Skip to content

Applications for upcoming programs will open in 2024. Connect with the team and get free resources now. Tell us about your business

Getting to know your customers: Effective tips for collecting, understanding and applying customer insights

Getting to know your customers: Effective tips for collecting, understanding and applying customer insights

Jump to content
Getting to know your customers: Effective tips for collecting, understanding and applying customer insights

Customer insights and metrics are the key to a brand’s success, as a detailed understanding of your customer’s behaviors, needs and expectations is absolutely essential to expand your base and position your company for growth.  Want to unlock the best ways to collect, understand and apply customer insights? (Hot tip: Get to Know Your Customer Day is coming up on Jan. 18, and reoccurs on the third Thursday in April, July and October this year.). We sat down with Mick Guzman, Director of Category Insights – Target, to glean his expert advice and share a savvy crash course in getting to know your customers.

A marketing funnel chart for customer retention that includes awareness, consideration, conversion, and loyalty.

First, let’s look at the conversion funnel, or the way marketers look at the customer journey and how they attract and retain current and potential customers: 

Below, Mick offers up some key questions for companies to ask during each stage of the funnel:  

    • Awareness: How will your target customers find out about your product?  What types of media do they use and how can you best reach them?  What are their shopping habits and what types of retail channels do they shop?
    • Consideration: What are the needs in your product category?  How are these needs currently being met (or not), and how might your product solve these needs?  Why should the customer consider your product over other alternatives in-market?
    • Conversion: What are the key elements that will convince customers to choose your product?  How do various factors like price or size impact the customer’s decision making? Additionally, how do retail elements such as channel availability and shelf placement impact a customer’s purchasing decision?
    • Repeat (Loyalty): What is the customer experience when using your product, and how likely are they to purchase your product again or give a positive endorsement of the product to others?

“Understanding the answers to questions like these uncovers customer perceptions of your product, experience, and brand that will help you to better attract and retain your customer and drive brand health,” says Mick. So, how do you answer these questions about your customers? Enter research and insights. Insights can be behavioral, which measures customer actions, or attitudinal, which measures their opinions and beliefs.  Both can have a significant impact on your customer’s purchase decision making. 

As for where these mighty, yet elusive insights come from?  Typically, you can think about gathering insights from three distinct sources:

    • Primary Research: This is new research that is conducted by you or a research partner on your behalf.  Examples include surveys, customer interviews, shop-alongs, and ethnographic and observational research.  
    • Secondary Research: This is synthesizing research that already exists.  This can be anything from leveraging facts and stats found in news sources and periodicals, to working with research partners that specialize in secondary research, such as market intelligence agency,  Mintel.  
    • Syndicated Research: This is research done by a third party who sells data to multiple clients.  Syndicated data from companies such as NielsenIQ, Circana, and Numerator are typically key elements for any consumer product goods company to better understand consumer behavior.

You can find more information on various research methods in this primer: An Overview of Market Research Methods.  Mick also suggests checking out free webinars from Market Research Institute. (Looking for a place to start completely from scratch? Mick recommends checking out Supporting Your Research with Secondary Data.)  And when you’re ready to find a research partner to help you field research, is a definitive source for all things research; think of it as the “yellow pages of market research,” says Mick. 

Don’t have a budget for research? “The great news is that there are still plenty of ways to gather valuable consumer insights with little to no investment,” says Mick. Try some of the following to get closer to your customers:   

    • Observation: Brands have a myriad of opportunities to observe how guests shop and behave every day.  Consider stores or places where customers might encounter products in your category and observe how they shop and interact with the product. 
    • Leverage Your Network: Potential customers are everywhere – your friends, family, and neighbors.  Don’t be shy about asking those in your network about their attitudes and behaviors.  Just be sure to get as many diverse viewpoints as possible, as it could be misleading to only solicit feedback from a set of customers with similar views. 
    • Interviews:  Engage with consumers by speaking to them directly about their experiences.  Interested in learning how customers will use your product and their opinions afterwards?  Consider offering free products in exchange for customer feedback.       
    • Self-Serve Tools: Check out free online tools to help you create surveys and gather insights, like  Google Forms as well as Survey Monkey and Qualtrics.
    • Customer Feedback: Have a customer service hotline or an email for questions or comments?  Tap into the direct feedback that your product users have shared unsolicited, good or bad.
    • Social Listening:  With social media, there’s a plethora of free customer feedback available online.  It’s as easy as taking a peek on any given social media channel to see what customers are saying about your brand and its competitors.  Social channels are also a great way to continue the feedback loop by creating a conversation with your customers, offering them a sense of recognition and personalizing their experience. “This feedback loop is a great way to both amplify the customers that love your product and to address customers that didn’t have the best experience,” says Mick. “That being said, don’t make knee jerk reactions based upon a small, but loud subset.”  Additionally, remember there’s valuable data on social media. As a founder, you can use those insights to tap into trends, conversations, and analytics specific to both your customers and potential customers. 

So, what are your actionable steps? Mick says the most paramount step as a founder is getting the product right. “Getting that product feedback is key at the beginning of a business in the innovation stage. You have to get it right before you launch because you only get one chance at the all-important first impression.”

Then, after launch, looking into product performance and measuring how you stack up against the competition will help you deepen that touchpoint with customers. Once you have a conversation going on with the customer, the ability to understand their needs should be top priority. “Loyalty can be a misleading term,” notes Mick, “Data will tell you there is no true loyalty. In today’s marketplace, there is a lot of choice and noise, so in this phase, the focus should be on what is going to bring customers back to your product.” 

Last – but certainly not least – “think out of the box and be creative,” Mick says. “I’ve seen everything from juice brand representatives walking the beach passing out juices to get real-time feedback from customers to kids brands co-creating products with moms and kids during the initial innovation phase to ensure that they get it just right. Cultivating and leading with innovation is important, not just in the product, but also in the way that you think about engaging with and learning from your customers.”

Looking for more tips and tools? Sign up here for our monthly newsletter, jam-packed with free information and resources expertly curated to help you grow your business. 

Post topic(s): Business advice

Get the latest resources

Tools, education and inspiration for your growing business.

Get resources

Tell us about your business

Applications are currently closed but you can still tell us about your company. By sharing some details now, you'll be one of the first to know when applications open next. In the meantime, we'll send you free resources and tools to prepare you for the application process and beyond.

Get notified when applications are open

Be one of the first to know when applications open next, plus we’ll connect you with all the tools and resources you need to prepare.