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About the Author
Jamin Brazil is a seasoned chief executive with a background in leading high growth organizations from inception to exit. Over the last 20 years, he has developed a deep knowledge of market research which gives him a unique view when assessing which tools and techniques are trending. As the previous CEO of FocusVision, he was the first to bring to market a combination of qualitative and quantitative technologies that are used by 75% of the Fortune 100 and over 3,000 companies globally. Prior to FocusVision, he pioneered online surveys, conducting one of the first ones in 1996 and founded a top survey platform, Decipher, in 2000. Today, Brazil is the co-founder and CEO of HubUx, a modern project management platform for researchers, and the host of the Happy Market Research podcast

Why You Need to Get into Your Customer’s Head – And How to Do It

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What if you could spend a day inside the mind of your customer? Listening to their thoughts as they consider buying your product. Getting a glimpse of exactly what they see when they walk through the doors of your restaurant or click through your e-commerce site. What might you learn?


Imagine what a competitive advantage that would give you! You’d no longer be guessing what they think about your store layout, or which of your products they find the most valuable. Instead, you would be able to maximize the positive experience your customers are having, address any negative issues, and create a powerful emotional connection.


Your customers would not only come back time and time again, they would tell all their friends about your business. “It’s amazing, this company really gets me,” they would rave. That would be gold.


We don’t have the technology yet for you to spend a day looking around inside your customers head. Plus, it’s a little bit creepy.


Good thing we have market research.


What is market research?


If you are expecting a deep dive into spreadsheets and analytical tools here, you can relax. Because at its core, market research is simply a conversation you’re having with your customers. The tools you use to facilitate that conversation can get as complex as you want them to, but at the end of the day, market research is about you as a company looking for an answer to a question.


The question is usually something like:


  • How can I better meet my customers' needs?
  • How can I meet my employees' needs?
  • What do my customers think about me?
  • How likely are my customers to recommend my company to their friends?
  • What are we doing well, and what can we be doing better?


Market research is an incredible tool, and one that, in my experience, too few companies are using to create an actual competitive advantage.


What makes it so powerful?


Market research puts you in the mind of the customer


In the 2018, Watermark Consulting analyzed the S&P 500 Index to learn what caused the top performers to do so well. What they found was one commonality: those top performers were all customer-centric. The leaders were in tune with what their customers wanted; the laggards weren’t.


The top performers of the S&P 500 are companies that get inside the minds of their customers, creating emotional connections and experiences that foster loyalty. They’re making customer service decisions based on the reality of what customers want, not on what they think they might want.


They’re doing that through market research.


Market research helps you proactively identify business issues, rather than chasing after them.


Let’s look at a concrete example. A friend of mine owns a technology company that does surveys for small and midsize businesses. When they found that the number of repeat customers was declining at one of their restaurant clients, they started looking at the customer satisfaction surveys. They soon identified certain staff behaviors that were turning off patrons.


The owner never would’ve seen those behaviors in person. And if they hadn’t taken the time to check in through the eyes of their customers, they may not have identified the problem until it was far too late.


Market research tells your customers you care about them


We’ve all experienced a friend or coworker launching into long conversation about themselves without even asking how your day is going. It may make you feel ignored and overlooked. When your business neglects market research, you’re doing the same thing.


Market research poses a simple question to your customers: “How are you doing?” It lets them know that you care about the value exchange that’s taking place. Of course, a survey in and of itself isn’t enough to make your customers feel appreciated – just like if your friend or coworker asked how you were and then immediately ignored your answer.


But when a customer answers a survey and then sees you’ve made a change or validated a point, they feel like they’ve made a difference. They see that you actually do care about their opinion – they can even become a brand ambassador.


In my last business, we did customer satisfaction surveys every month. Every time a customer had a problem, I – the CEO – would pick up the phone and own the issue. Then, once the issue was solved, I would call them back. Not only did that make these customers happy, they became the number one source of new referral business for us.


Market research isn’t just about turning detractors into brand advocates. It can also create stronger connections with customers who already think you’re doing great. It allows you to identify your best customers – that 20% who are responsible for 80% of your revenue – and make them feel truly heard.


Market research is the rudder of action


You don’t need fancy software or a market research firm to start having a conversation with your customers (though it can certainly help to have experts at your side who know your industry and can help you parse the data). All you need is a search engine to find all the resources you could ever want about how to ask a question, what questions to ask, and what to do with the answers.


Your survey doesn’t have to be groundbreaking – it can be based on any of the fantastic templates you find. They take a lot of questioning and guesswork out of the process, and most free or paid surveys software will come with prebuilt ones you can easily use.


Of course, there can be a lot of creativity around which approach to use to get your customer feedback. Instead of a survey, you might do in-depth interviews, or even host an informal focus group where you supply appetizers and drinks after hours and invite customers to come share their thoughts.


Getting started with market research doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Schedule a 30-minute brainstorming session with your team to figure out how to best get feedback from your customers. Then, spend no more than a couple of hours implementing that system.


Finally, schedule 10 minutes a week into your calendar to start looking at the data and creating real change based on the feedback.


Consistent market research gives you the information needed to shape your marketing plan, your product launches, your customer service experience, and every other aspect of your business. Asking customers where they spend their time and what they care about gives you the opportunity to connect with people at a deeper level.


It allows you to get inside their heads and see your business from their perspectives.


And that is priceless.