Disciplines Engaged: Think, Move, Assess
I’m a big fan of the Far Side and have the two-volume, 30-pound anthology sitting on my desk and consider it to be one of my most treasured possessions. Indeed, when people created their lists of most significant people of the millennium back in 1999, I took it personally that Gary Larson did not appear on any of those lists.
Anyway, there is a particular Far Side cartoon that always has stuck in my head when I think about market research. In the cartoon, there is a group of military leaders sitting at a conference room table, clearly engaged in deep conversation when one of them offers a thought: “But, then again, what if we threw a war and EVERYBODY came?”
Jokes that trivialize the effects of global conflict notwithstanding, I do think the cartoon—however sideways my logic might seem—underscores the importance of doing whatever is necessary to build an understanding of what is on the minds of your clients, prospects, and members, this instead of waging war with those same groups.
OK, full disclosure, I’m an avowed market research guy. As such, those around me over the years sometimes grow tired of me coming to every conversation ready to propose a survey as a potential solution to whatever challenges we are there to discuss. That said, I have fielded hundreds of surveys across my career and I don’t know that I can think of a single instance where I regretted doing so.
More recently, as we have worked directly with clients and fielded surveys on their behalf, we not only have used surveys to develop deeper understanding of clients’ and members’ perspectives of particular products, services, or issues, we also have begun using surveys to develop powerful messaging that allows organizations to better align their stories and narrative to what matters most to their clients and prospects.
Regardless of whether you’re captivated by the idea of storytelling, as we are, in positioning your organization for success, at some point you need to communicate what’s distinctive or special about you or your products and services.
In any case, it always should be a goal to focus your story or your narrative around the motives and perspectives of your clients. Your client, not you or your business, is the hero of the story. You’re the problem-solver in the story. You provide the new ideas, the solutions, the money, or the benefit that drives the hero to success.
This is where surveys can be so particularly valuable. Think about what you actually know about your clients, members, and prospects. Think about your story or narrative and where it is grounded in that type of knowledge and where it is written purely from your own perspective. Now, think about how clients, members, and prospects might react differently to your promotions if you were writing copy that resonated directly with what they have told you is how they make decisions.
So, what does it take? It takes a list of email addresses. It takes a list of things you want to learn. It can involve several phone calls to begin with to ensure that you are asking the right questions. And then it takes some carefully worded questions. And then you’re off to the races to gain data, insight, and anecdotes that not only will help you to define, refine, or revamp your strategy, but also itself can become powerful narrative to more effectively sell your products, services, and ideas.
Think about it. Which of the following would be more powerful to a prospective client of a court reporting firm, the first being a common type of phrase used by a court reporting firm and the latter coming from a survey of law firms:
- “Established, Reliable, Accurate. 35 years of award-winning service.”
- “We use (court reporting firm) because they are extremely client-oriented. They know us by name and make us feel important. They make me feel special and are absolutely dedicated to answering even our last-minute requests.”
There’s nothing wrong with number one, but the second comes right from the mouth of a client, articulating qualities that are guaranteed to resonate with other clients.