It goes without saying that customers are essential to any business. They are the lifeblood of our operations and the foundation of our professional development. How well you know your consumers can be the difference between stagnation and growth.
Just as with any other piece of information, having in-depth knowledge about your customer base requires research, as well as a certain amount of intuition. While intuition is developed over time, with professional insight and experience, research is a practical step we can take toward understanding people’s needs.
We spend a lot of time developing, mastering and maintaining our services. But often, we overlook the most effective practice of a marketing strategy – consumer research. Here are just some of the applications of in-depth market research and why you should get to know your customers better:
Understand your target audience better and predict their future needs Get feedback on current products and features Grow your existing client base Know how your product is being used Test out new ideas Expand into new market segments Have a clear idea on pricing and competitor products Acquire insight into your current standing on the marketplace Learn how to increase brand awareness Stay ahead of the competition and up to date on current trends
Let’s take a look at how you can master customer research, so you can steer your efforts in the right direction and grow your business.
Use Empathy When You Create Your Buyer Persona
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Right from the start, when you first build your customer base, you begin to define your buyer persona. The buyer persona describes the ideal customer for which your products or services are intended—the sum-up of the first in-depth customer research made by a business.
Since a deeper insight into the target audience is an integral part of reaching the end goal, your researching efforts will not be in vain. Knowing the buyer persona is helpful for nearly all departments of a company, from design and development to marketing and customer experience.
Multiple research tools out there can help us acquire the demographic information to build a database of potential customers and create a buyer persona. Start scoping out your target audience with the help of platforms such as:
- Census Bureau
- Think With Google
- Facebook Audience Insights
- Twitter Analytics
- Make My Persona
- Social Mention
When it comes to customers, the word “empathy” always comes up. We frequently talk about human-centered design or how to show a human approach towards customers, and it’s for a good reason. Empathy is a great tool for going beyond demographic data into the wants and needs of the clients.
To understand your ideal customer, use empathy and try to see things from their perspective. Imagine that they are characters in your favorite book or movie, then think about what the plain data can tell us about their personality.
For example, someone who is artistic and free-spirited will respond to different products than someone in a highly stressful corporate job. A busy mom will have different needs than a young undergraduate.
What to consider when you create buyer personas
Basic & Demographics
Values & Personality
|Age||Goals and objectives||Hobbies|
|Gender||Dreams||Special skills (e.g. playing an instrument, ballet, coding)|
|Family: marital status, children, extended family||System of beliefs: religious practices, political views, attitude towards science||Favorite physical activity|
|Location: rural, urban, small town, large cities, etc.||Biggest challenges, obstacles, and barriers||Personal style: clothing, beauty products|
|Job title and responsibilities||Concerns or fears||Preferred social networks|
|Other job specifics: level of independence, schedule flexibility, decision making, risks, growth opportunities, tools||Other personality traits: creative or pragmatic, risk-takers or planners, introverts or extroverts||Frequently used media outlets: blogs, TV networks, YouTube channels, newspapers, etc.|
Conduct Customer Interviews
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An extremely effective way of understanding your clients’ needs is to just reach out and get their thoughts on the matter. Customer interviews are an insightful market research method that will yield valuable information on customer perception.
Why are customer interviews so effective? The main reason is that people naturally like to talk about themselves; they want their opinions to be heard. Surveys, questionnaires, newsletters, and other forms of indirect communication are less personal, therefore, people are less inclined to offer information. When talking to an actual person, someone who listens, they are more likely to open up.
How to prepare for your customer interviews:
- Decide the purpose of your interview.
- Find relevant candidates. Depending on your needs, find people who are long-time consumers of your brand, people who are familiar with your competition, or people who are not aware of your products and have a completely fresh perspective. It’s recommended to interview 10 participants/ buyer persona.
- Prepare open-ended questions.
- Research the person and prepare some topics to break the ice and make the customer feel more comfortable.
- Think of the logistics. Is the interview held in a meeting room? If so, make sure the room is booked and ready for a guest. If the interview is online, schedule it in advance and send step-by-step instructions to the client.
- Record the interview so you can focus on the discussion. If this is not possible, have your favorite note-taking software ready, so that you can write down relevant findings.
Even though we call it a customer “interview,” it shouldn’t feel like an actual interview. Instead, it should feel like a conversation. The open-ended questions will allow the clients to expand on their thoughts and open the way for topics that were not on the list but still relate to the subject matter.
As the interviewer, focus on the client and be ready to respond at any moment, whether the discussion itself requires your input or a non-verbal cue suggests it. The key to a great customer interview is to have an impartial interviewer who practices active listening.
Send Out Relevant Surveys
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Customer interviews may be significant, however, they are difficult to set up and costly. When done right, surveys are also highly effective for any brand, especially if you want a larger sample size.
Surveys are all about asking the right questions and getting the right people to answer. With a well-constructed online form, you can gather the data to learn more about your customer base and make your next business decision.
Here are seven platforms that you can use to create questionnaires online:
Tips on how to build effective surveys:
Purpose: Define the purpose of your survey and the relevant demographic.
Questions: Prepare closed-ended questions. As opposed to a face-to-face interview where open-ended questions are encouraged, in a survey the clearer the questions, the better.
Phrasing: Be impartial with the phrasing so as to not influence your results.
Answers: Have balanced answer choices, not just the extremes (e.g. like/dislike, helpful/unhelpful, worth it/not worth it, always/never). Allow people to be neutral or just slightly inclined one way or another.
Structure: Leave the open-ended questions towards the end. Think of the questionnaire structure as a conversation and start with the simpler questions, leading up to more personal ones.
Incentives: Add an incentive. We all know that there is an overflow of online requests and quite often, we are inclined to refuse or ignore them. This is why offering an incentive for completing the survey is a good idea. Setting up small incentives related to your company’s activity will keep away people who are there just for the reward. Think of a badge, an e-book, a design template, a wallpaper, a preview, a first look at a new feature, etc.
Reveals: Choice reveals are another good way of incentivizing people to fill in your questionnaire. People are motivated by healthy competition, which is why finding out what the majority has voted can be engaging. To make the participants interested, you can also list answers by demographics, personality, and any other factors.
Scope Out The Online Environment And Gather Feedback
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Any marketing strategy to grow a business relies heavily on feedback. Feedback from existing clients, prospective customers, as well as word of mouth, contributes to brand awareness and brand recognition. And when it comes to feedback, the online environment is a goldmine.
Comments that people leave on different platforms are a good indicator of their opinion regarding your brand. Read the comments from blogs, social media platforms, YouTube, or Quora to get a sense of what your key demographic appreciates and what their dislikes are. Especially when you release a new product or feature, keeping an eye on their initial reaction can offer significant insights.
Yes, you might find naysayers, the so-called “trolls” who comment negatively just for the sake of it. But even so, following these virtual conversations can reveal key information about your target audience.
Apart from the comment section, the other place where you can find discussions are the online communities. Depending on your demographic, you can look into Facebook groups, Discord channels, or forums like Reddit, where people share their opinions and have open discussions.
Moreover, you can engage and become part of the conversation by hosting Q&A sessions or AMAs (ask me anything).
Keywords & Language
Spending time in the comment section or online communities you will start to notice there is a shared language among your target audience. From there, you can identify keywords, phrases, inside jokes, and related topics that will be useful in your keyword research.
While you scope out the online environment, don’t forget to check out your competition. Following the activity of your competitors and the response of your shared target audience will help you understand what they did right and what mistakes to avoid.
We are a service design company that focuses on human-centric experiences. Get in touch and let’s talk about how we can help you master customer research to offer better services.