3 Ways to Understand Your Customers

One method is to observe customers first-hand in typical situations and encounters, known as ethnographic research. Corel does this with a program it calls “Follow Me Home” (an idea it got from Intuit); the company watches customers use its products in the comfort of their own homes. Corel’s global chief of product marketing, Jacqueline Martense, explains, “The dialogue you inspire with customers and employees is where real insight comes from.” (Fast Company, August 2005)

Another way to get close to customers is to form an advisory research panel drawn from heavy category users or long-time loyalists. Hallmark has its “Idea Exchange,” a Web site that it uses to collect instant feedback from approximately 1,000 consumers grouped into five communities, each representing a different market segment.

Similarly, toy company Lego has a site it calls “MyOpinions” where customers get a chance to share thoughts with each other, answer pertinent questions (“What are the main factors that determine whether you will place an order?”) and submit their own product suggestions (while freely commenting on the ideas of others).

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