The most effective way to do this is through customer development.
Customer development is a non-sales conversation with potential customers to get a feel for their roles, goals, and pain points. Don’t go for the sale during these conversations.
Customer development is about applying a hypothesis to your business model to validate your ideas rather than assuming they are true.
1) Start with a hypothesis of your Ideal Customer Profile, why you think your product will be necessary for their situation, etc.
2) Set up informational interviews with these people. You’ll be surprised how receptive people are to conversation if you take a consultative approach with a lead asking for feedback and advice rather than a sale.
3) Begin the interview with questions about their company, then dig into questions about the individual’s role, goals, pain points, and specific questions about what pains your product may be able to relieve (i.e. how you handle employee on-boarding if that is your product). This is about deep customer insights vs. selling your product.
-Ask open-ended questions instead of yes or no questions.
4) Take the feedback and iterate on your ideal customer profile hypothesis, refine interview questions, repeat 10+ times, and record all data in a uniform way.
5) Make product or messaging tweaks after these conversations.
So the big problem most new business owners run up against here is *unwillingness to speak directly with their target market.*
They want to hide behind a computer instead of talking with their potential customers on the phone or in person.
But the best and fastest way to get the info you need is through live conversation. How do you get those?
One of the best posts I've seen on the topic is unfortunately not mine...here it is:
I have my own explanations of how to conduct information interviews and uncover pain points here:
Notice in the first post I shared how it took awhile for the conversation to get started and move past small talk. Then the reward was learning about an issue the seller had no idea existed.
That pain point can be used in marketing collateral, conversation openings, and even built into the sales strategy.
Doing this work takes effort, and you can't outsource it to an emailed survey. The reward, however, is knowledge your competition will never get on their own.
Start with finding a good system to track your customer feedback info. Without a system in place to collect and organize customer feedback, it will fall through the cracks. Use a tool such as Trello to keep customer feedback in a single place that all of your employees can access and contribute to.
You should also use a survey tool, like Fieldboom, that makes the process quick and easy to reach your customers best (and fast). It quickly brands your survey and configures all of your questions.
You can read more tips and techniques here: http://www.fieldboom.com/blog/customer-feedback-systems/.