By Lynn Manternach / Guest Editorial

Three-quarters of marketers say they know what their customers want, but only 34 percent have actually taken the time to ask them, according to a recent study by Pivot.

That means approximately two-thirds of marketers are just going with their gut. That adds up to some pretty expensive guessing.

Companies that take the time to ask their customers what they want and what they think are more successful. They understand what makes them relevant to their customers, how they add value and what brings their customers back again and again. That allows them to focus on what matters to their customers and eliminate the noise that gets in the way.

With so many options for conducting market research, there’s really no excuse not to. Whether your research budget is large or nearly non-existent, there are ways for you to gather the customer insight you need to fine-tune and optimize your marketing strategies – and more.

Understanding customers isn’t just about improving the effectiveness of marketing activities. It should be about gathering the market intelligence needed to improve business activities across the board.

Messaging is critically important to connecting with consumers. The right words and the right tone can make all the difference in whether or not someone pays attention to what you are trying to say. Carefully-crafted open-ended questions allow you to hear from your customers in their own words. Take a look at how they describe what they want from you, and do your best to reflect similar language back to them in your marketing efforts.

Media placement is a complex art and science. And it’s really expensive if you don’t get it right. Are you putting your messages in the right places to connect with current and potential customers? Insights into the minds and media habits of current customers can help you build a strategy using the most appropriate channels for marketing, public relations, social media and traditional media.

Product development is an ongoing process of manipulating the right variables. The best way to confidently make product changes is to clearly understand which specific aspects are working and which are not. Customer research helps decision-makers understand how to enhance the product without creating changes that will be perceived negatively.

Service improvements are always needed, and customer research helps prioritize those needs. Timely customer satisfaction feedback is a valuable way to monitor service performance.

Crisis management requires quick action coupled with a clear understanding of how to respond. Online surveys with the right respondent base gives you the insight you need to quickly provide the most appropriate response.

It’s all about your brand. The 34 percent of companies that take the time to ask their customers what they want have a distinct advantage over those who do not.

Your company’s brand is all about how you are perceived by consumers. Understanding those perceptions is a critical first step in managing your brand. Research with your customers provides you with the insight you need to effectively tweak your strategy in a fast-paced digital world.

Research doesn’t have to be expensive. Whether you decide to hire a third-party research partner or tackle research in-house, the key is making sure you use the data to drive decision-making across your organization. Customer research is an investment that has the potential to have a significant return for your bottom line.

 

 

Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. (MindFireComm.com) in Cedar Rapids and Le Claire. Contact Lynn at lmanternach@mindfirecomm.com.