Finding out what your customers are thinking is a tough nut to crack. Where do you start? Are surveys still the only way to conduct customer research ? What if nothing useful comes from it? Do you really have time to do it?
Luckily for you, we’ve come up with a list of easy customer research tips and tricks. They even come with their own scoring system, so you know exactly how much effort you’ll have to put in.
Read on to discover:
– Why your social media strategy should include customer research
– Easy ways to perform customer research on a limited budget
– How to exploit your friends and family for valuable insights
Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals how to increase social media engagement with better audience research, sharper customer targeting, and Hootsuite’s easy-to-use social media software.
What are the benefits of customer research?
- Building trust and brand loyalty with your customer – listening to what they’re thinking and making changes as a result shows you’re a brand that respects its customers. By showing a willingness to learn you’re building trust and loyalty with your fans who want to help you shape that vision.
- Creating better products or services – everyone has their blind spots—brands especially—so by researching what your customers love—and dislike—about your product or service (or brand), you’re only going to make it better in the future.
- Better content – ideas come from everywhere and everyone. By researching what your customers are thinking and talking about, you can get inspiration from even the strangest bits of feedback and customer questions. This, in turn, can only help strengthen the content you create for your audience.
- Makes you a future-facing company – one that understands its audiences and customers, anticipating their needs rather than reacting to them. You can use the information you gather from your customer to get ahead of your competitors and be at the forefront of your industry.
We’ve established that customer research is important, but apart from surveys which seem old-hat in today’s social society, how can you easily (and lazily) conduct customer research?
9 simple ways to conduct customer research
1. Use your product
Go buy something from your store, create an account, or try to sign up for a subscription. Whatever it is you want your customers to do, go through the experience from their point of view. You’ll be surprised at what can shake out by doing this—and you’ll better understand your customer’s happiness—or frustrations—when they come into contact with you.
Ease of research score: 10/10. This is a no-brainer.
2. Search your brand on Reddit
This may be a new platform for you to try out, but Reddit is often very useful for unexpected nuggets of information. As Reddit caters to everything from the mainstream to the niche (it brands itself as the “front page of the internet”), you’re either going to find comments from someone who has used your product, or a group of enthusiasts in the industry your brand plays in.
Reddit posts are usually where you’ll find honest answers—sometimes brutally so—because people are talking to each other about you instead of directly to you. As such,it’s a place of unexpected insights and ideas on how to connect with your customers.
Ease of research score: 8/10 – easy to do once you get the hang of the platform, but sometimes you can get a bum steer by missing out on diverse voices or opinions in your brand’s niche, as Reddit can often be an echo chamber for similar opinions. However, the potential gain and the ease of doing this activity outweighs the negatives.
3. Look at your competitor’s social ads and their channels
Make a list of everyone you consider a competitor (and those your brand aspires to be like), and check out their social ads and channels. Look at the comments their audiences are leaving—the bad and the good. You’ll be able to see where your competitors are excelling and underperforming, and look to both emulate and avoid.
We usually find social adverts are especially telling, as audiences are sensitive to what ads are served up and so they tend be vocal and honest in their replies.
Ease of research score: 9/10. It can sometimes be tricky to find your competitors’ ads if you’re not served them automatically—keep your eyes open when you’re scrolling through feeds in your personal time. But, checking out their channels is easy as pie!
4. Take a look at Amazon reviews
There are a few reasons you should check Amazon reviews. If you sell a retail product on the platform, not only can you see what people are saying about you and your competitor’s products, but you can get very deep into niche research (like Reddit). For instance, if you’re an online service that helps users save money to buy a house, you can look up personal finance books and see from their reviews what content was helpful and where the gaps in the market are. This helps you to improve the service or content you’re offering to your audience.
Ease of research score: 8/10. This kind of customer research is easy to do, but you potentially have to wade through a lot of ‘paid for’ reviews to see what’s genuine and what’s not.
5. Talking with your sales team/jumping on a sales call
See how they talk to customers, what works well for them, and what doesn’t. It can be unexpectedly enlightening, and you might hear or see a technique that you hadn’t thought of using before to speak to your audience. Your sales team are on the front line—they know your customers better than anyone.
Ease of research score: 1 – 8/10. You might not have a sales department, but if you do, schedule a meeting with them right now (after finishing this blog post of course).
6. Interview friends and family that fit your brand’s demographic
This way you can still ask the more pointed and probing questions that you would in an expensive survey, but for free! Ask them for real and honest feedback, and do it face to face (over dinner?) to get their reactions—it’ll add much more colour to your understanding of your customers. Bring their insights back to your team to decide whether any are worth exploring further.
Ease of research score: 5/10. It can be tricky to wrangle friends and family, as well as time consuming. But we think the benefits of a in-person interview outweighs the effort spent.
7. Check the digital complaints box
It’s hard to read negative remarks or comments about your brand, but some of these may offer real insight into how to make your brand even better. Get on your social channels and check the comments, or talk to your customer service team and see what the most common complaints are. You can also reach out directly to individual customers for a more in-depth interview to understand with greater detail improvements you can make as a brand.
Ease of research score: 7/10. Tough to take on the criticism, but worth it!
8. Check your insights
Facebook and other major platforms have great metrics and insights on who follows and engages with your pages and content. This is a super simple—and free—way to get basic information on who your brand is appealing to. Sometimes it can be surprising as well.
Ease of research score: 10/10. This is a no-brainer
9. Do a keyword search
Find out which keywords are related to your brand or business and then go digging across social networks with them. Most social channels use hashtags as an easy way to navigate keywords, so you can see what people are posting in relation to them. Use the results of your research for inspiration—or a lesson in what not to do, depending on the post. This is a simple, quick, and incredibly easy activity that should be ongoing!
Ease of research score: 10/10. Another no-brainer
All 9 of these activities are the least you could possibly do to get a better picture of what your customers are thinking and feeling about your brand, but you don’t even need to do all of them. Pick one (or two if you’re feeling motivated!) and see how far you get.
Perhaps you’ll be inspired to take an even deeper dive into customer research by creating audience personas. Or maybe you’ll invest in some of the best social media analytics tools to get even more detailed insights. Whether you’ve got budget to burn or not, customer research is never a bad idea.
Connect with your customers on social media using Hootsuite. Upload, schedule, and publish posts to all the major social media networks from one dashboard. Try it free today.