How do you find out your target audience’s innermost thoughts?
You could ask them… but if they know you’re a business, they’re going to be waiting for your pitch.
You could arrange focus groups… but how do you know their opinions aren’t influenced by each other?
You could ask them to complete a questionnaire… but you’ll probably need to offer them some sort of benefit in return.
There’s another way…
One that’s cost-effective (you just need to have an internet-enabled device). Quick (you can access feedback within seconds). Qualitative and quantitative (hundreds, even thousands of opinions that can be in-depth and relate to specific use cases). One which is common in B2C, but less-established as a B2B tactic.
We’re talking about online feedback.
Look at TripAdvisor. Its success is founded on its user reviews. Why are they so powerful? Because they’re authentic.
You know what else is great about online feedback? If someone has taken the time to write it, you can be sure they’re very happy or very disappointed. That means they’re likely to give detailed reasons. And because these reasons are given voluntarily, without incentive, and outside of a controlled environment – they’re as close to pure feedback as you can get.
Whether you’re selling B2B services or products, the methods outlined below are for you.
Amazon is the perfect place. Not only because of its sheer size, but also because its search tools make it really easy to filter and search for what you need.
The first step is to search for your competitors’ products. After all, to increase your market share, you’re going to have to reduce theirs.
You learn more from the extreme reviews, so filter your search accordingly. For the 5-star reviews, make a list of common themes. Which features are people praising? What improvements and benefits are they experiencing? Are they commenting on other aspects of the customer experience, for example the service?
Now look at your product and your current operations. Are you providing what your target audience are saying they want? Where can you add even more value to an existing selling-point? What do you think is the biggest selling-point?
Once you’ve identified the positives, it’s time to head over to the other extreme.
Among the 1-star reviews, make a list of the recurring themes or complaints. First, make sure your product doesn’t have the same problems. And then make sure you show your target audience that they won’t have these experiences with you. That might mean answering their concerns directly in your landing page/PPC copy, or using them in a “reasons to buy from us” sales email. For example in your website copy or your PPC campaigns.
Quora is an online community comprising millions (the exact number is a closely guarded secret) of users, with the tagline: “The best answer to any question”.
You’ll find discussions on pretty much every type of subject. The advantage of Quora over channels such as Twitter is that it allows room for lengthy discussions. Contributors know their stuff, which makes it an ideal source for gathering high-level B2B insight. Type in your industry, and see what’s being discussed. See if there are any “pain points” people are experiencing. And see if your product or service can answer them.
For example, imagine you sell cloud computing services. Your target audience is heads of IT. They’re working in organisations that may be considering a move to the cloud, but need some direction. A search for “cloud computing” throws up a popular thread: “Is cloud computing secure?”
Here’s where Quora comes into its own. This thread has input from sellers of services, buyers of services, industry journalists, cloud entrepreneurs, and other interested parties. Suddenly you’ve got your own focus group, supplying well-rounded opinions, thoughtful insight, and informed debate.
Visit these websites and you’ll soon have a list of your customers’ needs and wants. You’ll know what makes them satisfied. And you’ll know what makes them complain.
Yes, you might find some fake reviews. Opinions might be biased, or based on previous experiences. But this can happen with other forms of market research. As long as you collect a large enough sample, you’ll guard against outliers and anomalies.
You can use this knowledge to shape your strategy. Everything from development and launches, to messaging and tactics.