Keyword research is simply working with the search engines to see how customers use search engines to find businesses like yours. If you run a donut shop but for some reason all of your customers google "great coffee Huntington beach" and find your donut shop, that is key information.
All SEO programs start with keyword research. Without it you are simply guessing at how people find businesses like yours online.
The Long Tail Option
The "Long tail keyword" option is a better way to start into the SEO world and build authority without breaking the bank. A long tail keyword is almost a sentence. For instance "attorney" might be a keyword that you want but it could be highly competitive.
A long tail option to get started might be "Personal Injury Attorney, Richmond California". This really narrows down who's eyeballs you are competing for. This means you spend less money to find someone who is more likely to be qualified to be a customer.
Big Gun Option
The Big Gun option is for companies with large marketing budgets. You need to own the word like "Gas Station". Big Guns go after short tail keywords with Managed SEO plans, Videos, Expert support and guest blogging at several high authority sites. This is not an option for a small office or professional office.