinz Marketing

Knowledge is power, or so the saying goes. In marketing, this is true in the literal sense, because our understanding of audiences and individuals is the key to reaching them. As buyer behavior changes, we need to not only understand buyers now, but we need to know about the upcoming shifts and how to adapt to them. We need to “finger on the pulse” of their behavior and how they are involved. I’m just full of those old sayings today.

Getting a deep understanding of how buyers want to buy is key, but it’s not always clear how to do it. In fact, as with most things in marketing, it’s complicated by all the biological parts (read: the human elements). People have preferences in how they participate, and those are personal preferences. Some channels will work better at scale than others, but the buyer of the organization you’re targeting may be in a niche channel and not see your carefully written social blasts.

How do you find people? What is the key to doing research to inform a strategy that needs to scale, but also needs to reach people on an individual level? The short answer is time and an open mind, but you’re here for specific tips, so let’s get into it.

Before we go any further, read this important disclaimer: This post does not provide ideas for where the market is. Many of these spaces are communities by end users and end users. Welcome to the lurking, but if you try to market, you will be met with a backlash. People come to these places to connect with others in their field, and they respect that.

Tip 1: Reddit can be serious business

Personally, I hate reddit. I hate how addictive it is and how easily it sucks for hours of life. I hate that I’m subject to the constant dopamine hits I promised, only to watch another video of ferrets rolling in the sand (anyone sees that this week? OMG!).

However, Reddit is not just a photo sharing site, it is a forum. People go there to talk about the problems they have, and the number of specialized sub-forums is staggering. If you can avoid being drawn into one of the myriad time wasters, you can find some real cool stuff.

Let’s say you are trying to market some sales tech solution, you can go and check https://reddit.com/r/sales (172k members). There, you can search for “rant” to find threads of people expressing real problems they’re facing today. Moreover, scrolling through the comments will show you that people are facing similar issues, solutions offered, and complaints with today’s current sales technology.

To give you an idea of ​​the options available on Reddit, here are some other interesting niche sub-forums:

The value of the community is undeniable. It’s not that these things on Reddit are making them popular, but rather that it’s the communities that are constantly creating value for users. Sometimes this is raw and angry catharsis, but more often it is validation of identity and empathy. Either way, both are valuable for marketers to recognize when crafting messages that are meaningful and reflect the true needs of the end user. Get it.

Tip 2: Order where there are complaints

Complaints are a marketer’s best friend. Honestly, this is a bit of a bit of digging into the advice above on Reddit, but it calls for repetition because it’s so critical. You need to know what problems your target market faces every day. Product relevance to the market depends on them, your GTM strategy is supported by them, your messaging is defined by them, etc. Demand where there are complaints. Not to mention that when people complain, they show you how they really communicate.

There is no limit to the great insight you can glean from real people who empathize with one another. These spaces are a goldmine for understanding your audience. Don’t be discouraged by funny formats, that’s how your audience communicates, and you’d better not be smug about it. It’s also fun to browse, but let’s not get distracted like I did while writing this post. The more you can embrace formats, without over-indexing and “hey kids”, the better your message will perform.

An excellent example of this comes from my experience in the world of advertising operations. It’s a very stressful role, and people need a place to complain. So, during my time in the space 10 years ago, we went to https://happensinadops.com/ (language warning, but if you’re not ready for the section, this tip might not be for you), the best place to go to see AdOps business challenges, specific Clearly in meme format. It was truly one of the best sites of its kind, although now it is rarely updated.

If you can get past the memes and frustration, what are the real problems people face every day. You owe it to yourself and your product team to find and understand these complaints. Bring them to your messages.

One note to this point: These places change often. They are memes in nature and are usually run by volunteers, and as such they tend to rise and fall quickly. As much as I love HappensinAdOps, I know that young people in the AdOps world have moved on to TikTok, Discord, and Slack. If you are tapped into your target audience, and have good relationships with buyers, they can generally point you in the right direction.

Tip 3: Comments > Original Posts

Women in a T-shirt with sarcastic comments written on it

Are you going to forums, communities, advice sites and just pulling posts? If so, you are doing it completely wrong. It’s easy to comment on the original post, but the comments are the real value. If the comments are deeper than those people who say “this!” (Seriously, who are these people?), you see something that resonates and prompts the person to share their own experience. This means that this has weight and is worth exploring.

Most importantly, comments are where you’ll find people explaining their use cases. Whether you’re on LinkedIn, Reddit, or sweetheart HappensinAdops, the comments are full of interesting niche cases where people give you first-hand insight into their true needs. Depending on the size of your audience and the niche you’re targeting, you can spend essentially unlimited time diving in.

Comments are also excellent sources of powerful qualitative data that can inform strategies and make great additions to slide decks. All of these things are available for free, if you go and find them.

Finally, comments often provide answers to problems, suggestions for things to try, and similar problems from other areas. If you dig deeper into the comment threads, you will even find feedback on solutions and people sharing how a solution was found for them. bingo.

To prove it, here’s a great noisy thread from the Solution Architect subreddit linked above: https://www.reddit.com/r/salesengineers/comments/plkc6p/se_rant_thread/. It was easy to find, I just searched for “rant” in the subreddit search bar. Put yourself in the shoes of someone trying to research that target market, and you can quickly see the value. These are real use cases, and complaints in real time, explained in the comments.

Here is another one in the same subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/salesengineers/comments/ply0tz/ae_rants/. The most important comment thread in this thread, started by user NetJnkie, is a conversation between SEOs about relationships with their AEs. all gold.


Everyone has different places they go to communicate about their jobs, but if you can find and respect them, it’s a real opportunity for you to understand buyers. People want to be heard and understood. If you can dive into the huge amount of qualitative data people put out there, you can relate your product to their problems in useful ways.

So, the next time you’re doing user research, back out of industry reports, market research, and “case” information sheets, and dig deeper into what real people are saying. You need all of these tools to truly understand who your end users are, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

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