Ten things every marketer should think about to get closer to their customers
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Ten things every marketer should think about to get closer to their customers

For all of us in this industry, it’s all about the consumer.

But what are the best ways for marketers and market researchers to better understand what makes them act and think as they do? Using my experience of the various research techniques I use for a range of clients, here are the top ten things every brand should think about to try and get closer to its customers.

1. Know what questions you want answered and have clear objectives. There has never been so much data available as there is now. However, the sheer wealth of information can be a distraction. Before you mine the data, make sure you have both a clear idea of the questions you want answered and what the objective of the research is. Doing this means you avoid blind alleys, which will help you purposefully make your way through the swathes of data available.

2. Keep it simple. While innovation is important, you don’t want to create a project that becomes so complex the objective and point of the research gets lost. Sometimes telling the best stories means sticking to a few key points that really conveys the message you want to communicate.

3. Be focused. Make sure you target your sample so that you are speaking to the right people. Ask them clear questions, but prepare to be challenged by the answers. With new approaches and techniques (such as connected data analysis covered in point 9), there are now different techniques to uncover new patterns in consumer data. Sometimes we learn very powerful things we didn’t expect.

4. Use existing data where possible. Given the amount of data available, there is a strong possibility you already have some of the information you need. When you are planning your research, make sure you assess what you already have at your disposal. Also, remember that there are agencies such as YouGov and TGI who have existing data sets that can be queried to provide custom answers.

5. Make sure you tell a story. All research should be able to tell you a story, but often this can be overlooked by research agencies. Although this is more often true in relation to getting closer to internal customers or stakeholders rather than external ones, it is still relevant. If there isn’t a clear story coming out of a research project you’ve commissioned, then I would suggest pushing back to the agency to come back with a compelling story.

6. Use social media, but place it in context. At CIM’s Digital Summit last year, I heard Andrew Grill say that ‘social media is the best piece of research you’ve never commissioned’. Although this is true to an extent, any social media data needs to be placed into context. You need to get representative information about how your customers on social media think about your brand. Therefore, it is important to ensure that a research agency or social media analytics are used to help place comments from social media in a wider perspective.

7. Utilise behavioural data to scratch below the surface. Everyone working in digital and online knows that there are now detailed online analytics available to understand more about their online audiences. However, these often only show what’s on the surface and by only looking at the top-line analytics you can miss the real story. To get a better understanding, you have to dig a little deeper (as shown in this article by Thomas Baekdal). To do this, you can segment your audience, and combine it with other research and data to ensure you are getting the whole picture. At YouGov, we use a passive tracking panel, which we combine with primary research data collected on our panel to help us understand this.

8. Use video to give your customers a face. Sometimes your own customers can put points across the best and also help bring research to life. Therefore, incorporating video into the methodology can often pay dividends, especially when communicating to non-research orientated audiences. It’s important to ensure the points are really driven home and that participants are speaking their minds rather than reading from a script.

9. Use connected data to tell you a more detailed story. Traditionally, surveys are conducted at any given point in time and are not connected in any way to other information and opinions shared by those respondents. However, online research enables us to track people’s attitudes and behaviours over time. At YouGov, we maintain a panel of respondents that take multiple surveys over a period of time and link all of their responses together, meaning we understand how and why their behaviours change. For instance, should someone alter the newspaper they read, we can go back to them and understand why they have switched, and if anything could make them move them back.

10. Make sure it can deliver on ROI. Ultimately, consumer insights need to benefit a business. Ensure that your research can demonstrate a ROI – constantly ask yourself and your agency what demonstrable impact this research will have on your business. Because if it doesn’t demonstrate ROI, then you might not have too many more research projects to commission!

Shaun Austin Director, Media Consulting YouGov
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