In the olden days, circa 2004, it was often enough to create a great site that was SEO’d up to the hilt and to advertise with Google Adwords. All you then had to was sit back and wait for the customers to roll in.
For many companies nowadays you have to slightly more proactive in finding customers, especially the customers who don’t know that you exist and don’t know that you have the answer to the problem that they find it hard to even express. You can’t expect to be seen as a listening company if you expect customers to find you before they get their questions answered. You have to go looking for them.
I’ve created a quick hack that simply takes your chosen keywords and builds search subscriptions to a whole heap of discussion-oriented search sites ( twitter search, backtype, board tracker, yahoo answers etc ).
Once you’ve entered your keywords, it then gives you an OPML file (don’t worry what it means, you’ll find out soon enough) that you can import into Google Reader (or any other RSS aggregator of your choice such as Bloglines or NetNewsWire) and see lots of up-to-the-minute discussions and blog posts about the things that matter to you and your business.
Of course, you will need to prune or add extra sources and keywords to your subscription list but the tool provides a great starting point for finding customers with problems you can solve – wherever they may be.