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In this episode of In-Ear Insights (the @TrustInsights podcast), Katie and Chris discuss generation gaps, audience demographics, and what to do when your analytics indicates you’ve got the wrong audience. How do you conduct market research and then pivot based on the results? Tune in now to find out.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn
In this week’s in ear insights we are talking about the generational gaps and 10 changes in audience data. How do you understand what a group of people that you’re marketing to is thinking? If you are not in that group of people? Katie, you want to set the stage for how we came about this?

Katie Robbert
Yeah, absolutely. So we were asked by one of our clients last week about they’re starting to think about their 2021 planning, and they’re trying to figure out how to propose certain initiatives and within that comes from research and They are a company that you know is business to consumer. So they’re trying to reach younger generations, the you know, 18 to 30 year old, the 30 to 40 year old, and trying to understand those behaviors and where those particular sets of consumers get their information and how they behave online. And it started to go down this conversation of they have a desktop website that’s a little bit old and clunky, and no real mobile experience, no real app or anything. And so we started doing that research. And we very quickly realized that the younger generations they’re trying to target are 100% on mobile. And so that comes up with a really interesting question of, you know, how do you pivot to reach that audience? Or will you even because is your product something they even want or are interested in and so, it just started, you know, making me think As someone who I’m personally not great on social media, it’s just not my thing. I don’t really, really enjoy it. But there’s all these new social media apps, you know, you have Tick Tock and I mean, Lord knows, I’ll probably name a bunch of things that aren’t even real things. And so it just sort of got the wheel spinning of like, how do you reach those audiences in an authentic way where they’re not looking at it going, Grandpa cut it out? Like this is my thing.

Christopher Penn
Well, what do you do this? How do you how do you develop empathy for a group that is not you? So you know, obviously, there’s some things for example it with with all the different current events, I will never and you and I will never know what it is truly like to be a black American, right? It’s just simply because we are not that thing, but we can develop empathy. So how do you develop empathy in a repeatable, almost scientific way?

Katie Robbert
It’s a lot of fun. listening. And it’s listening to actual conversations, not just reading what people have posted online, because there’s a lot of missing, you know, inflection in the terms, there might be sarcasm, there might be sadness, there might be different emotions that you can’t get necessarily from just reading something. So you actually have to take the time and put in the effort to stop and talk to these audiences that you’re trying to target. And so if I was the client, and I said, I want to bring on the 18 to 25 year old, you know, audience segment, I need to find a bunch of 18 to 25 year olds and talk to them and learn their behaviors. Because I might be targeting them and trying to learn how they behave online. But ultimately, they might say, I’m not even interested in your product. Why are you Why are you bothering with me? This is not how we are operate. Um, one of the reasons why this came up for me was I saw, you know, a friend of mine was selling his car and he has two teenagers and someone had made the comment. Why don’t you just hold on to the car for them as a first car? And he said, Oh, well, they don’t see a reason to drive. They have Uber. They think driving is for old people. And it was one of those moments where it just sort of, I filed it away for later because it was Oh, okay. The younger generation really does do things so drastically differently from even my generation. And I’m what like Gen Y don’t really know. But like, you know, I don’t feel like I’m that far off from that age group. But yet somehow we’re, you know, millions of miles apart. I don’t know. I mean,

Christopher Penn
I don’t feel like you are millions of miles apart in. One of the things that always I keep in the back of my head for situations like this is what you know, Jeff Bezos built Amazon. Which is focus on the things that don’t change, like the how you get around has changed for that generation, for example. But the fact that they still need to get around has not changed, right? So they still need to get from point A to point B. So if your market is people who drive cars, then yes, that that 18 year old Tiktok sensation may not be the person but their driver sure is because they need the services to keep their their car in good running order. But I think it it’s when you step back, there’s the market research aspect, which is super important, but I think you’re right. There’s also the the persona level research where you maybe, you know, so some of the higher end market research firms do this. They have people who just shadow your subject audience for a day, you know, they sit in your house, and you obviously get paid to show up today, but just observing how this Done. Edison research, did a phenomenal piece on smart speakers watching people how use how they use them, and had people in you know, of people’s homes and stuff and discovered like for a certain segment of the audience, predominantly elderly people, those smart speakers are actually conversation companions like they they do something to, you know, hold off loneliness and stuff. And this was just fascinating to see that behavior again, focusing on something that doesn’t change, you still want some kind of interaction with your environment. So, when we look at something like a tick tock, for example, when you look at that, what do you see that is consistent with human behavior?

Katie Robbert
So first off, disclaimer, I have never opened tik tok in my life. I don’t have it as an app on my phone. And it was only recently I’m still like, Is it like vine? Is it Instagram? I don’t know. So you know, but the The commonality is that sense of community that sense of? Well, part of it is the look at me look at me generation wear, look what I can do. I tied my shoes, I have to put it online. That’s something I’ll never understand. And that makes me an old fuddy duddy. But like, it is it’s that sense of connection and community. That is the common thread through all social media.

Christopher Penn
is there’s a lot of self validation. Yeah. And to your question, it is an awful lot like mine. Good. So then as a marketer, if people are still looking for validation, if people are still looking for the approval of their peers, if they are still, some of them are aspiring to be the next Kardashians or whatever. How do you then work with that if you’re if you are trying to essentially recruit these people to your audience and your product or services important but seen as not essential by that bad group of folks. How do you connect the bridge? How do you use empathy to connect that bridge?

Katie Robbert
Well, it sounds like you’re starting to go down the road, a little bit of influencer marketing and using Tiktok as your source of influencers versus, you know, Instagram or Facebook. But, you know, it’s, again, I think it all comes down to having that conversation of do we even have anything that you and your peers would be interested in? You know, what can we do differently? And I think that that’s a question that a lot of companies Well, first of all, I don’t know that a lot of companies are reaching out directly to talk to those folks. I mean, we know that there’s still a large portion of companies that aren’t even using data to make decisions. So I would be surprised if they were also then creating focus groups of different audience segments to figure out you know, your thoughts and opinions and behaviors, but in the event that they are, I think it’s asking the question of We even have anything that you’re interested in. You know, you mentioned Edison research, another great company that focuses on user behavior is IDEO. And they’re out of Boston. And they spend an enormous amount of time shadowing people, and just watching how they go about their daily, you know, tasks and where they struggle and where there’s room for improvement. And that is the kind of user research that a lot of companies don’t do. They really sort of put this controlled little website in front of you and say, hit this button, okay. Everybody could find the button good. We checked the box on user research, we’re done. We can launch our website. But that’s not really the kind of user research that’s needed. In the case, like the one that we’re talking about where you’re trying to break into a whole different demographic, and you know nothing about their behaviors. You just have a lot of assumptions.

Christopher Penn
Yeah, it’s basically anthropology. You have to go in and study the Though the the

Unknown Speaker
needles in while? Yeah,

Katie Robbert
that’s exactly it. It’s a lot like anthropology and I think that that is a huge skill set needed for marketers.

Christopher Penn
And it’s something that for good or ill machines cannot do reliably yet we are getting there with some things like facial recognition and stuff, which of course brings a whole other entirely different discussion topic for another episode. But the other thing that I think of companies are missing is there’s no overall strategy to your point. Is this the market for us? You know, or do we need a product marketing campaign for us to build a product that does serve that audience’s needs and I think there’s there is a massive gap there where Yeah, if you have, say, a brand new grill cleaning spray for your your charcoal grill there’s a certain audience that that uses that product or service and trying to market it to apartment dwellers who aren’t even allowed to have any kind of grill seems like a bit of a mess. So there’s there’s some aspect of that. So the question would be for that company, what else can you make for this? We did some work a while ago for food and beverage company, where they were trawling through their customer inboxes. And we’ve identified there were two new products on the market that they were being asked, Do you have a formulation to help stabilize these things? And they’re like, we don’t even know what these things I didn’t know what they were either. I’d never heard of him. But to your point, there’s a lot of listening that could go into that. Even if it’s just looking at your customer service inbox, where else should people be listening?

Katie Robbert
I mean, social media is a good place to start. But I would definitely caution you that that is not the only source of data that you should be using because there is, you know, social media is a tough place to get really true. Good opinions, social media tends to be a very emotional place where people leave their remarks, you might do better in more private or targeted forums, like specific Reddit forums or sub forums, you know, reviews of similar companies. So Yelp reviews, Google reviews, just to start to get the lexicon of how people talk about things to start to get their language. So at the very least, you can repeat back to them things that they are comfortable hearing like words and terms and phrases, but you know, there you can’t, you’re absolutely right AI cannot have that conversation with someone and get that insight. So I would say, you know, the thing that’s the missing step is that either a focus group or a one on one interview with you know, your target customer base, because you need to understand sort of those like nuances of body language and the nuances tone and certain word choices. And, you know, sometimes the things that aren’t said are just as powerful as the things that are said and the pauses and the silences.

Christopher Penn
The challenge for some companies is that market research is, as our friend Tom Webster says reassuringly expensive to do all How do you tackle that when you do not have reassuringly large budgets?

Katie Robbert
You know, there are smaller ways to start. I mean, obviously, you’ve done your data collection with your social listening and your customer complaint office, but, you know, maybe it’s a small Gen pop survey, you know, just to start to get a little bit more color into opinions and behaviors. Or maybe it’s, you know, starting a free community for certain interests and then asking questions there. It’s, it’s a lighter weight, ask. You know, it’s not that in depth big market research project, but at least that You’re getting the right kinds of people that you want to be attracting into your audience base. You know, once you’ve done some of those things, maybe you can say, Hey, I don’t have a huge budget, but perhaps I could talk to one or two people for 20 minutes and just sort of ask them more in more questions to get information that will help further my research. So I think there’s it doesn’t have to be a big blown out. But I don’t know that you can completely skip over the talking to people, regardless of your budget.

Christopher Penn
Okay. How do you get around though, confirmation bias because a lot of things companies do wrong really wrong with researches. A silly example is how much you like our product a lot. Really a lot of super love your product, right?

Katie Robbert
Oh, yeah, that’s a tough one. Designing any kind of research. It is. It’s a different skill set. And it’s not something that marketers inherently have. It doesn’t unless you take a market research course you’re not going to be taught how to properly, you know, do survey construction and, you know, develop unbiased questions. So, you know, do a little research on your own. You know, it might be sort of googling around for best practices for creating an unbiased market research survey. I’m sure those resources exist. Again, joining a community like the one that we have. It’s TrustInsights.ai dot AI slash analytics for marketers. It’s a free slack community, you can ask those questions in a community to say, Hey, I have a list of survey questions. Can someone eyeball these to see if they they look biased or not? And so it’s getting that gut check against the work that you’re creating, don’t create it in a vacuum. You know, it’s it’s tough because budgets are really small right now, but you want to do the best work, you want to continue to grow and scale and so it’s really trying to think differently around the resources that you have at your disposal. Maybe using them in a way that you didn’t think you could.

Christopher Penn
For a product marketing perspective, how do we pivot? If we know we have something that our desired target audience doesn’t want, right? At what point? Do we say we need to start r&d? Like right now? Or do we try to adapt something? How do we tackle that?

Katie Robbert
Well, I think first and foremost, if you know, you have something that your target audience doesn’t want, don’t continue to try to shove it down their throats and say, buy this thing. I know, eventually, I’m going to wear you down, you’re gonna want it, which unfortunately, I do see a lot of companies do they’re not willing to pivot because it can be costly. And so again, it starts with collecting that information from that target audience of what do you want? And then really taking a hard look at the services that you have or the products and saying, Is there something that we can pivot to, you know, be adaptable to create something for this audience? Maybe maybe we don’t. I think r&d is something that should be done all of the time. Even if it’s done in like very small doses. You should always have something kind of like, you know, stewing in the background. What do you think Chris?

Christopher Penn
I’m of two minds of this. I, I loved the, you know, the tinkering around and stuff like that. And, you know, certainly we do a ton of it. But also, it’s one of those things with that as, as priorities change as companies scale your r&d does have to at some point, get a little more focused than just, you know, pure academic research, because otherwise you can burn a lot of time for for no good reason. When it comes to, like, how do you build something new again, goes back to that anthropology. When you look at the way somebody does something. What are the obstacles, and the challenge for a lot of companies is going to be you will, in some ways be competing with the problem you’re trying to solve is suffering. So let’s use Uber as an example. If Uber is a problem. There’s some aspects of the Uber experience, it’s a problem and you’re trying to find a way to insert yourself into the conversation, you are actually competing theoretically with Uber itself, because hopefully Ubers own product marketing managers are doing the same kind of research and going, Oh, this part of the app is problematic, right? Where this part of the experience is problematic, how to resolve that. Getting around that requires you to have some level of insight into what your competitors capabilities are. And that is yet again, an entirely different research area. Because, you know, let’s say you’re trying to deal with the issue of safety. You know, some people rightfully feel that they don’t feel safe. And if it were, well, how do you? How do you work around that? Uber is already working on autonomous vehicles, so there’s no other driver in the car. There’s no way for you to have an unpleasant interaction with a driver who isn’t there. So how do you work around that? That’s those are the challenges that are I think a lot of market researchers also forget about when they’re doing product marketing research.

Katie Robbert
I would agree with that. And so it sounds like what we’re coming around to is, you can’t get around doing some level of research, if you’re trying to break into a new audience segment or just, you know, create marketing plans in general, if you want to continue to move forward and, you know, not be the product from the 1990s that hasn’t changed and evolved at all. Yeah, companies need to start using some data, any data to make these decisions to find out what does my audience want, the worst possible thing that you can do is sit there, you know, in your office chair and go, I know what I want. Therefore, it must be what my audience wants. That is the absolute wrong thing to do, and I’ve seen it happen in action, and I have Seen it tank products, because the stakeholders, the decision makers are what we call an N of one. I know best. I want to move this button over here, I want it to be blue. I want it to, you know, wake me up at six o’clock in the morning, whatever the thing is, but that doesn’t mean that you speak for the majority of your audience. And I think that that is such a huge mistake. That is so common. It happens all the time.

Christopher Penn
Yep. As always, we will recommend starting with, as you mentioned with Facebook example and 100% mobile users use the data to figure out how bad the problem is first. In this case, in this example, the problem is 100% of this customer segment does not like the the way the

Unknown Speaker
desktop.

Christopher Penn
Exactly. So if you got more questions about this and market research in general, stop by our slack group, as Katie mentioned, over at Trust insights.ai slash analytics for marketers, and bring your questions. This is a fun topic to discuss. And it’s great to get the question Have over 1000 other markers there. As always, we’ll find this episode and many others over at the website TrustInsights.ai dot AI We look forward to hearing from you there Take care and stay safe want help solving your company’s data analytics and digital marketing problems. This is Trust insights.ai today and let us know how we can help you


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