Your Consumers Are Talking. Are You Listening?

While a cornerstone of all well-executed promotional efforts: the deep understanding of, and ability to leverage your consumer insights, are extremely high level skill sets.

There’s a real difference between knowing who your consumer is, and understanding how they operate; what they think, how they feel. Their desires and their motivations.

Following, consider three ways you can start collecting consumer insight—today.

Social Listening

A great, free way to start gathering insight from your consumer, is to engage in social listening. There are many ways to do this, like simply searching the name of your brand and seeing what comes up. Twitter and Facebook work best for this, as their search factors in all copy (not just hashtags, account names, and locations).

There are plenty of paid tools and services available for this as well, but you can get started easily yourself. In addition to seeking out conversations about your brand, you can actually propagate and nurture them. Create a breeding ground for genuine, uncensored consumer conversation about your brand in a Facebook group, or website forum.

We’ve previously praised the power of Facebook groups here, so chalk this up as another reason to create one today.

Focus Groups

Okay, I lied. You probably won’t be able to employ this strategy, today, but it’s not as intensive of a process as you may believe.

Especially with all that is going on right now, gathering to participate in focus groups is not high on any consumer’s list of priorities. This style of brand-consumer conversation was starting to feel kind of stale anyway, so it’s a great time to reimagine it.

Over the past few years, technology has been helping to reshape the way focus groups are facilitated. While many still occur in person, many also occur digitally. There are great benefits to both; you are able to access local, and/or global perspectives, on demand.

You can be in Austin, and get broad ideas for your Asian market launch by facilitating a Zoom Focus Group with individuals from multiple regions. In real time.

The increasingly digital practice of this process does not equal the total phase out of more traditional, physical ones. In fact, I was recently told about a focus group in Boston for which the brand flew somebody in from San Francisco to participate.

San Francisco, to Boston.

I’m not sure where the return on investment was exaggerated for this one, but you would probably not be surprised to find that the brand charged with committing such budgetary atrocities were none other than the antiquated and struggling: Sears.

If the product were physical, and we really wanted to get a sense for how people would interact with it and such, maybe. In this case, it was regarding their credit card program. So, not one single thread of saving grace for them.

And, even if it were a physical product—mail it to an RSVP’d, committed list. Instruct them to wait and open the box on camera if you want initial reactions. Or, ask them to integrate the product into their lives for a week or two; then prepare to discuss at a set date and time. You could even require them to send the product back, or destroy it, depending on the stage of production, release, etc.

Thinking about focus groups in the traditional, textbook sense can be quite limiting. There are endless resources available to optimize one that works best for you, your brand, and your products/services.

Retail/Customer Facing Employees

Unfortunately, a lot of large brands and organizations treat their retail and other customer facing teams as less than. When in reality, they’re kind of more than. These are the teams that really represent your brand to your consumer. No matter how hard your advertising, marketing, or PR teams worked to get a consumer in the door; what happens next is all in the hands of those in the customer facing roles.

So, in addition to valuing all of your teams, find new ways to leverage their positions. Retail teams are the only ones that get the real, raw (often unsolicited) feedback from your consumer. Train your teams to de-escalate and turn these situations around, but also promote the ability for them to report that data back to head quarters.

This information is invaluable. It informs marketing, merchandising, human resources, training and development, legal teams, truly every corner of your brand.

What are some nontraditional ways in which you have received helpful consumer insight? How have you successfully leveraged it? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments!

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