When it comes to their purchase decision process, wouldn’t you like to know what’s going on inside your customers’ and prospects’ minds? What factors influence their purchasing decisions? What features are important to them? Which brands and products are they considering? Once they’ve made their first purchase, what makes them decide to make another? How much are they really willing to spend on a product like yours? Which social networking sites do they consult? Etc.
This type of information can be invaluable. Obtaining it is not always easy, but it usually can be done. The trick is to know exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish, put an overall strategy in place to ensure you’re hitting all the pieces, and then take a multi-pronged approach to this customer analysis puzzle.
Delving into the Consumer Decision Making Process
In your quest to find out what your customers are thinking and what is important to them, you may want to consider utilizing some or all of the following tactics:
- Surveys – As I explained in my previous blog on “5 Surveys that Can Transform Your Decision Making,” well-designed and well-executed surveys can yield a wealth of information.
- Focus Groups – Bringing a group of people together to interact with each other under the watchful eye of a trained focus group leader can be a great way to learn about their thoughts, feelings, opinions and reactions.
- Online Focus Groups – Also called “online panels,” participants in online focus groups respond to focus group questions from the moderator – and often interact with each other – online, from their own homes or workplaces.
- In-Depth 1-on-1 Interviews – A trained interviewer can often elicit all kinds of useful information about your customers’ purchase decisions.
- Ethnographies – A major limitation of all of the tactics listed so far is that they measure what people say they do, not what they actually do. In an ethnography study the researcher goes into the participant’s home or office and observes how the participant interacts with the product being studied. This can be very helpful for obtaining user experience information for your product development team.
- Social Media Studies – Taking a close look at the appropriate blogs, forums, review sites and other social networking sites can often provide a variety of insights into your typical customers’ purchase decision process.
- Input from Your Employees – Never overlook the insight of the people on the front lines who are actually interacting with your customers. Put a system in place to actively encourage your customer service and sales people to share feedback and insights gleaned from their actual conversations with customers and prospects.
There are many different ways to get inside the minds of your customers, and some of these tactics may be more appropriate for your business than others. Just keep in mind that none of these tactics should be used in a silo. For best results your customer analysis efforts should strive to integrate and correlate all of the data you collect into one complete (or as complete as possible) picture.