Have you ever walked through deep mud? It’s labored, messy, slow, and exhausting!

That’s how I used to feel when trying to sell a new idea or campaign to my board. When it came to outreach, every board member was an “expert” and believed that the way they “felt” represented most people.

Have you been there? If you have spent time working with a board or a group of strong leaders, you know what I’m talking about.

So how do you get your ideas past the wall of opinions?  

One word: Research.

When you back your proposal with research, there’s not much arguing. Years ago, I worked with a church that thought their most significant growth challenge was that their music was dated.

Research showed a different problem: the children’s program was lacking. Parents were going elsewhere not because of the music or teaching but because they wanted a better experience for their children.

Think about the cost and repercussion of making a significant change in the organization only to find out after much conflict that it was not the problem? Ouch.

But research can be expensive, and you might not have any budget for it.

Don’t worry. I have you covered. Here are three ways you can do outstanding research without spending any money.

1. Create your target audience using The Audience Matrix Worksheet.

Defining and understanding what’s important for your target audience is the first step in ensuring your strategy and tactics work.

You are probably familiar with terms like “ideal avatar,” or target persona.” I often refer to them as our target audience(s).

Our team has developed a simple matrix to help us define target audiences for our clients and begin defining our target audience and what they want and expect from the organization.

You can get the free download here.

2. Deploy an email survey to your list.

While that might be obvious, I have seen organizations go into significant initiatives without asking their constituents about what’s important to them and vet an idea before spending a lot of time and money on a project not many people find helpful.

Even if you are looking at an outreach type of plan, knowing what attracted people on your list to the organization is valuable information on how to position the new launch.

Survey Monkey has free options, and many email programs like Constant Contact have surveys built into their platform.

3. Stealth DDS (Deep Dive Survey)

How do you find information about a target audience without market research and a list?

With this approach, you search for keywords or problems in groups, forums, or search engines and see what people are saying about the topic you’re working on.

Here are places you can find some great information about your target audience:

  • Google (Forums)
  • Facebook (Groups)
  • LinkedIn (Groups)
  • Quora (topics)
  • Amazon (Book Reviews)

When I was doing a Stealth DDS for my nonprofit growth course, I went through these sites looking for clues and language of how people felt about their jobs. Soon a pattern emerged: nonprofit leaders were overwhelmed.

I copied several posts to use some of the same language my audience was using. This one is a favorite I found on the Digital Marketing for Nonprofits Facebook group:

“I’m dying here y’all. I’m the marketing, social media, newsletter, grants and fundraising department in one person for a small nonprofit.”

Research helps us in so many ways. It validates or changes our assumptions about a problem, opportunity, or direction. Research gives us data that trumps opinions and perceptions. We also get real-life user language in our communication strategy and ad copy. 

Save yourself a lot of grieve and headaches before your next campaign, proposal, or directive. Do the research and be confident in your next steps.


Digital Growth Strategies