Sam McNerney Independent Consultant

28. How to Conduct Great Customer Research

 October 14, 2020

By  Will

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In episode 28 of the Customers Who Click podcast Sam McNerney joined me to talk about consumer research

It’s obviously an incredibly important piece for any business, and really more marketers at companies big and small should be running this sort of research, and really learning what drives their customers to purchase.

I’m a huge fan personally of gathering as much feedback, both qualitative and quantitative from customers as possible. It’s easy to sit back, just looking over Google Analytics and heatmaps and make assumptions and create hypotheses from the data you have there, but the real gold comes from the customers themselves.

What do they like or dislike about your website? What do they like or dislike about your products? How do they actually perceive your brand?

The trick is to write these questions without introducing bias though, and it is difficult, which is why brands hire experts like Sam.

Sams an expert and designing surveys and really asking the right questions to ensure your feedback is useful and relevant, and not biased by phrasing.

Key Highlights:

0:47 - 07:47 - Sam’s Introduction to the World of Consumer research - Big brands spend millions on this research to learn what their customers want, and help them refine their businesses and products. What benefits do people want from the products? What price are they willing to pay for those benefits? But also what does the brand mean to them? What does it represent and is that important to them? These brands create mockup stores and track people as they walk through them, they observe people in their homes. So much goes into this research as the big brands know it pays off.

08:12 - 12:48 - Whats the Most Underrated Aspect of Marketing? - The people who exist between the analytics and data, and the brand marketing side. People who can understand both, and combine that knowledge and experience to develop better customer experiences. There are certain areas of marketing and advertising that are difficult to test, you don’t really test a brand for example, the social responses just don’t really feed into the data in the same way, so someone who is super data orientated will struggle to understand the reaction, but someone very brand focused will struggle to attach data to that reaction.

16:54 - 19:28 - Getting Started With a Client - A great way to get started is to find a sample of outside people, provide them a little survey or a question and just point them to your website and ask them what your brand stands for. It’s kind of obvious from an internal point of view, you think you know what your brand stands for as you created it, but actually it’s quite eye opening to find out what other people think when experiencing your brand for the first time. You might think you’re all about sustainability, but that message might not be breaking through to people, who instead think you’re about value instead.

20:17 - 23:50 - Be Creative With Your Questions - Another reason why you need those special sort of people involved is that the questions need to be clever to really dig out the golden insights. Sam shared a fantastic example that removed any aspect of buying bias such as pricing, or having to consider whether this product was available to them, and purely focused on the brand affinity. 

26:33 - 34:10 - Why do you exist? - Ultimately thats the question you need to be asking. Why does your brand exist? Being Mortal by Atul Gawande was recommended by Sam here, it talks about how important it is to understand what people want. It’s not actually a marketing book at all, but the message is there. Understand what people want, and why, and you can craft your messaging and your advertising to those needs.

34:15 - 40:18 - Design Vs Function - Tend to get a lot of sites that focus either more on design, or more on functionality. On the design side, obviously making it look pretty and professional is important, it attracts peoples attention and immediately builds a level of trust compared to an older or poorly designed site with odd colours and fonts. Then on the function side, some people’s view is that if people click through to your website, they’ll either buy or they won’t, having a pretty design and strong messaging doesnt really affect things.

40:20 - 44:43 - Brand Positioning in Beer - Certain beers are perceived as being for certain occasions. If you’re on the beach, or maybe at a BBQ and its nice and sunny, Corona comes to mind, while maybe Bud Light is the choice during the football. People will obviously have different tastes when it comes to beer, but will frequently choose a beer for the occasion.

46:01 - 50:35 - Polling & Pricing - Polling, or quantitative research is really important, but you’ve got to spend the time getting it right. If you phrase one of the choices in a particular way it can really stand out as the obvious choice. It’s why a lot of surveys will now ask you to rate how you feel about a statement, and several statements will be similar, or phrased the opposite way. It’s a good way of getting an idea for how someone really feels about it by providing several biases.

54:24 - 1:00:41 - Tips and Things to Avoid - Don’t be afraid to ask more personal questions. It’s really important to find out who these people are, and what they value. Your questions don’t even have to be directly related to your brand either, it’s important to find out what activities someone enjoys and why, do they have a family, what are their values, as this can all help you build out what your customer base looks like, and how your messaging might need to change to resonate with them better. As mentioned before on the podcast, UGC and customer feedback is one of the best ways of acquiring new customers.

1:01:07 - 1:02:40 - Sam’s Marketing Pet Peeve - Marketers who call themselves story tellers, but don’t actually tell any stories. A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, it has characters and an emotional arc. 

If you’d like to hear more from Sam you can connect with him on LinkedIn or you can find his website at https://www.sammcnerney.com/


Will is a Customer Journey Marketing consultant, specialising in CRO, CRM and Customer Experience. Will has over 7 years experience working across a range of consumer facing businesses and has worked for huge brands such as MyVoucherCodes, Europcar, JackpotJoy, Virgin Games and Virgin Bet.


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