20 Customer Insight Tips

Looking closer

Ideally you have all the money in the world in getting the customer insights you need for your next big project. If you don’t, you won’t be able to understand your target customers’ needs, behaviors and preferences – and your project will fail. Or?

Well, there are a lot of things you can do yourself to understand your customers better. Of course, you need to put some time into it. You also need to prepare yourself with an open mind, a child’s curiosity, a notepad, a pen and a camera or phone to document what is going on. Some things may even make you feel silly, but so what? If there are only a few things you can consider doing yourself – it is still better than doing nothing.

These are our 20 suggestions:

  1. Use Google’s free tools, e.g. Google Trends, Google Alerts and Think Insight. There may be insights of relevance to your category.
  2. Identify, follow and read relevant forums, blogs and magazines online.
  3. Use a free social media intelligence tool to start listening to how people speak about your category, brand and competitors. Check out the list of the top 50 social media intelligence tools at Social Media Today.
  4. Open your own Twitter account and start following relevant and interesting people and companies.
  5. Ask your friends and family for their opinions and thoughts.
  6. Spend a day with customer service, listen, ask questions to the customer service representatives and look into their statistics on customer complaints. Try the phone yourself to understand what is bothering your customers.
  7. Spend a day with a sales representative to observe, ask questions and listen.
  8. Spend a day in store observing how customers behave. Small talk to customers about how they reason when you start getting comfortable.
  9. Spend a few days as a demonstration person in store or at a relevant trade show – present your value propositions and listen to and learn from the responses you get.
  10. Spend a few days working on the floor in a relevant nearby store.
  11. Buy several relevant magazines – frequently read by your target customers – and screen them for ideas and input to your challenge.
  12. Ask a relevant magazine if you can join their news desk for a day. Ask, listen and learn. Observe how they gather insights on relevant topics in your target group.
  13. Identify and invite a key influencer to an informal breakfast; ask questions and to listen to his or her thoughts about your category and brand.
  14. Identify and invite a ‘heavy user’ for lunch, ask questions and listen to his or her thoughts about your category and brand.
  15. Identify and invite a ‘non user’ for a cup of coffee, ask questions and listen to his or her thoughts about your category and brand.
  16. Invite a few customers to a creative brainstorming session at your office and look for opportunities for innovation in products, services and marketing approach.
  17. Play customer yourself and pretend to be interested in buying a specific product within your category. Test different channels – over the phone, in a ‘brick and mortar’ store and online.
  18. Use your own website as a ‘pretend customer’ looking for a specific product or category.
  19. Ask you web master to go through statistics from Google Analytics for your homepage with you. Then follow the most frequently used customer paths yourself.
  20. And of course, remember to test using your own relevant products in their right environment. Test using your key competitors’ products too. Note and feel the differences yourself.

Also, remember to document – in writing, in photos and with short film clips – what you experience, what you see, what you hear and how you it makes you feel (good or bad, angry or happy etc). And of course write down all ideas for innovation and improvements that may come out on the way.

I’m curious to hear what other ideas for customer insight you might have. Looking forward to your input!

PS. If you don’t have the time yourself, we may be able to help. We use professional insight tools to provide intelligent and actionable insights. We also help your team put relevant insights to use in creative co-creation workshops and support you in the development of concept and strategy. We can even help you remodel your business to align with your product-market fit, i.e. target customers and relevant offering.