“Listening As A Strategy” or 7 Essential Market Research Techniques and Tools for Businesses

The only sustainable competitive advantage is your organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition.”  Peter Senge

Today, your only sustainable competitive advantage is your organization’s ability to learn faster than your competitors do. Using social media and using what you learn throughout your organization’s decision-making process is the key to unlocking that sustainable advantage. 

And that requires listening. Listening to what customers are telling you they want and then creating great content that responds to what customers are asking for.

In addition to publishing on social media channels, they must also become your listening posts. This is where you listen to your customers, learn from them and skillfully shape the discussion. 

“Social Listening” is a skill required in an effective Digiquation strategy and an activity where automated tools provide the information that’s needed, cost-effectively.  

The challenge isn’t collecting the data you need, it’s first understanding what you are looking for and then, aggregating the results and knowing what to do with the data you collect.

New digital “listening” tools enable you to gather…

  • Market Intelligence
  • Consumer Intelligence
  • Brand Intelligence
  • Product Intelligence
  • Influencer Identification
  • Community Intelligence
  • Competitive Intelligence
  • Reputation Intelligence

Social Listening tools are used to learn about what and where conversations are happening about your industry, your brand, your products, your company, and your competitors and to monitor keywords. From analyzing the data you learn:

  • Why customers need you
  • What customers want from you
  • When customers are looking for you
  • How customers are looking for you

Reaching customers in the Digital Age is challenging – but it’s essential. As the New York Times pointed once out “a wealth of online product information and user reviews is causing a fundamental shift in how consumers make decisions“. 

Listening to Social Media and doing in-depth keyword research provides powerful new opportunities for organizations to understand the personality traits of their potential and existing customers that can help you shape not only marketing but HR, product development, and corporate governance too. These new tools, and others just emerging offer the ability to garner many insights into many different areas of interest to business. This is far different from counting “likes”, “followers” and “retweets”. These tools, AI, and big data make predicting the adoption rates of products to detect emerging trends (as Brandwatch does) simple and cost-effective. You can begin to use these capabilities right now. New AI-powered tools provide sophisticated search capabilities to discern trends and garner insights 

There’s no doubt that the age of “socialytics” (remember that term), the analysis of social data, is upon us. We’re entering an era where the ability to unlock the secrets of customer dynamics through the use of sophisticated tools that makes listening to them readily available to us all will change the way marketers understand and create value for your customers and your organization.

Listening to what your customers are looking for reorients your focus and have you speaking the language that your customers are speaking. This is stuff that is the catalyst of corporate reorganization not based not around product groups, not around departmentalizing, not around management objectives but based on customer demand. It’s a reorganization that puts customers at the center of your organizational strategy. It’s an entirely customer-focused business model.

The term “customer-centric” has been bandied about for years. But organizations have found the principle of customer-centricity much harder to practice than to talk about. Putting the customer first means reorienting the enterprise by putting the customer’s best interest first and making it the dynamic from which every business decision is made. When this happens, when organizations line up behind the needs and wants of customers the organization’s focus changes. And because it does consumers become loyal and will even in some cases pay a premium to do business with you producing even greater ROI for you.

When your organization becomes a customer focused all kinds of wonderful things happen. In addition to producing greater ROI for you. loyal customers actually become your best sales team; they evangelize for your organization, recommend your products and most of all give you the opportunity to retain them as lifetime customers, the only true enduring competitive advantage today. 

As Ranjay Gulati, Harvard Business School professor and author of Reorganize for Resilience says “you’ve got to change your organization’s focus from one of “I’m here not to sell what I produce” to one of “I’m here to solve customer problems”. 

Had the music industry been listening they wouldn’t have embarked on a desperate strategy of filing lawsuits against their (presumably best) customers. They would have understood that no one, at least not many people, actually wanted to own a CD. If they’d gotten Negroponte’s “Being Digital” message that people don’t want “bits” they want “bytes” they would have understood that it’s content (in this case music) that people want, not the physical delivery method (the CD) and instead of waiting for Apple to fill the void with iTunes they could have captured the market for digital downloads themselves. But they didn’t and look what’s happened to the once mighty record company and record retailing juggernauts.

Consider the disruptive case of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and their 2012 release of the Grammy-winning album “The Heist”. The CD was available online for $8.99, (approximately half the price of a record company-distributed album). Macklemore and their fans both benefited from substantially reduced costs. The album was self-produced, self-published, and is self-promoted, with one exception, Macklemore contracted with a major record company to accomplish only one task – promotion to radio stations.  Other than that single promotional effort, no “record company” had any place in Macklemore’s new business plan. Macklemore has circumvented the system. They’ve listened to their fans and done it themselves. While they’ve done that they’ve reduced a once mighty record behemoth to merely being a service provider by eliminating friction between themselves and their fans. Macklemore knows what music fans want. Macklemore knows that their fans want “bits” not “bytes”. 

By putting “Listening As A Strategy” in place in the organization the focus shifts to operational issues enabling change that drives growth in revenue and profit. This is accomplished because business processes focus on customer relationships, satisfaction and retention. Armed with the knowledge that Digiquation provides the enterprise is able to begin focusing on customer-centric operating models and using advanced segmentation driven by analytics to better engage with customers at costs far lower than previously possible.

Organizations that build their operations around a deep understanding of their customers, one that recognizes the differing needs of different customers at different times and delivers a great customer experience at every touch point across the customer life-cycle accomplish great things as it places the customer at the heart of its decision-making processes. These are the organizations that will win the battle for customer acquisition and retention in this new digital marketing world.

It’s all about solving customer problems and focusing your organization on listening to the customer, is the way to begin the journey to a truly customer-focused enterprise.

This can only be accomplished when every part of the organization is trusted and empowered to contribute to the effort.

But it’s more than just about listening, it’s about responding too.

With the rising expectations of “always-on” customers organizations no longer have the luxury of taking a “wait and see” or incremental approach to social media. Your customers are increasingly using digital, mobile, and social channels to express themselves and organizations that ignore this do so at their own peril. 

Twitter and Facebook, are often the first place many customers seek customer support and where they go to express their displeasure about a brand experience. Not responding, or responding too slowly makes a business, in the customer’s mind, seem unprofessional and uncaring,

Social Media responsiveness is critical. Customers are looking at your social media efforts and judging you by them. Responsiveness makes customers happy, a key ingredient in that “Fourth Moment of Truth”, creating brand evangelists who drive positive brand sentiment. Conversely, a lack of responsiveness or responding defensively the way Bank of America and Bakers Chocolate have can be devastating.

A study written some time ago, titled “Consumers Will Punish Brands that Fail to Respond on Twitter Quickly” conducted by Lithium and Millward Brown found that “consumers will reward brands that harness Twitter’s power to meet their rising expectations while punishing those that fail to respond in a timely way“.

“Customers have high expectations for a quick response: 53 percent who expect a brand to respond to their Tweet demand that response comes in less than an hour, according to the Lithium-commissioned study by Millward Brown Digital. That figure skyrockets to 72 percent when they have complaints.

When companies don’t meet these lofty response expectations, 38 percent feel more negative about the brand and a full 60 percent will take unpleasant actions to express their dissatisfaction.

The implications of failing to respond quickly on Twitter are serious and the majority of users will escalate their negativity — from closing their wallets to publicly shaming the brand on social media. In fact, 74 percent of customers who take to social media to shame brands believe it leads to better service.

What’s more, even consumers who are initially positive can quickly turn negative if brands fail to respond to their Tweets in a timely manner.”

This puts extraordinary pressure on organizations to put a responsive social media listening strategy into place and be rewarded with immediate positive benefits.

The study went on to show that when brands respond quickly they will be rewarded for their efforts. According to the study: 

  • 34 percent are likely to buy more from that company;
  • 43 percent are likely to encourage friends and family to buy their products;
  • 38 percent are more receptive to their advertisements;
  • 42 percent are willing to praise or recommend the brand through social media.

This means that by providing great customer service through social media channels there is a huge opportunity, here, once again, to differentiate by showing customer-centric responsiveness.

Market research is, of course, an integral part of business strategy. Companies must understand their target audience to provide products or services that meet their customers’ needs and expectations, and to develop effective marketing strategies that appeal to them. However, conducting market research can be challenging, particularly given the pace at which technologies and tools are evolving. Here we will explore the latest market research trends, techniques, and tools that businesses can leverage.

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning

AI and machine learning has transformed the way businesses conduct market research. These tools analyze large data sets and uncover valuable insights about customer behavior, preferences, and trends. AI-powered tools can also automate the research process, helping businesses to gather data more quickly and efficiently.

IBM Watson: IBM Watson is an AI-powered tool that helps businesses analyze large data sets to uncover insights and automate the research process.

Google Cloud AutoML: Google Cloud AutoML is an AI-powered tool that helps businesses create custom machine-learning models to analyze data and uncover insights.

Hugging Face: Hugging Face is an open-source platform for natural language processing (NLP) that helps businesses analyze text data and uncover insights.

2. Social Media Listening

Social media platforms have become a goldmine of customer information. Social media listening tools help businesses monitor online conversations, comments, and reviews to gain insights into customer pain points, preferences, and trends.

Hootsuite Insights: Hootsuite Insights is a social media listening tool that helps businesses monitor online conversations and track their social media presence.

Mention: Mention is a social media listening tool that helps businesses track their brand and competitors, monitor online conversations, and analyze sentiment.

Brandwatch: Brandwatch is a social media listening tool that helps businesses monitor online conversations, track their brand and competitors, and analyze sentiment.

3. Online Surveys

Online surveys are a cost-effective and straightforward way to collect feedback from a large sample of customers. Online survey tools provide a user-friendly platform for creating and distributing surveys, and the data collected can be analyzed using data visualization tools to uncover patterns and trends.

SurveyMonkey: SurveyMonkey is an online survey tool that helps businesses create and distribute surveys and analyze the data collected.

Qualtrics: Qualtrics is an online survey tool that helps businesses create and distribute surveys, analyze the data collected, and gain insights into customer behavior and preferences.

Google Forms: Google Forms is a free online survey tool that helps businesses create and distribute surveys and analyze the data collected.

4. Focus Groups

Focus groups allow businesses to gather detailed feedback from a small group of customers in a controlled environment. Discussions can be recorded and analyzed later to uncover insights about customer behavior, preferences, and pain points.

FocusVision: FocusVision is a focus group software that helps businesses conduct remote focus groups and gain insights into customer behavior and preferences.

Zoom: Zoom is a video conferencing tool that helps businesses conduct remote focus groups and gain insights into customer behavior and preferences.

5. Neuromarketing

Neuromarketing is a rapidly growing field that uses neuroscience techniques to measure and analyze customer responses to marketing stimuli. Techniques such as eye-tracking, EEG, and fMRI can be used to measure brain activity and emotional responses, providing businesses with insights into how customers are likely to respond to marketing messages.

iMotions: iMotions is a neuromarketing software that helps businesses conduct eye-tracking and biometric research to gain insights into customer behavior and preferences.

BIOPAC: BIOPAC is a biometric research software that helps businesses conduct physiological research to gain insights into customer behavior and preferences.

Tobii: Tobii is eye-tracking research software that helps businesses gain insights into customer behavior and preferences.

6. Big Data Analytics

Big data analytics involves analyzing large data sets to identify patterns and trends. Companies can use big data analytics to gain insights from customer data, social media data, and sales data.

Tableau: Tableau is a data visualization software that helps businesses create interactive dashboards and visualizations to analyze and present data.

IBM Cognos Analytics: IBM Cognos Analytics is a business intelligence software that helps businesses create and analyze reports and gain insights from data.

Microsoft Power BI: Microsoft Power BI is a business analytics software that helps businesses analyze data, create interactive dashboards, and share insights with stakeholders.

7. Mobile Research

Mobile research involves collecting feedback from customers on-the-go. This can be done through surveys, focus groups, and in-app feedback tools.

Pollfish: Pollfish is a mobile survey platform that helps businesses create and distribute surveys to mobile users and gain insights into customer behavior and preferences.

QuickTapSurvey: QuickTapSurvey is a mobile survey platform that helps businesses create and distribute surveys and collect data offline.

SurveyPocket: SurveyPocket is a mobile survey app that helps businesses create and distribute surveys and collect data offline.

In conclusion, market research is a crucial component of any business strategy, and staying up-to-date with the latest trends, techniques, and tools is essential. From AI and machine learning to social media listening and mobile research, businesses have a range of tools at their disposal to gather valuable insights that inform their marketing and product strategies. By leveraging these tools and techniques, businesses can gain a competitive advantage in today’s dynamic and ever-changing business landscape.

AI Software Tools Mentioned In This Article:

  1. IBM Watson: https://www.ibm.com/watson
  2. Google Cloud AutoML: https://cloud.google.com/automl
  3. Hugging Face: https://huggingface.co/
  4. Hootsuite Insights: https://hootsuite.com/platform/insights
  5. Mention: https://mention.com/en/
  6. Brandwatch: https://www.brandwatch.com/
  7. SurveyMonkey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/
  8. Qualtrics: https://www.qualtrics.com/
  9. Google Forms: https://www.google.com/forms/about/
  10. FocusVision: https://www.focusvision.com/
  11. Zoom: https://zoom.us/
  12. iMotions: https://imotions.com/
  13. BIOPAC: https://www.biopac.com/
  14. Tobii: https://www.tobiipro.com/
  15. Tableau: https://www.tableau.com/
  16. IBM Cognos Analytics: https://www.ibm.com/analytics/cognos-analytics
  17. Microsoft Power BI: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/
  18. Pollfish: https://www.pollfish.com/
  19. QuickTapSurvey: https://www.quicktapsurvey.com/
  20. SurveyPocket: https://www.surveypocket.com/

These tools offer a range of features and capabilities, and businesses should carefully evaluate their specific needs before choosing which tools to use for their market research.

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