People are the most important 12

Social media is a mess but there are alternative data sources for voice of the customer

Social media is a mess. Data privacy is getting more stringent. Budgets are getting cut left and right. How are marketers supposed to know what their audience wants and deliver content and campaigns that resonate? What are the alternative data sources beyond social media?

In 2020, I wrote this 4 part series on the Voice of the Customer.

Today, I want to focus on part 3 – where you can get your data from.

The voice of the customer is data that represents what the customer wants, needs, and expects. Right now, too many brands are reliant on cookies and social media to try and understand their audience’s interests.

A million years ago when I was a product manager, my role focused on giving customers what they wanted in collaboration with the vision of the company stakeholders. Unfortunately, what the customers needed and what the company wanted to do did not align. When I say it did not align, what I mean is they were not even in the same orbit. My marketing team was fighting hard to create a Voice of the Customer program so that we could learn what we weren’t delivering. My stakeholders wanted to set up fancy dinners for prospects. We got too wrapped up in designing the perfect Voice of the Customer program that we lost sight of what was important, the customer. Needless to say, we never got to the root of the product issues. We also didn’t look at what was right in front of us. The data.

So, here is my gift to you. If you’re concerned about recent and upcoming changes to your Marketing TechStack and your ability to understand your customer, here is a list of alternative data sources:

Face-to-face interviews
Focus groups
Market research surveys
Observational data (watching the customer, shadowing the customer)
Customer advisory boards
Environmental and landscape data collection
Conferences and trade shows
UI/UX data collection
Search intent data
Sales data
Customer support data
Private communities

This is not an exhaustive list but it should get you started.

Here’s the thing. If you give people the information they need to consent, aka – how will we use your data – you won’t have a hard time collecting this information. You will have willing participants. You also don’t need to design an elaborate Voice of the Customer program. You simply need to start listening. And I mean really listening. This is not the time to solve problems and go in with a hard sell and solution. Listen. Let your customers and audience be heard. Give them space and time to articulate what’s going on and what they need from you.

Right now is a great time to pivot how you’re collecting audience data. Start small. Send a quick “how are we doing” email to your existing customers. Reach out to your prospects and ask them to talk to you for 10 minutes. As mentioned above – this is NOT about selling them something. Make that crystal clear when you’re asking for someone’s time. The more they trust you, the more they will open up and tell you valuable information. Do not ruin that trust by bringing your own agenda into the conversation.

If you don’t have the resources to talk to people, take a look at search intent data. How are people finding you, what queries brought them to you? Look at your audience interest data in your web analytics.

The point is that you have a lot of other options when it comes to understanding your audience. If you’re still holding out hope that public social media will be the answer, you’re already falling behind.

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