Advertising, Business, Consumer Research, Marketing

Conduct the Best Consumer Research for FREE. Here’s how.

Many marketers spend a lot of time – I argue too much time – seeking the answer to one of these two questions on consumer behavior:

“Why did they buy?”

“Why didn’t they buy?”

It’s funny how marketers tend to think about “consumers”. It’s as if they are this elusive foreign species that can only be examined at arm’s length behind the cloak of a corner window office. Careful – don’t get too close – consumers have been known to bite!

So, the task of getting into their head is often delegated to research consulting firms. Thousands of dollars and several months later, results are produced, reviewed, and executed by way of revised marketing strategy and ad spend.

Does this approach work? Of course.

But, what if I told you there was an alternative way to gain consumer insight – for free?

Consumer-Smaller-images-699X36119

Gaining valuable knowledge into consumer behavior is as simple as stepping out of your office (it’s alright – the consumers have been heavily sedated for your safety) and into the front lines. Whether your business is a restaurant, store, medical facility or bank, you are doing it a severe disservice by not stepping into that environment on a regular basis through the consumer lens.

It’s the ability to take off that super trendy (yet ironically blinding) marketing hat and experience your business from the standpoint of you – the consumer you. Because, I hate to be Captain Obvious here, but, you and I? We ARE the consumer. Yes, we’re marketing mavens and business aficionados. But we’re also consumers. Much can be learned by simply stopping to look around, observe, and get in tune to your thoughts within the environment.

During my tenure at Sandbox, a full-service creative agency headquartered in Chicago, we spent a lot of time at our client’s place of business. I’m not talking about their office – I’m talking about their store. Conducting store visits and audits was a regular part of life, whether you were a research director, project manager, or intern. And that’s the beauty of this type of observation – you don’t have to be a seasoned Director of Planning to uncover opportunity for improvement, when approached from the consumer standpoint – the “you” perspective.

 “I noticed customers weren’t really picking up the brochure, and those that were, used it only with the help of a staff member.”

That was a real observation, made by a real employee that helped to better refine strategies for our client. And besides the hour or so spent outside the office, and the occasional client lunch, total cost for this type of invaluable insight was close to nothing.

I now practice immersive observation at my latest gig, co-owner at Piccolo, a contemporary Italian restaurant in the budding city of Nixa, MO. Sure, I still listen to social media chatter to help gauge brand buzz, but there’s nothing quite like being a fly on the wall to the conversation between two people as they take that first bite of food. Or observing the nuances of server-guest relations, and imagining myself as a consumer in these situations. Would the consumer-side of me actually be as satisfied right now as my business-side wants to believe I would be?

I believe retail guru Paco Underhill best summarizes the idea of thoughtful observation in this quote from his national bestselling book, “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping”:

“The purest example of human shopping I know of can be seen by watching a child go through life touching absolutely everything. You’re watching that child shop for information, for understanding, for knowledge, for experience, for sensation. Especially for sensation, otherwise why would he have to touch or smell or taste or hear anything twice? Keep looking: Watch a dog. Watch a bird. Watch a bug. You might say the ant is searching for suitable food. I say he is shopping.”

No matter your business, if you are trying to reach people, you must look at your world through their eyes.

Get into the environment you helped to create. You might be surprised at what you find.

 

Advertisements
Standard
Business, Content, inspiration

Finding the Meaning in Menial

It was the day before my sister’s baby shower. My mom and I scrambled to organize the flower arrangements, party favors, game cards and a million other details to ensure those months of planning came together just right. At the last-minute, we decided there wasn’t enough pink decor (because you can never have too much pink decor), so an impromptu order was placed at the local Party City for a couple dozen pink helium balloons.

The employees – mostly teens – were visibly disillusioned by their “menial” summer job of fulfilling helium balloon requests and appeasing panicked moms in search of  Frozen party poppers. After speaking with one of the employees, my mom was told that the balloons would be ready that day and guaranteed to last through the weekend.

By the next morning (day of the shower), the balloons were deflated, sickly hovering inches from the ground. The order wasn’t even correct to begin with, and by now it was too late to rectify. But, who cares, right?! They were just balloons. Those employees had better things to do than put forth 100% into such a “menial” job. It’s a temporary occupation in their career path that doesn’t count for anything more than a paycheck…right?

Even a task as seemingly menial as accurately fulfilling balloon orders has meaning. These employees are helping to bring color and fun to events that commemorate life’s greatest celebrations – birthdays, graduations, weddings and baby showers. Suddenly, that lowly summer job at Party City is something much more significant.

I’d argue there is no task or job that is menial, as there is meaning in everything. It simply depends on your outlook. 

It’s not just teenagers working a summer job that struggle with finding meaning in the menial. If you’re a manger, director or even a corporate executive – at some point in your every day, I’m willing to bet you execute a task at the office or at home that might feel “below you.” Or perhaps it’s your career that feels trivial. “I manage a gas station – where’s the meaning in that?” I’d reply that you’re ensuring hundreds of individuals and families can continue their journeys and safely arrive to their destination.

Because there’s meaning in everything, that’s reason to give everything your 100%. Every time. You never know who you might impact or whose day you could brighten with something as simple as correctly filling that balloon order. So go ahead, find the joy in reorganizing the status template, sorting the mail or delivering every McMuffin with a smile. And mean it.

 

Have you ever had a “menial” job that you turned into something satisfying and significant? Share your story!

 

Photo Credit: Seedbed.com

 

 

 

Standard