As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get swept up in the allure of branding. If something is cool and pretty and makes us swoon, won’t that same logo and color scheme draw in customers like flies to honey? The answer is… maybe, maybe not. And you’d be wise to find out before fully investing in your branding. Customer research may sound unexciting, expensive, or both. But it’s the difference between upward growth, and flatlining revenue. Skip this step at your own peril.
For example: one of my clients is a home organization company. I’ve never hired a home organizer, but I felt like I had a good grasp on who does. Turns out, I was dead wrong. And how did I learn that? By speaking directly with the company’s clients. They told me a bit about themselves and why they hired a home organizer.
The goal of your research at this point is to figure out what exactly your customers are actively looking for. And, heads up, what they’re searching for might be different than the need you’ve identified in the market.
In “This is Marketing,” Seth Godin says “…it’s not helpful to imagine that everyone knows what you know, wants what you want, believes what you believe.”
Rather, he advises marketers that, “The way we make things better is by caring enough about those we serve to imagine the story that they need to hear. We need to be generous enough to share that story, so they can take action they’ll be proud of.”
A great example from the book is a case study in which nonprofit organization, VisionSpring, sent a team to sell affordable glasses to a village in India where 65 percent of adults needed corrective eyewear, and hadn’t previously had access to glasses.
What Godin discovered was that a simple change in messaging and presentation doubled sales.
If you’re not investigating which messages resonate with your target audience, and what messaging scares them away, then you’re likely leaving major money on the table.
The research process doesn’t end once you’ve achieved product market fit, either. Once you nail down your product offering, it takes another layer of research to figure out how to share that product.
Here are four simple ways to implement consumer messaging research without huge investment:
- Observe your customers in real life
If you’re an e-commerce brand, it’s easy to think that you don’t have to put in any face-to-face time, but engaging directly with customers will give you insights worth their weight in gold. Consider holding local pop-up events to meet your customers, or attend events where you know they’ll be present.
- Use free survey tools
You should send a survey to your customers at least once a year. They don’t have to be complex, although they can be if you have someone with survey expertise on your team. To get started, you can use a free tool like Typeform or Survey Monkey.
- Interview your customers
Yes, this means old fashioned questions and answers. Send a select group of past or current customers an email, schedule a time to chat, and then ask them about their experience with your company’s product or service, what problems or hassles they’ve experienced with it (if any), and how your product or service has solved their problem. It’s old fashioned, but it works.
- Read Amazon reviews
Joanna Wiebe, founder of Copyhackers and pioneer of conversion copywriting, has gotten clients great results using simple research techniques like review mining. That means going on Amazon and reading through reviews for books and products in your startup’s general category.
For example, if your business sells online gardening courses, that means reading reviews for gardening books and looking at what people are saying about their struggles with getting plants to grow (and stay alive), along with any topical questions.
Once you’ve done that, you can add those nuggets of information to your customer research data. By taking the time to conduct customer research and finding out who your consumers really are, you can then build a brand around those traits, characteristics and needs. In the end, it will give you and your business an extra advantage.