Want Valuable Market Research? Just Listen

I had a great time talking with the Charleston, S.C., chapter of the American Marketing Association yesterday. They didn’t know me from Adam and it was a packed house — a testament to the interest around my topic of marketing on a shoestring budget.

I shared 25½ ideas for marketing without spending a fortune. (The presentation was geared more toward small businesses, but even big corporations could apply the principles.) Right up front, I addressed the issue of using social media because there is the perception that these tools don’t cost anything (the reality is social media done right requires an investment of time and sometimes money).

Recently, Ragan.com ran an article by marketing and digital technology consultant John Jantsch in which he argues that social media really don’t matter anymore. “Undeniably,” he wrote, “we have a new way of doing business and marketing, but this new thing isn’t ‘social media,’ it’s simply a focus on engaging customers. That’s all there is to it.”

Essentially, his point is that you can hire all the social media gurus you want, using all the latest technology, but ultimately what works is a marketing strategy that focuses on knowing what customers want and need.

I couldn’t agree more, which is why many of the tips I shared yesterday focus on getting to know your customers and potential customers. I suggest things like taking customers out for a beer and asking them 20 questions and taking advantage of real-life social networking opportunities to listen to what customers say when you’re not trying to market to them. I encourage businesses to be remarkable in the free things like how they answer the phone and by sending hand-written thank-you notes. I endorse content marketing, which is all about providing valuable information and resources in order to build trust and credibility with the market.

The most valuable market research is just listening to customers. While many marketing plans begin with thinking about what our products can do, the great services we provide or how qualified we are to be the customer’s choice, they should start first with knowing and understanding our customers, their problems and issues, and what they want from a product or service provider. Powerful brands and strong marketing plans are built by closing our mouths and opening our ears.


5 Responses

  1. You’re right! No matter whether the method is through social media or not, there needs to be a focus on what the customers want and need.

  2. Thanks for a great presentation Robert!
    The pens all kept writing – even after you told the group we would receive your slides!

    I hope you were able to enjoy more of Charleston while you were here.


    Dir of Membership
    Charleston AMA

    • Thanks, Ted! You have a wonderful group there in Charleston AMA. I enjoyed spending some time with you. Unfortunately, I was unable to spend more time in Charleston on this trip, but look forward to coming back again. Charleston is one of my favorite cities that I’ve visited.

  3. I agree 100%. Knowing what the customer want is primary. Understanding the medium in which they want it communicated is secondary.

  4. Great ideas, Robert.

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