The best way to avoid this is proactively asking the right questions. Ask about resource support. Ask about historic roadblocks. Ask to be introduced to other players who otherwise hide behind an email here and there. Ask about the company's temperature regarding a bigger SEO strategy vs. short, quick-hit campaigns. Don't be your own biggest obstacle — I've never heard of anyone getting angry about over-communication unless it paralyzes progress.

Really its just a matter of getting creative - grab a cup of caffeine and think for a minute about what resources you have to try to get some insight on your visitors (or target markets) and their needs before you dive in.  Think about how much time it might take you (or what the cost of the reports would be if you are going to buy some market research reports), and tack that onto your billing as an optional service.
Getting free website traffic may not cost you monetarily, but it will require effort on your part. However, the effort you put in will equate to the quality of the traffic you generate. As mentioned above, there is no point in getting more traffic to your website if those visitors are not likely to engage with your pages, convert into leads, or become customers.
You mentioned: "many times clients have already done this work.  Ask them for copies of their market research reports when you start a project.  It will save you a ton of time and effort!"  We do this with most of our clients, like you said we have found that around 75% of the have some kind of Market research done, that saves you a lot of time and helps setting up the right SEO Strategy. 
Companies that employ overly aggressive techniques can get their client websites banned from the search results. In 2005, the Wall Street Journal reported on a company, Traffic Power, which allegedly used high-risk techniques and failed to disclose those risks to its clients.[15] Wired magazine reported that the same company sued blogger and SEO Aaron Wall for writing about the ban.[16] Google's Matt Cutts later confirmed that Google did in fact ban Traffic Power and some of its clients.[17]
You probably visit at least a few sites that are relevant to your business on a regular basis, so why not join the conversation? Commenting doesn’t necessarily provide an immediate boost to referral traffic right away, but making a name for yourself by providing insightful, thought-provoking comments on industry blogs and sites is a great way to get your name out there – which can subsequently result in driving more traffic to your own site. Just remember that, as with guest posting, quality and relevance are key – you should be engaging with other people in your niche, not dropping spam links on unrelated websites.
Text-based content is all well and good, but video can be a valuable asset in both attracting new visitors and making your site more engaging. Data shows that information retention is significantly higher for visual material than it is for text, meaning that video marketing is an excellent way to grab – and hold – your audience’s attention, and boost traffic to your website at the same time.
A solid content marketing and SEO strategy is also the most scalable way to promote your business to a wide audience. And this generally has the best ROI, as there is no cost per click — so you are scaling your marketing without directly scaling your costs. This kind of SEO strategy is not right for every business, but when it is a good fit, it’s almost unbeatable.
In addition to optimizing these six areas of your site, analyze your competitors and see what they are doing in terms of on-page optimization, off-page optimization (competitive link analysis) and social media. While you may be doing a lot of the same things they are, it’s incredibly important to think outside the box to get a leg up over the competition.

On another note, we recently went through this same process with an entire site redesign.  The executive team demanded we cut out over 75% of the pages on our site because they were useless to the visitor.  It's been 60 days since the launch of the new site and I've been able to still increase rankings, long-tail keywords, and even organic traffic.  It took a little bit of a "cowboy" mentality to get some simple things done (like using 301's instead of blocking the old content with robots.txt!).  I predicted we would lose a lot of our long tail keywords...but we haven't....yet!
Search engines use complex mathematical algorithms to interpret which websites a user seeks. In this diagram, if each bubble represents a website, programs sometimes called spiders examine which sites link to which other sites, with arrows representing these links. Websites getting more inbound links, or stronger links, are presumed to be more important and what the user is searching for. In this example, since website B is the recipient of numerous inbound links, it ranks more highly in a web search. And the links "carry through", such that website C, even though it only has one inbound link, has an inbound link from a highly popular site (B) while site E does not. Note: Percentages are rounded.

If you havent see it already, check out the links in shor's comment below - there are some great resources in there. In some cases you can also consider surveying your current audience or customers through email, on-site surveys or SurveyMonkey.  Be sure to ask for some profiling information that you can use for determining specific persona needs like age, sex, location, etc. (Probably best not to make it sound like a creepy text chat like I just did though...)  :)
People love reading about results. That’s because it’s one of the best ways to learn. You can read information all day, but results show you the practical application of the information. Create content showing real life results. It’s easy in my industry because results are all that matter. But this can work in other industries as well. Here are some non-marketing examples:
Google Analytics is free to use, and the insights gleaned from it can help you to drive further traffic to your website. Use tracked links for your marketing campaigns and regularly check your website analytics. This will enable you to identify which strategies and types of content work, which ones need improvement, and which ones you should not waste your time on.
All sites have a home or "root" page, which is usually the most frequented page on the site and the starting place of navigation for many visitors. Unless your site has only a handful of pages, you should think about how visitors will go from a general page (your root page) to a page containing more specific content. Do you have enough pages around a specific topic area that it would make sense to create a page describing these related pages (for example, root page -> related topic listing -> specific topic)? Do you have hundreds of different products that need to be classified under multiple category and subcategory pages?
We often see posts on how to get blog topic ideas or ideas on creating visuals but nobody ever talked about new link building ideas. The ways you showed here some are absolutely unheard to me. You know what I think you should write a post on how to get your own link building ideas…where to start…how to proceed…how do I know it’s full proof…it surely comes with lots of experiments…but the point is starting…….I know sounds weird but I know you will come up with something 🙂
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