In the past, marketers had limited information on customer opinions and those opinions could be biased towards the topics the marketer suggested.

Today, consumers are engaged in a number of public channels and share a lot of information that different software providers are analyzing with “sentiment analysis” and other “big data” tools.

While this software is great for collecting and tabulating millions of bits of data, it fails to provide valuable insights on what the consumer is doing and why.

Structured data tells an incomplete story.

Open-ended questions are key to knowing what customers are thinking about right now. Their answers to your questions, and your follow-up questions, will help you discover what you didn’t know you were looking for in the first place.

I strongly urge you to ask these questions in a one-on-one interview. Telephone is fine; however, in person is better. I recommend avoiding focus groups since respondents are more inclined to tell you what they think you want to hear, or what they consider to be “politically correct,” rather than what’s really on their minds.

Over the course of my career, I found that it usually takes a respondent about 15 minutes to become comfortable with the fact that I really am interested in what they are thinking. I’m taking notes, I looking in their eyes, if it’s in-person, I’m asking follow-up questions, they know I’m very interested is what they have to say — and I am. That’s where the insights are.

Here are five questions I’ve found that consistently provide consumer insights:

  1. What makes ______ different and better than the competition?
  2. Tell me about the steps you go through in the evaluation and buying process.
  3. What should _____ do to improve their product or service?
  4. What should _____ do to build a better relationship with you?
  5. What have I failed to ask that you think we need to know in order to _____ (objective of the research).

Used at the conclusion of an interview, the fifth question is the most powerful. It gives the respondent the opportunity to follow-up with a more detailed answer to an earlier question and enables you to probe any answers you believe will help you get a better understanding of the consumer’s emotional connection to the brand.

In a one-on-one interview, you will also want to ask follow-up, or “why,” questions to drill down on why the consumer is saying what they are. Asking “why” or “can you tell me more about that” gets the respondent to begin revealing more about their emotional connection with the brand, product or service and what does, and does not contribute, to the connection.

Those insights are what enable the marketer to accelerate sales performace.

What are you doing to generate richer consumer insights and accelerate sales?




Tom Smith

Experienced marketing professional who has worked with more than 120 clients in 18 different vertical industries. ♦ Differentiate products and services by improving UX and delivering memorable CX to create an emotional connection to the brand. ♦ Obtain insights from analytics to solve business problems and drive revenue. ♦ Develop and implement marketing campaigns that double traffic and leads in three months. ♦ Certified Marketing Automation Professional ♦ Certified Voice of the Customer (VOC) Professional