Reading Your Customers’ Minds? It’s Not Magic

What are customers thinking about when they consider my brand? What are they looking for in my product or service? Been asking yourself these questions? We figured. It’s a good thing we’ve got Chief Client Officer at Catalyst – and DMA2012 speaker – Karen Menachof to help us get some answers! Karen’s made it easy for us and outlined four straightforward, inexpensive ways to help you better understand where your customers are coming from. Read on for her expert advice, and then join Karen at DMA2012, where she’ll tackle more of your burning questions during her 10/17 session, Case Study: Overcoming Inertia in Retail Bank Marketing!

4 Inexpensive Ways to Find out what Your Customers are Thinking
By Karen Menachof, Chief Client Officer, Catalyst

Here’s what I’ve been hearing from clients the past few months: “I want to know more about what my customers are thinking about as they consider my products, but I’m not sure where to turn.” “If I had deeper insights about how customers approach the category and specifically my brand, I could use that to inform my marketing and drive conversion rates up.”

Well, the good news is that there are lots of options for learning more. The bad news? Many of them are expensive and may not reveal the insights you seek. For example, qualitative research can be effective, but the underlying factors that drive consumer decisions are often difficult to tease out–whether one-on-one observations of buyers in their “natural” environment or focus groups. Quantitative research may be more “certain,” but it assumes that consumers can accurately “rate” their perceptions or report their motivations and behaviors with some accuracy, which is frequently not the case.

Is there a better way? I say keep it simple, at least at the onset, as you begin the journey to understanding.

1. Look at search behavior
Consumers reveal so much about themselves as they navigate the Web, and the cost to gather that information and turn it into actionable insights is relatively low. Begin by looking at what’s happening in the search arena. What are people searching for online … and what can you infer about where they are in the buying process?  Armed with this information, you can develop new hypotheses that can and should be tested for potential impact.

 2.    Look at website behavior
Another productive way to learn what consumers are thinking about is to watch what they do on your website or other online properties. Map their movements and use that information to bring the buying process to life.

 3.    Use PURLs
If you can, connect all of these dots by using PURLs, which let you track an individual consumer from point of contact through conversion and beyond. And while this may not be a plausible option for all of your outreach, it can be used selectively to learn a lot about what’s in your buyer’s mindset at key stages in the buying process.

4.    Listen in social media
Your customers are probably online, and it’s likely they’re sharing their opinions about your brand. Social media listening can provide great insight into what people think, for an extremely reasonable cost. A basic tool will scour blogs, review sites and major social platforms for brand and product mentions, competitor mentions, and any keywords you choose.

This is not to say that more traditional qualitative and quantitative research methods don’t have their place—they do. But before you invest in them, try these simple and inexpensive ways to find out what your customers are thinking about. Then, if you opt to proceed with more expensive options, you’ll already have valuable data with which to inform your research hypotheses.


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