The quest for businesses to better understand their customers is nothing new. From focus groups to data aggregation, uncovering the voice of the end-user has remained a constant priority, with evolving opportunities over the years. Now, I’ll kick us off with a hot take, but I urge you to stick around and hear me out on this one.
It’s not all about collecting data.
The opportunities to capture data-driven insights about your customers are plentiful— and you can, and should, take advantage of the resources available to collect that information. But, if you can’t make sense of the data you end up with and use it to uncover something that other people aren’t already saying, then you don’t have much more than a glorified focus group on your hands.
Instead of just gathering as much data as possible, consider shifting your research focus to the most novel insights about the emotional drivers behind human decisions. The challenge is uncovering emotional impact through raw data on purchase behavior, social media, and other engagement patterns.
So, how do you go from heaps of customer information to a core understanding of who they really are?
1. Start with a defined target audience and human-level personas
Before gathering customer insights, you should already have a good idea of what audiences you will target in the first place.
Once you have a defined target audience, you can begin to collect behavioral data and knowledge about that group of people. This initial information will then inform your human-level personas.
Personas are a fictional representation of the types of humans you are targeting, rooted in the data you’ve collected, that help to understand them on a personal level. Each persona might answer what that type of person is interested in, what motivates them, what habits they tend to take on, what challenges they face, what goals they have, etc.
2. Combine your data analyses
Once you’ve compiled various data sources specific to your target personas, you can begin to generate hypotheses to explain why the data behaves the way it does.
Examine and explore your data, identify relationships, and look for cause-and-effect patterns. Combining various forms of data analyses ensures that you’re prepared to bring data to life and uncovering tangible emotional drivers.
3. Bring the data you have to life with selective 1:1 face-to-face dialogue
This is where your collection of generic data can actually be put to use and result in valuable, novel insights. The previous findings around your target audience and their behavioral patterns, drivers, and goals positions you to identify a small group of targeted individuals and conduct separate 1:1 dialogues.
Your goal in these conversations is to understand the emotional impact of their problems, feelings, reactions and other contextual information that isn’t obvious in data alone. For each well-defined, homogeneous persona, I’d recommend starting with 7-10 1:1 conversations.
Now, let’s dive deeper into what effective 1:1 conversations look like:
You can’t just take what customers say at face value. They will tell your competition the same thing, so this information doesn’t equip you to come out ahead.
These 1:1 interactions perform best when they’re face-to-face, allowing for observation of the reactions and feelings that come with verbal responses. True insight comes from understanding why people feel a certain way, which can be hard to identify in words alone.
I like to refer to the style of conversation that yields the best results as the therapy approach. Instead of following a stream of questions, keep a conversation going by simply saying ‘tell me more’ or asking how a problem, challenge, or behavior makes the customer feel instead of why it exists.
Data allows us to define our who and begin to understand them at their surface. But uncovering the true voice of your target customer is about creating a safe space for them to reveal feelings and emotional drivers, not just respond to generic questions. Taking the time to go that extra step is how you stand apart from competitors and stand firmly in customer-centricity.
For more info/questions about this topic or business transformation in general, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always grateful to keep the conversation going!