Marketing a product to any targeted demographic can be an uphill battle. Things get much tougher when trying to hit a specific local market. The usual tools and “standard” procedures can help, but when it comes to local, they can only give you more of a general picture.
Even when you use some more advanced SEO techniques to figure out search volume and audience patterns, it is hard to narrow them down to your desired location. And we all know that what individuals seek and purchase in Texas can be drastically different from the national average.
So, short of traveling to your target market, how can you “localize” your research? By using something called a virtual private network, or VPN for short.
Search engines are an excellent way to gain insight into a market. But, when you use them to do audience research from your office, the results you will see will be significantly, if not entirely, skewed to your current location.
Your office computer has something called an IP address. It is the Internet equivalent of your office’s mailing address. Your IP can be used to figure out your geographical location. And that is what search engines do.
When you check your regular physical mail, in addition to bills, you also get a ton of advertisement. All those adverts target your area. I bet no one with an office in New York has ever received a flyer for a dry cleaning service in San Francisco.
Search engines follow that same philosophy. If I Google a dry cleaning service in New York, I will see a bunch of businesses located in that area. This is precisely the difficulty with trying to do audience research for a different market using search engines. All returned results are be localized.
So how then does using a VPN help with market research? All VPN service providers have multiple servers you can use. These servers are located all over the country and sometimes all over the world. When you connect your computer to a VPN, you get to pick whichever server you like.
Let’s go back to my New York office. What happens when I connect my computer to a VPN server in San Francisco? That server’s IP address replaces my New York IP. Now, as I browse the Internet, all sites I visit, search engines including, think I am located in the City by the Bay. And when I Google for a dry cleaning service, I see nothing but San Francisco businesses.
That is how you can use a VPN service to help you with your market research. There are a few musts you should look for in a VPN provider. You don’t want the service to hinder your work, so be sure to pick the fastest VPN you can find. Also, make sure you select a provider that has servers in as many locations as possible in the country you operate in (or worldwide if you’re an international corporation).
When you look hard enough, you realize there is a tool for everything. That is how I found VPNs, and the are now indispensable to my work. Anything that makes life easier and helps deliver a better product to customers is worth investing both time and money in.