Anybody who has worked in an established organisation will be familiar with this scenario – everyone seems to have the same ideas about the characteristics inherent amongst your customer base. If everyone in our organisation shares the same view, surely, they must be right?
The question to ask yourself is; Where do these ideas actually come from?
Are they based on up-to-date market research and customer listening? Or are they assumptions that are formed over time and shared amongst the wider business?
One person who is perceived to be an authority on the subject shares their opinion, and another believes it to be fact. Often more people buy into those assumptions over time (including members who are new to your team) and they become a common belief. Once cemented, people stop questioning whether they are really accurate and then their decision making may be influenced by them.
These beliefs have the power to influence many activities in the business, from the core offering of the organisation – products and services (that may just miss the mark of what is really needed and would help the customer solve a problem), to how and when the target market receives information about the company offering.
Customer listening and market research is important… but not that simple
You might be thinking, surely every business has invested the time and effort into understanding their target customer?
You would be right to assume that, and most organisations have made attempts to understand their customers, but often there are limitations to time, budget and internal skill sets to achieve a deep dive understanding.
Sometimes organisations feel they know enough to get by and give priority to projects that seem more inviting such as new product launches because it is easier to define and estimate the potential return on investment for these types of projects than it is a meaty customer research project.
Customer insight can pay dividends when used in the right way, for example during my time at a membership organisation operating in the pharmaceutical industry, a customer research project enabled segmentation of the existing customer database and by communicating the right message, in the right place and at the right time to the various segments, engagement across all products and services rose by an average of 30%.
Your customer insight health check
Here are some key questions to ask yourself about how your customer beliefs have formed.
- Did you use just quantitive methods in your research?
- Did you use just qualitative methods in your research?
- Did you ask your customers questions directly about their behaviours and opinions?
- Did you gather data from touchpoints to guide your opinions and confirm if it reflects the information customers told you about their behaviour?
- Was your market sample large enough or diverse enough to really represent your target audience?
- Did your market sample consist solely of loyal customers and brand ambassadors or did it also include those who choose not to use your products or services?
- Was your target audience included in your research at all, or did you request the opinions of other employees and associates whose beliefs are likely to reflect those existing in the organisation?
If the answer to any of these questions was no, then you could be missing valuable insight that will help to make sure your offering is right for your market, and the way you market it is as effective (and efficient) as possible.
What are we actually missing?
Customer insights fall into two key categories: their behaviours and their attitudes. Whilst there are many factors that can be considered depending on your organisation, there are a few key aspects that will be the same across any industry.
Customer behaviours consist of:
- Where they purchase
- How often they purchase
- When they purchase
- Interaction with your brand touchpoints
- Media consumption
- If you are a B2B organisation, who forms and influences the DMU and how does it reach a decision?
Customer attitudes consist of:
- Price sensitivity
- Brand perception
- Brand loyalties
In a society that is increasingly seeing a focus on buying from brands that align with personal values, such as sustainability, support of charities, or inclusion and diverse representation, it’s more important than ever to understand your customer lifestyle, interests and values in addition to this.
For example. you might already be aligned with their sustainability values, but not proving to them why you should be their brand of choice based on these values during the decision-making process. Perhaps you aren’t aligned with developing values amongst your customer base at all and you are at risk of losing customer loyalty in the future as a result.
“Can’t we just send out an email survey?”
Most organisations will collect quantative data through customer surveys. It’s perceived to be one of the research methods that requires the least skill, and whilst the mechanics of designing a survey and sending it out are relatively straightforward, it is the design of the questions to ensure you get the full and unbiased data that you need and are able to analyse it sufficiently to have some actionable insights and outcomes that is important.
Quantative data is ideal for enabling you to segment your market into more focused target audiences with a basic insight into their behaviours, however qualitative research methods such as telephone interviews and focus groups can build on your quantative segment data to understand the drivers behind it.
The quantative aspect of the research should be designed first to enable segmentation, along with the scope for the qualitative method, however the final design for the qualitative aspects of the research should be tailored to the results of the quantative method.
Ensuring diversity in your sample
Many organisations make the mistake of only surveying their loyal customers. Some do this without intention; however others do this because generating a response from loyal customers and brand advocates is much easier and appears to be more cost effective. The real opportunity to increase revenue comes from those who are not as engaged with your brand. Although it usually takes a greater incentive to encourage these customers to take part, the potential return on investment in being able to target them more effectively will be worth more than those who are already very loyal and engaged.
Sink or swim in data?
With the amount of data available at our fingertips now it is easy to drown in data, so we must cut through to what is important and what is actionable and be able to present this information to those who are making decisions based on it in a way that they can understand and relate to. The most effective way to do this is to segment your audience into clusters of customers with similar behaviours and attitudes and then create a persona for the segment that helps internal teams to visualise, relate and even empathise with them.
What is a persona, and why does it help?
A persona is a fictitious character that accurately represents a segment of your target market with similar characteristics, behaviours, attitudes, demographics and values. The persona is designed to help internal teams build empathy with the target audience segments and better understand their wants and needs, designing products, services and systems that complement them and help to eliminate a problem or pain point. Essentially, they are gaining a better chance at providing an appropriate solution to your target market.
How can our team help?
We have done this before, so our tried and tested methods adapted to the unique needs of your organisation will help you achieve better engagement and increased sales.
We can design a full customer insight project from start to finish, or we can simply help you to plug some of the gaps in your knowledge. If you already have a lot of data but are struggling to make sense of it, we can even help you work with the data that you already have to design an engagement campaign to increase brand loyalty in segments that are less engaged.
We can design and activate engagement campaigns on your behalf, or we can provide your internal teams with all of the tools that they need to be able to do it.
Get in touch to find out more.
Author: Kathryn Hyde
Contact me for more information about how we can help you achieve a better insight into your target market.
Tel: (0)7817 488 522