The amount of consumer data available from analytics is increasing on a daily basis – from in-store sales data to social media entries.

These analytics provide the opportunity to develop well-substantiated hypotheses.

I’ve used regression analysis to show the positive correlation between media spending and market share growth and the inverse correlation between market share and price difference between branded and generic products.

Analytics will tell you a lot; however, they will not tell you why the consumer does or does not have an emotional connection with your brand or why the consumer is doing what they’re doing that are affecting the data.

In order to get this information you need to speak with consumers. I recommend doing this one-on-one, in-person. It’s important for the consumer to know you are sincerely interested in what they have to say. It’s also important to allow sufficient time for the consumer to “let their guard down” and start having a conversation with you rather than telling you the “stock” answers they think you want to hear.

I usually schedule an hour for an interview and find that consumers/respondents loosen up at the 15 to 20 minute mark. This is when you can begin asking “why” frequently and the consumer doesn’t get irritated with you doing so.

It’s also important that the consumer/respondent think/know you are not knowledgeable about the subject you are asking about. If the consumer/respondent thinks you are already an expert, they’re less likely to tell you some “fundamental truths” because they’ll think you already know it.

Here are a few of the questions I will ask over the course of an interview. Obviously, they will vary, except for the last question, based on the objectives of the research:

  1. How long have you used __________?
  2. Tell me how you got started using __________? What is most memorable about the first time you used _________?
  3. Tell me how __________ has __________ (fulfilled a need — i.e., saved you time, money, helped you be more effective, etc.)
  4. Tell me who you consider to be a competitor of __________. (This is how I learned that doctors don’t know the ingredients of OTC drugs).
  5. What makes __________ “different and better” that the competition? (This is how I learned that Volvo trucks were seen as “foreign” and truck drivers didn’t want to drive a “foreign truck.” This question can help to determine the strategic positioning for the brand.)
  6. If __________ were a (car, person, hotel, retail store) what kind would it be? Why? (This is how I learned BlueCross and BlueShield of North Carolina is seen as Nordstrom rather than Wal-mart and should embrace its premium price positioning.)
  7. What does a good day at work look like for you? What does a bad day at work look like for you?
  8. What do you think makes for a good client relationship? What do you think makes for a bad client relationship? Can you give me an example where this has occurred to you? (This is how I learned what pool and spa dealers want from an OEM and what cellular phone users wanted in the first “frequent flyer” program in the cellular industry.)
  9. What are your steps in the sales (buying) process? (This is where I learned how Farm Bureau’s most successful salesperson out performed 800+ other salespeople. It is now part of Farm Bureau’s sales training.)
  10. Where do you look for sales people to add value in the sales process?
  11. Where do you add value in the sales process?
  12. What should __________ do to improve their product or service?
  13. What should __________ do to improve their relationship with you?
  14. What have I failed to ask you that you think I need to know in order to __________ (objective of the research)? (This question elicits tremendous insights including how a paper wipe will never replace the red shop rag and how mothers are more concerned about scars on their daughters than their sons – especially scars on the face.)

As I mentioned up front, the exact questions will vary based on the hypotheses you are trying to confirm and the objectives of the research.

It’s also important to let the consumer/respondent to keep talking and to ask follow-up questions that will help get down to the emotional connection the consumer has with the brand.

What are you doing to understand you customer’s emotional connection to your brand?




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