The two-fold takeaway from today's technology-driven revolution in market research is: Listen and Respond.

Businesses and nonprofits have an array of Internet-enabled tools to put them in close touch with customers and stakeholders. Online research methodologies capitalizing on social media options can give marketers virtually direct access to target audiences. Through controlled online communities, for instance, marketers can solicit insights about what customers really want, giving them an edge over less tech savvy competitors. In these tough economic times, having dynamic market information a click away can mean the difference between staying in business or not.

With a nod to neuromarketing, work is being done to better understand consumer behavior and learn how people make purchasing decisions. In his recent book, Buy-ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, marketing behavior expert Martin Lindstrom examines what influences consumer decisions and suggests advertisers and marketers must be mindful of the importance of the brain's unconscious responses, which dictate why we make the purchase we do.

Making the most of the latest marketing science and evolving technologies takes specialized expertise. However, it's one thing to gather information, but making it work to your advantage is something else entirely -- so it pays to get professional guidance. The Cincinnati-based consultancy SpencerHall, for instance, offers a range of technology-based products to help clients turn consumer insights into business breakthroughs.

One service SpencerHall has introduced is called "Transforum." Transforum uses a Web-based platform for clients to interact with thought leaders -- from futurists and trend spotters to inventors and consumer psychologists. After qualitatively evaluating and refining the results of the multi-day Transforum process, clients gain a clear understanding of a promising direction to take their business. The company also uses ethnography to gauge customer interest, which many experts assert is one of the most accurate methods of conducting research nowadays.

Bottom line? The most effective marketers truly hear what customers want and respond accordingly. They know what triggers the consumer to buy and look for fresh ideas that evoke an emotional customer response. Technology not only aggregates information but now enables divergent experts the ability to share ideas.