Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Good Market Research - Getting to Know Your Customers

We are motivated by two things, praise or reward. It’s kind of funny, but whether you are 3 years old or 43 years old, it’s the same. I can make my son do chores or homework without a fight simply by offering him ice cream. I know I am willing to go the extra mile for an adult version of ice cream (for me that’s the latest teckie gadget). Oh heck… who am I kidding? Real ice cream still works for me too. The point is how do you motivate your customers?
The first step is to understand your customers. Market research can help you know who your customers are, as well as what they want. You have to ask the right questions though. If you don’t really know your customers you will not retain them, thus leaving you to chase after new ones constantly. Don’t just follow your instincts as many companies do. Take the time and really get to know them. Ask the right questions; get the facts; and therefore discover how to motivate your customers.

How does one do this? It’s not as simple as asking the right questions. There are many details to figure out and it is highly recommended that you use experienced researchers or consultants.

For example:
  • How do you define which customers to talk to?
  • How do you decide on a format for your research?
  • How do you know what type of questions to ask to get to know your customers?
  • What attributes or demographics are important in getting to know your customers?
  • How do you use the data once it is collected?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a few strategies to really get to know your customers:

1. Surveys

Surveys are the staple of market research, however you have to know how and when to use the three types of questions: Opened-Ended, Closed-Ended and Strategic.

Opened-ended questions can provide a lot of information, but often they do not provide all the detail you need.

The short answers you get from Closed-Ended questions can often grind a conversation to a halt.

Strategic questions tend to treat the customer as the expert and lead to a deeper conversation which in turn helps you really know how you can help that customer. Giving the customer more freedom in answering your question lets them provide you with their agenda (not yours).

All three types of questions serve a purpose and are helpful. An experienced researcher knows how to use them all to help you gather the best information about your customer.

Some things to avoid in surveys are leading questions. This type of question drives customers to answer in a very specific or biased way which doesn’t actually allow them to tell you how they really feel. Also keep in mind that surveys are really good at gathering data such as how much or how often, but they fail to convey your customer’s feelings and emotions.

Of course you don’t want to ask the wrong questions on your survey either. Figuring out the right questions may require some research of its own.

2. Focus Groups

Focus Groups are also an essential part of market research and here too it is important to use researchers that are well skilled in moderating and interpreting conversations. You will find that experienced focus group facilitators have developed a sort of sixth sense about what’s up when watching or talking to a participant. Focus groups are great because they can really help you understand how your customer interacts with your product.

Look out for dominators in a focus group. You really don’t want the most talkative person to mask the voices of the others in the group. A skilled moderator will be able to hear all the voices in the group and prevent the most extroverted participants from forcing the less talkative to feel like they have to agree with them.

Just like with surveys, be careful not to lead members of the group to an answer. You want their unbiased opinions.

3. Ethnographic Studies

Ethnographic Studies are in depth interviews with your customers. They have some major advantages over surveys and focus groups in terms of understanding consumers for the simple reason that they allow liberal variations and follow up questions.

With this type of research the company actually observes the participant, which gives you 1st hand knowledge about your customer.

This type of data gathering is tricky as it takes someone with great skill to correctly interpret the ethnographic data. If the analysis is incorrect, you’ll find you haven’t learned much about your customer or even worse what do you learn may be misleading.

Now, for the cherry on top of the ice cream, you simply have to analyze the data. Easy, right!  As long as you have skilled researchers that know how to interpret the data correctly you will find that through market research you can know everything you need to know about your customers. If you know your customers, you will know how to motivate them towards your end goal!

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