If you always go to the same places for your consumer research, it shouldn’t be a surprise when you end up with the same insights you had before, the same your predecessor had and crucially the same as your competition are having. So, how then do you go about looking beyond the obvious to find people whom you can really learn from, and give you competitive insight?
Unfortunately, it is an overlooked area of research. Why look beyond your core audience? Why spend time researching potentially niche members of your defined audience? Why not focus all your attention on the biggest segment to find the solution they are looking for? The temptation to focus in on a quite tight description of your user and jump to the end trying to chase what they want can be detrimental to the quality of your solution. The way in which you explore all of your consumers relationship with the challenge will have a profound effect on the outcome.
Normal, deep and extreme
First, ask yourself who has a normal, regular relationship with your challenge? This is your average person who you’d expect to engage with your product. You’re probably already are very familiar with them. Next, look for people who have a deeper relationship with your challenge or a heightened connection with the issue. It could be a deeper emotional connection or it plays a bigger part in their lives. Finally, look for the outliers. The people who might have an unusual relationship with the challenge you are trying to solve, the kind of people who have a new or completely different angle on the issue.
Once you have identified a potential research pool look at the ways you can learn from them:
About them. Think of fresh ways to talk directly to consumers beyond traditional focus groups. Ask them questions. What do they believe? Do things with them - what they say and do can be very different.
With them. Think of people or places where you can get an external perspective on your consumers and their issues. Talk to people who know or have a relationship with the consumer group. This gives you a different perspective or an expert opinion.
Be them. Get in to their world. Find out what they say and do in their real life. Go where they go, do the things they do, read what they read and watch what they watch. Create an experience that puts you in the situations that your consumer faces
It’s all about who you know
Getting under the skin of your user is essentially a human skill, and as humans we are naturally nosey, instinctive and playful, so it’s just about tuning these when looking at your customer needs. Spending time investing in a rigorous approach to who you research and study is a powerful way to set yourself up for success and avoid the costly consequence of entering a market with a poorly defined and dangerously generic proposition. Painting with a broader brush to collect the breadth and depth of insight from a larger research audience is an essential step to learn and uncover where your competitors cannot or will not go.