Here’s a great question:
“What’s the best way to quickly research / learn a target market for a small business client?”
First if you’re asking the question you’re already one in a thousand people.
Most businesses and many of the people they hire to help them simply never think through who their prospects and customers are and what’s important to THEM.
You may surprise yourself with broader knowledge you already have if you simply identify what kind of demographic a business’s customers fall into.
What age range are they in, what sex, what kind of income level?
If you think through the people you know who are also in that demographic that should start to give you some insights.
To go deeper the ideal thing to do is to actually talk to a few prospects and clients (even just one or two is better than none..in fact getting to know just one loyal customer really well can be a very educational experience).
You can even learn a lot with email exchanges with a few customers and prospects.
If it’s possible just hanging out in the business and taking the opportunity to ask some of the people who come in what’s important to them, whey they’re interested in the product or service…that can all be really valuable information.
You can also search online if the business type has forums where prospects and customers would go.
That is likely to reveal a whole pile of information you wouldn’t find otherwise because on a forum your can go through a whole pile of information and concerns people have and what gets them excited just by reading some threads.
At some point you’ll begin to feel like you have a good handle on what’s important to a prospect or customer of this business.
Ideally you would test that by talking to a prospect and seeing if you can hit their hot buttons in a conversation and persuade them to buy (or get to the point where they’re ready to buy).
But doing ANYTHING along these lines will put you way ahead of anyone else who is likely to work with your client.