When you're trying to reach the connected consumer, every detail matters.

Your voice and tone.

Where you speak to them.

How you speak to them.

The terminology you use.

The images you select.

The list could go on. The connected consumer is empowered with so many choices, so many options, that brands have less time than ever to grab their attention.

According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 marketing messages a day--and all they have to do to get past the ones they don't like is scroll or switch screens (which the average consumer does up to 21 times per hour, also according to the AMA).

In this digital environment, simply being louder than your competition won't work. You have to ensure that you're saying something your customer wants to hear, in the manner in which they want to hear it.

That's where market research comes in.

Market research is more than looking at Google Analytics

The average marketer has plenty of data available to them. Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Hubspot, Facebook Insights--these platforms can give you great details about who your customers are and their behavior online.

However, I'd posit that as marketers, we've become too reliant on these platforms, using them as substitutes for the kind of firsthand, rigorous market research that used to be the only way brands could learn about their customers.

That's not to say that you need to run an in-person focus group every time you want to launch a new marketing campaign. It does mean, however, that most brands could benefit from spending more time observing and talking to the people whose attention they're trying to capture.

Market research methods that any brand can implement

Consumer interviews

With social media, finding customers to interview is easier than it used to be. You can easily send out a tweet or put up a Facebook post asking people to respond if they'd be interested in doing a short interview for market research purposes.

This method is best if you're trying to garner feedback on a specific campaign or idea. For example, maybe you're redesigning your website and you want to know why visitors click on a specific section more than another. Or perhaps you're launching a new product and want to know whether your customers are making more purchases online or in brick-and-mortar stores, and why.

If you're not getting enough responses to your calls for interviewees, you may need to offer a small incentive, like a Starbucks card, in return for their time.

Social media research

Researching your social media followers can give you great insight into what your customers are thinking about, talking about, and interested in.

There are a few things you can start with.

The first is, who's the biggest voice in your industry? Who's making the most important points, being quoted and retweeted the most, and shaping the conversation? It may not be a follower--it could be a competitor, and that's OK. You just need to find out who the person or entity is so that you can get a sharper view of what's appealing to the people you want to reach.

Second, who are your newest followers, and where are they coming from? While you don't want to ignore the fans who've been with you long-term, looking at what your newcomers are interested in, what they're saying, and what they're engaging with will give you insight into what's resonating with your customers right now.

Finally, try some micro-market research. This method involves identifying one follower--a "power user," or someone who's very active on your brand's social media channels and who engages with your content regularly to research and, possibly, interview. Look at what they're posting, which content of yours they find the most engaging, and where else they're sharing your posts.

The idea is to gain as full an understanding as possible of the user's online activity with your brand. By doing so, you'll gain a wealth of information that can be extrapolated and used to improve your brand's marketing efforts.

Market research requires lots of effort, but it can be a game-changer for brands that want to make authentic, lasting connections with the connected consumer.

Published on: May 30, 2018