customer research

“You have no real friends on social media when you are a stakeholder. It’s just about fans or foes.” This vision was planted in my brain quite brutally (at a summit on social media marketing) and still remains, to paraphrase the Simon and Garfunkel song.

It seems like roles are already set, no room for hard feelings. To be a successful online marketer you have to track social media footprints of customers and shape your marketing strategy according to their profiles. Sounds quite a difficult sociologist’s job and – guess what? – it is. Given you are a good listener on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, how to define customer profiles correctly?

I recently got upon the following categorization of social media consumers:

  • Loyal Customer
  • Discount Hunter
  • Impulse Buyer
  • Needs-Based Purchaser
  • Wandering Shopper

These seem cute and not really rocket science, so any beginners in online marketing might make them their own. But do they look realistic to you?

Let’s take a real life example – my mother, Emily, who admits being an avid discount hunter (she brings home all sort of funny household stuff purely as a result of sales). Now say she finds herself trying to make ends meet after a holiday season. In this particular situation, she turns into a very frugal needs-based purchaser and becomes the best friend of grocery lists. I doubt she will ever take pictures of her shopping lists to post them on Facebook. Instead, she will keep commenting on Ebates blog and chat about fancy shopping findings. It’s one more situation where common sense beats marketing over-generalization.

Two conclusions:

  • Stereotyping is not a marketing method. In most cases, rough pre-made profiles do not fit real people and businesses. Seek solid evidence for an assumption and try to monitor your customers’ behavior in time before you draw any conclusions.
  • Be aware of other elements that should be included in your customer profile database, apart from their behavior on social networks: actual purchases, offline habits, e-mails they exchange. It’s hard to monitor these variables, but keep in mind that statistics you do without them are not universally accurate.

Carry online customer surveys on Facebook and synchronize them with your Twitter account. Open discussions on LinkedIn. Monitor online communities specializing in your own topics and observe collateral discussion. These are sure ways to get a clear picture of your customers’ personality on social media. And be on your toes when you construct archetypes – the more refined your research is, the better chances to satisfy everyone with your marketing strategy.


I write for 123ContactForm, online survey tool that helps marketers get to know their customers. Blogging, photography and good food – these are the three hearts of mine.



But they will give you hints! There is a discussion on the Harvard Business Faculty of Research blog, posted by Professor Heskett, around the topic of market research, customer opinion, when to listen, when it’s valuable and when it is not. As with any topic, there is so much room for interpretation and misinterpretation.

PROVOKE’s point of view is that you should always listen to the customer and their opinion. But that doesn’t mean you take marching orders from them or do EXACTLY what they say!  It does mean you have to ask the right questions (be an explorer!) and you must listen with sincerity and perhaps most importantly, with a problem solving and opportunity searching mind-set.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Henry Ford

PROVOKE conducts two primary types of research: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative involves mass surveying to identify if your audience hears you, broad perceptions or what is most important to them under current circumstances. Valuable to identify “red flags.”

Qualitative research (our expertise) at its best is one-on-one and reveals the emotion of the audience, motivations, attitudes, behaviors, captures their language (not insider speak), their frustrations, the nuances in their thought process (rational and emotional), and yes, reveals opportunity for innovation that will take the relationship with the customer to a higher and more profitable level.

Many only know and have only experienced quantitative research and rightly conclude that it often leaves one wondering “now what?” Once exposed to the richness of qualitative research, minds are opened, ideas flow and opportunity is captured.

I liken it to health care. Family physician diagnostics equate to quantitative research identifying areas of concern that can either be immediately addressed OR result in a referral to a specialist for further exploration.

Perhaps your organization needs PROVOKE for further exploration to reveal the opportunity that lies ahead!