The First Step to Insightful Customer Research


Customer research is something every business can benefit from - from the one man or woman band to the billion dollar multinational. But I get it. It can be a scary prospect for a new or small business. What should I do? How do I go about it? Do I have to actually talk to people? What do I need to ask? Who should I talk to? What if I’m not doing it right?


Don’t worry. This kind of thinking is normal. Not just about customer research, but anything. Doing something we haven’t done before can be hard. It takes a bit of courage to step out of our comfort zone and try something new. In doing so however, we learn and improve. We gain confidence. Then before we know it, we can’t even remember what we were worried about in the first place.


So the first step to doing awesome customer research is not rocket science. You are going to love how simple it really is.


You need to give it a go....That’s it. Make a start. Do anything. Trust me, it’s better than doing nothing.


“But I can’t work with that!” I hear you say. Oh, but you can. Why do I believe that? Because I know you already have two most important tools of any good researcher: Eyes and ears. And I know that you already use one of the most effective research techniques in your life almost every day: Having a conversation.


Having a conversation with a customer or prospective customer is a great way to do research. You don’t need any fancy knowledge of research tools and methodologies - just go in with the intent to listen (ears) and observe (eyes). You’ll notice I didn’t mention your mouth as an important tool. Yes it’s required to ask people questions in order to get a conversation going, but the less you talk the better.


You don’t even need to talk about something related to your business. Powerful insight comes from understanding the deep needs, motivations, fears, desires etc. of your customers. As you listen to them talk, pay attention to clues they might give as to how they are feeling or what’s important to them. Also look for signals about what they are not saying. Observe their body language and if there is something you think they are not talking about that is important and is lying beneath the surface, ask them about it.


I saw a great example of someone doing this just yesterday when went to have a massage. My masseur (who is amazing) always likes to have chat to find out what’s going on in my life before he starts. Earlier that week I had a death in my family. When he asked how I was, I didn’t immediately give this information out (although part of me wanted to), telling him I was good. It must of been something in my tone of voice, or how I was holding myself, but he dug a little deeper and asked “Is everything ok”? This was the only prompting I needed to tell my story.


That kind of information can be very important to him in providing a great service to me, as it may be affecting my stress levels and therefore the tension in my body. But there is also information in what I told him that could actually help him better understand his customers more generally.


I see him on a quite an irregular basis. If he was observant, he might realise despite needing to see him for physical reasons, it is often something emotional that actually motivates me or is a trigger for me to book an appointment. That insight is something he could use not only to help me as a client, but also in marketing, content creation, designing offerings and more.


Let’s say he has a blog for example, he could write a blog post “How to know when your body needs an emotional tension release”. He could create a massage package tailored to emotional tension. He could put copy on his website recommending massage as a helpful way for dealing with the stress of major life events. I’m sure he would be much better placed to come up with ideas than me, but you get the idea.


You can see how a very simple conversation, well observed, can provide very interesting and useful insight to enable you in your business.


Something else I highly encourage you to do, is write the things you learn and hear down. This to me is really the difference between just having a conversation and that conversation being able to be used for research. Yes we take information in by just hearing it, but it’s easy to forget details, specific stories, who said what etc. Keep a record of the interesting things you see and hear. Keep them organised. Then when you need your research for something specific, it’s all there ready to go.


So if you are not already having conversations with your customers, make a start. If your customers are online, ask them if you can have a chat to them over Skype or something some time. Or even just jump online and see what people are saying in things like Facebook, forums, Twitter etc. Observation and listening can occur without having a conversation at all. Write information, observations and insights down somewhere. Then start using it to inform your products and services and how you deliver them.


Then let me know how you go. I’d love to hear what worked, what didn’t and what you are learning about your customers.


And if you think this article would be helpful to someone you know, please share it.



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