The most critical mistake any business can make is assuming they know what their audience thinks or needs. We all come to any given situation with a bias – a philosophical perspective created from our personal experiences – that is uniquely personal. This is particularly true in business decisions. Internal marketing teams are often:
Tired of their current marketing messages long before their audience is familiar with them
Far more familiar with their product or service benefits than their audience is
Dealing with far different challenges on a day-to-day basis than their audience
So, how can businesses make sure they are saying the right things to the right target?
Talk to them.
Conduct surveys, interviews, focus groups, and customer advisory boards. Motivate your audience and engage their participation on the premise that the better you understand their needs, the better you can solve them.
The correct questions and conversation topics will differ based on your market, your product or service, and recent economic or market shifts. However, if you ask nothing else, these 8 questions will get you the basic information you need to assess your messaging and market positioning at a high level.
- What are their biggest challenges?
- What do they need to succeed today?
- What changes do they see happening in the industry over the next 3-5 years?
- How do they expect their business to change in response?
- What adjectives best describe how they see your business?
- Where do they get information about you and your competitors?
- What, if anything, do they feel you have to offer that your competitors don’t?
- Which company do they think is the best fit for their business, and why?
Most respondents will tolerate 20-30 questions in a 1:1 scheduled interview or survey, and the balance of questions should be filled in with the subtle particulars for your industry, your business, and your competitors.
Tip for optimal results:
To get candid and honest responses, it is best to use a third-party resource to conduct your market research. Sometimes the truth hurts, and your customers or prospects might not feel comfortable telling you honestly where your weak spots are. Worse yet, if you did get a customer or prospect to be truly honest about your company’s shortcomings, an internal contact will typically respond with excuses rather than seeking to fully understand the issue and the perception that surrounds it. A third-party interviewer or moderator can serve as an unbiased listener to gather valuable feedback and remain objective in the process. This objectivity provides the interviewer with the perspective to follow critical conversational threads to uncover actionable details and strategic recommendations.
To keep your marketing communications strategy on target:
- Gather market intelligence at least once a year
- Use a third-party resource to provide anonymity to your respondents and objective strategic analysis
- Focus on your audience’s needs and perceptions, rather than trying to validate your existing strategy