As a product marketer, you’re expected to be the voice of the customer, and you need to know all the pertinent details about those that your product is targeted towards. 

Understanding the ideal customer’s industry, role, needs, pain points, objectives, and goals enables you to provide accurate and useful insights for your organization as you build and bring products to market.

To truly get an accurate sense of your ideal customers, you need to go and talk to them. There’s just no getting around it, as time-consuming and logistically challenging as it may be. 

To make the best use of these interviews, though, you’ll need to come in with as much up-to-date information as possible in order to be able to ask the most insightful questions and get answers that best reflect the state of your (likely dynamic and rapidly changing) market. 

It can be difficult, however, to find this information, particularly if you’re new to the industry and don’t have existing background knowledge or a trusted network to reach out to.

Fortunately, there are some ways to acquire this information in ways that’re both relatively rapid and more affordable than analyst reports. To put your finger on the pulse of your customers’ market, you’ll need to find out where they spend their time conversing about their roles, industries, and careers, and the places where they source their news and stay up-to-date with industry changes, events, and practices. 

These “watering holes” include social media platforms, industry-specific news sites, and trade organizations and associations such as the Product Marketing Alliance.

Here’s a few ideas for how to find these watering holes:

Leverage the experts in your own organization

Depending on your industry, you may have someone resembling your target customer working within your own organization. If you’re working for a software provider that builds analytics solutions, for example, you may work with a data engineer or analyst who’s willing to offer you insights on the trends they’re following and where they go to network and source their news.

I’ve found that colleagues are generally excited to be consulted, and are typically very willing to share their knowledge and contribute to the successful launch of products. Even C-level executives are often more than willing to provide their insights if politely asked, and this can be of considerable value as executive watering holes can be particularly difficult to track down. 

People care deeply about what their counterparts in other organizations are thinking, and this enables you to find those conversations.

If your colleagues have been to recent events or conferences, they’ll have notes or competitor collateral that you can reference as well. When you reach out, be sure to thank them and detail exactly how their knowledge will help you and the company.

This approach has the useful side effect of assisting in building out your internal network within the company. Particularly if you’re talking to senior-level decision-makers, this can make product marketing’s value substantially more visible, which can be a challenging thing to accomplish.

Utilize LinkedIn Sales Navigator

There’s a good chance that your company’s sales team is using LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator, which, as its title suggests, is a tool that’s designed to make it easy for sales teams to find ideal prospects. 

If it’s possible for you to snag a paid license for a couple of days, there are lots of great ways to find the information you need about your ideal customers and the places to keep up with the evolution of their industry and work.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of LinkedIn Sales Navigator is its ability to conduct unlimited profile searches without bumping up into the monthly LinkedIn search limit [1]. This means that you can search for a variety of attributes without worry, and gives you space to tweak your searches to accurately find your ideal customers on LinkedIn

LinkedIn Sales Navigator allows you to search by company size, company type, company industry, job function, location, title, seniority level, posted content keyword, recent LinkedIn activity, and group membership [2].

Once you’ve narrowed in on a few profiles that match your ideal customer’s key characteristics, take a close look at the “Interests” section of their profile, where you will see the companies that they follow and the groups that they’re members of. In the “Companies” section, look for industry associations, such as the Product Marketing Alliance, specific to the product you will be working on. 

These associations post research, news, and events to their LinkedIn feeds, and following them is a great way to stay up-to-date with the things that your ideal customers are paying attention to in their work.

The LinkedIn Groups that also show up in this “Interests” section can also be great watering holes to monitor. These groups offer a non-public space for LinkedIn members to communicate about the group’s topic and are excellent sources of intel regarding what your ideal customers are talking about. 

Being private, these groups allow LinkedIn members to be more open in discussion with their peers and are worth joining to stay on top of the conversation and learn more about your target industry.

Further up on the profile page, there’s a section called “Activity.” This section allows you to see what people have posted, commented on others’ posts, or reacted to (liked, etc.). A brief glance through this section on a few profiles will likely drag up some trends regarding the type of content that your ideal customers are reading and reacting to, and who’s posting it. 

I’ve found that there’s typically an influencer for everything on social media, and relevant people can also be great sources to follow as they seek to produce the most ground-breaking content regarding your industry. 

Often, debates will arise in the comments below posts, which can help you advance your understanding of the state of things in your ideal customers’ jobs.

Research industry trade groups and forums

Taking a look at the industry and trade group pages that you’ve found on LinkedIn or through a web search, including trade magazines and news sites, is also a great way to find information and influential people to follow. 

These organizations tend to put out a lot of thought leadership content about their industry, sharing best practices, promoting the interests of their members, or suggesting ways of resolving particular conflicts or challenges that industry participants face. 

Though these publications frequently have distinct points of view that should be considered when analyzing their suggested solutions and opinions, they can be valuable in that they reveal potentially useful underlying tensions and challenges. The authors of these pieces tend to be influential members of their industries and are worth following for their insight on important items and issues impacting the industry.

Often attached to these news and trade group sites, forum boards are a great source of information, but these can be trickier to access. Senior-level participants regularly congregate in places where they can discuss topics discreetly, so these can be hard to find. If you can get in, however, they’re highly useful sources of current information. People care about what their peers are thinking and doing.

Information can also be found on more general messaging board sites such as Reddit, but these are typically more useful for early and mid-career personas due to their popular, public-facing nature. 

It can also be a bit more of a challenge to verify the veracity of the anonymous users than on sites like LinkedIn where people are at least theoretically attached to a referenceable identity and career history. Nevertheless, they can be useful places when taken with a grain of salt.

Learn from sales and customer success

Once you’ve built up a bit of background knowledge and have familiarized yourself with some of the key current trends and voices in your target market, it’s time to check in with the teams in your organization that are actively speaking with your target market. Sales and customer success will have important but slightly different points of view based on the conversations they’re having with their various target groups.

Customer success will be able to tell you about the ways clients are using your product to solve their challenges. They have their ear to the ground regarding how your customers are using your product, how well it’s working, and what could be improved. 

Cross-referencing what you hear about these conversations with the trends and challenges you’ve spotted in prior research will provide you with an excellent starting point for conversations with your target market.

Sales, on the other hand, will be talking with people who aren’t your current customers and will be able to garner key insights on where your products aren’t winning and where prospects and potential users are selecting other solutions. Ask them about where they see potential opportunities and the things that they’re paying attention to as they make the case for your product.

Customer success and sales will have a helpful amount of useful data and insights that you can help use to enhance your knowledge of the market and ideal customers. Plus, everyone likes feeling listened to, and giving them your attention will help you build relationships and trust. 

However, keep in mind their perspectives will be affected by their communications and the types of people they’re working with. For a true understanding, there’s nothing like talking with one of your customers directly.

A trusted group of customers

Once you’ve collected as comprehensive a background as possible, it’s time to talk with your customers! Hopefully, your customer success team has created a list of trusted people they’ve built close relationships with. 

Keep in mind that, as there’s an existing, well-functioning positive relationship, they’re likely the users that are the happiest with your product. They’re unlikely to be a representative sample of the industry. 

That said, they’re still a valuable source of information and the existing level of trust will make it easier to ask questions without concerns that they’d come off in the wrong manner. Be sure to thank them for their help!

The wider world

You’re finally ready! Once you’ve collected all the information you can from your own organization, LinkedIn, industry sources, and trusted customers, it’s time to reach out and engage in the win/loss conversations you need to build better products and hone your competitive edge. 

With the background you’ve acquired from your ideal customers’ watering holes and insights from your teams and trusted customers, you have everything you need to speak to the people you’d like to have as your customers.

It’s not easy to get up to speed on a new industry, market, or product, let alone all at the same time. However, it’s totally possible. 

Educating yourself on these subjects can be time-consuming, but leveraging simple tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator and harnessing the available knowledge within your organization can make the process much less onerous.

Plus, utilizing these strategies to find key watering holes will set you up to keep your eye focused on the events, trends, and market updates that affect your ideal customers. 

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as finding those vital insights that inspire new solutions to the challenges your customers are facing, and these strategies should help you dig them up. Best of luck on the search!

[1] Frost, Aja. “22 LinkedIn Sales Navigator Secrets All the Best Prospectors Know”. HubSpot, September 7, 2022,

[2] “Sales Navigator Advanced Search Filters”. LinkedIn Sales Solutions. Accessed August 8, 2023,